Nov 01

The Owners

Tag: Uncategorizedmattholmes @ 5:34 pm


There are three of us (from left to right): Jonathon Haradon Waldman, and Matt Holmes — a teacher, a writer, and a photographer, respectively.

We’ve been friends for at least a decade — Matt and Jonny were roommates at Dartmouth; Jonathon and Matt were roommates in Los Alamos, NM — and have tons of leadership and outdoor and adventure experience.  Together, we have done a lot of climbing, mountaineering, canyoneering, and biking.  Together, we’ve survived a tornado, two flash floods, an avalanche, getting wedged stuck in a slot canyon, and falling in a crevasse.

Sometime during 2005 the three of us started looking at sailing as our next frontier.  Our other activities had lost some of their appeal, and we yearned for the next adventure.  Visiting/living in San Francisco provided ample opportunity to observe sailboats heeled way over out in windy weather.  To be on a sailboat on a windy day looked wet, cold, challenging, exhilarating.  Each of us allowed our romantic imagination to ruminate on the adventurous and exciting aspects of long-distance sailing (romantic notions that do indeed become the reality for some).  Our desire to tap into that world evolved over the course of a year into a plan to learn how to sail, buy a boat, and sail around the world.

In a conversation that occurred during the spring of 2006, we tentatively settled on 2010 as the year to depart.  In December, 2007 we purchased Syzygy, a Valiant 40 sailboat that we found on  She was located in San Carlos, Mexico at the time, and after a brief stint attempting to work on the boat where it rested in Mexico, we elected to have her trucked up to the San Francisco Bay area, where she currently rests in her slip at Emeryville Marina.

We may be accomplished outdoorsmen, but we settled on this plan with astonishingly little sailing experience.  Most strangers (and many friends) regard our undertaking as overly ambitious.  Considering that only one of us has ever spent a night in the open ocean, those opinions are fully justified.  Before 2005, neither Matt nor Jon had ever sailed before, at all.  Jonny sailed on a lake when he was 12, Jon took an OCSC sailing course, and Matt raced on the San Francisco Bay for a few years–that was the extent of our sailing resume prior to purchasing Syzygy.

Choosing to believe in this plan represented a new form of risk-taking.  Each of us has found exhilaration in various forms of more commonly discussed “risk-taking,” e.g. climbing a big rock, cliff-jumping into a remote river, or hitch-hiking around a third-world country.  However, devoting years of your life–every bit of your time, money, and energy–to fixing up and preparing for  a pursuit with extremely questionable success is also extremely risky.  We have now spent two years putting every free minute and every last bit of money into the boat–will it be worth it?  Will the trip, if it ever starts, be the opportunity-of-a-lifetime that we imagine?  It is not assured either that the trip will happen, or that it will be everything we hope for.  Sailing suits some and not others.  So, while there is no daily opportunity to defy death, there is a very real chance that we have mismanaged a few years of our life–we all agree there is already too little life to waste.


Jon, a former high-jumper turned climber, is something like a kangaroo crossed with a monkey. In the last 8 years, he’s spent 300,000 miles on the road, and cooked almost 700 meals in the back of his truck. Along the way, he’s summitted half of Colorado’s fourteeners, descended more than two dozen of Utah’s most difficult technical slot canyons, and climbed some of the wildest big walls and desert towers in the West.

In Colorado, he has climbed technical routes on Crestone Needle (Ellingwood Arete; IV 5.7), Longs Peak (the Casual Route; IV 5.10b), and Kit Carson (the Prow; III 5.7), as well as some of the state’s most exciting technical traverses (North Maroon to South Maroon Peak; Crestone Needle to Crestone Peak; Little Bear to Blanca Peak). In Utah, he has climbed Prodigal Son, Moonlight Buttress, and Spaceshot (in a day) at Zion; as well as the Stolen Chimney on Ancient Art (5.8, A0), the Cobra (5.11b R), the Colorado NE Ridge of King Fisher Tower (5.8, A2+), and the Kor Ingalls and North Chimney routes on Castelton Tower (both III 5.9).

He’s climbed long routes in the Bugaboos, Tetons, and Yosemite; been up Ixtacehuatl (17,800 feet), in Mexico; and attempted 17,913-foot Yanapaccha and 20,846-foot Chopicalqui in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. He’s descended Kolob Creek Canyon (solo), Englestead Canyon (solo), and Imlay canyon (in a day). He’s also gone 27 days in a row without showering.

Jon grew up in Pennsylvania, and, after briefly pursuing a career in chemical engineering, now works as a high-school math-and-science-and-everything-else teacher. He first stepped foot on a sailboat in 2003.


Jonny is more or less an energizer bunny with undiagnosed ADHD. Over the last 12 years, he’s climbed in at least 20 states, and biked up, through, or over the rest of ‘em.

He has been up every peak in the Tetons, all of Oregon’s Cascade volcanos, and all 46 of the 4,000-foot peaks in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. He’s led 5.10 trad climbs at Squamish, Joshua Tree, Index, and the Gunks; flashed V7s in Bishop; and onsighted 5.12 sport climbs in at Rumney, Red Rocks, and the Red River Gorge. He’s also climbed a dozen grade IV routes from Wyoming to California, and been up Citlaltepetl (18,700 feet) and Ixtacehuatl (17,800 feet) in Mexico.

He has biked across New England (from Amherst, MA to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia), and biked solo across the country (from Washington, DC to Colorado). He raced in the 2007 North American Cycle Courier Championships, and has finished in the top-5 in many alleycat races in San Francisco, Washington, DC, Baltimore, and NYC. He’s biked up all of Colorado’s big passes, ridden to the top of Mt. Evans, and linked up Vermont’s four gaps in a day. He’s also run three marathons, even though he hates running.

Jonny grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC, the son of two writers. Big surprise: he’s a writer, too. He learned how to sail — on a 14-foot Sunfish — when he was 12 years old, and hasn’t been on many boats since.


Matt, the captain of Syzygy, learned to sail by crewing for races in San Francisco Bay, primarily working the foredeck aboard Cirque (a Beneteau 43 skippered by Louis Kruk), the winner of the Offshore Yacht Racing Association’s 2007 race series.

A landlubber like Jon and Jonny, Matt has driven across the country 25 times, and climbed innumerable crags and mountain ranges along the way. He’s climbed 5.13s at Whiterock, Rumney, and Red Rocks; placed in the top-3 at climbing competitions in New England; and climbed long routes in the Tetons, Yosemite, and Zion. He’s also been up a dozen of Colorado’s fourteeners, and down more than two dozen of Utah’s technical slot canyons.

He spent three winters snowboarding (and working) in Crested Butte and Vail; and two summers leading teenagers on three-week backcountry trips in Colorado and British Columbia. He’s taught climbing classes in New Hampshire and New York; led hut-to-hut ski trips in Colorado’s Elk Mountains; and organized a mad float trip down the Colorado River through Utah’s Caynyonlands.

Matt grew up on a farm in New Jersey, and, having briefly pursued a career in theoretical astrophysics research, now works for photographerss as a digital tech.  Nota bene: he’s a truly terrible swimmer.

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