Handstands Across the Void (liar, flower sailing around the world)

KatieJane Garside (ex-Daisy Chainsaw) on the four years her family spent on their storm-battered sailboat.

KatieJane Garside, along with her significant other/musical partner Chris Whittingham and their 8-year-old daughter Leilani, spent four years sailing around the world in their trusty, storm-battered sailboat Iona. They traveled from Falmouth through the Canary, Galapagos, and Marqueses Islands before heading down to New Zealand, Australia, Mauritius, South Africa, and the Azores. Below you’ll find some of their in-the-moment thoughts on the journey, specifically a collision with a whale that rocked their journey.
—Josh Modell, Talkhouse Executive Editor

River Lee, North London

a tragedy has befallen us, and suddenly we are the full time carers of a bereaved 9 year old boy and i myself, due to give birth for the first time in 6 months 

in a split second, the trajectory of all our lives, is forever changed

i had spent the previous 9 years, blinded and utterly self absorbed, wrestling the sticky minutiae of being lead singer in a wildly dysfunctional, co-dependent punk rock band

i had barely escaped with my life

but i had

and as we lay there in our very narrow canal boat bed, on the lee river north london, weighing our options, we decided to sell up, buy a sailing boat and head off on a voyage around the world     

— katiejane garside

Atlantic Ocean

Dec 5th, 2013 – speed: 6.5 knots, position: 16°40’23.51″N 42°29’24.37″W, course ˚273 true, wind: 20 knots from the East, swell: 2-3 meters confused

We’re rolling like hell. 3 different wave trains cascading upon us and making life difficult, uncomfortable. Still, it’s sunny, the wind is blowing in the right direction and we’re making good time. We’ll be in the Caribbean by Christmas. Getting to grips with the fishing thing.The fresh food is dwindling (provisioning in the Cape Verde islands was dismal at best — it looked on the verge of civil war, men with machine guns everywhere). I caught my 2nd Mahi mahi (dorado) on the hand line and am getting better at doing the nasty business of getting it on-board and completing the dismal task. I have to consult a book down below to figure out how to complete the whole process.  I’m no fisherman, it’s not pleasant, but we need to eat and there’s no supermarket out here. Some days I wonder if this journey is wise, but then you look to the horizon, feel the pulse of the boat on the sea, and a hypnotizing calm sweeps over. This is one way to erase time. Before we reach Panama there’s always the option of turning back, going home; it’s a lurking doubt always ready to convince me, find the doubt.  Soon we’ll be out of the Atlantic ocean, through the Panama Canal, and into the Pacific. There it’ll be different. Then there will only be an endless course west leading us back to the beginning.  

— chris 

Pacific Ocean

tiny hand in darkness reaching for mine saying “mummy, i think the big wind has come”

jaws, hell, hip, tea, wind

shall i say it tore my face off?

hip, tea, jaws, wind

can’t look at you baby

jaws, tea, hip, wind

ice feet

hip, tea, jaws, wind

you want a whale

and so many pirates… always there, a wisp of smoke just tucked under the horizon

hip, baby, jaws, hell and the kraken in my body is raging and i am skeletal, convinced something is eating me 

this vast piece of water before us and i am so afraid, the atlantic had seemed local 

we had survived bird flu and the pressing grey skies of ecuador, and the sweet relationships with locals gone terribly wrong, over receiving/not receiving parts from an abandoned boat, about to be impounded and taken away (the police had been tipped off), and a shaman comes in from out of town for a live webcast (invited by our russian friends,”only family cruising boat from russia,” on a mission to interview holy people from forgotten parts of the globe for russian TV), i wanted the shaman’s eyes on me, to tell me i was going the right way, that i was special, protected and anointed… he was red and feathered and did not meet my pleading gaze

and beautiful sean with a hurt, mad soul, spinning in the wake of cargo ships the size of planets on his tiny rusted cup of a boat, barely any room to crawl in and sleep, this boy from under a bridge was somehow a programming genius, developing software for “open source navigation,” living on utterly nothing, the matted wisp of smoke that he was…lesser folk unkindly took bets on how long he could last, smugly enrapt in their 2” lay ups and radar – he had no radio, no engine, no tender, no money, he had nothing, no one and certainly no safety net of any kind… and from this place he was crossing unending oceans…

and eerie, strange harold, on the run from a shootout with pirates in panama, the hull of his substantial sailing vessel holed by bullets… he had killed a man and was hoping to make american samoa for legal representation… he wanted to “buddy boat” with us to the marquesas…we made ourselves unavailable that day (i recently saw his boat for sale on the internet)

and our little girl, not yet two years old, pointing at a cluster of stars on a celestial map, she looks at me and says “puppis,” i look at the map and she is indeed pointing to the star cluster “puppis,” well at least that’s clear, our little girl is an alien and…

i was telling tom lanham about the amphitheatre of cloud, how exposed we are out here, all eyes upon us and nowhere to hide, and the star coming closer and closer every night, coming to take me and my family away (this was me, 13 years old, circumnavigating with my own parents, my little sister mela and foundling kitten christianos), the star was magnetised to me, i would not look but i could feel her imploring eyes, letting me know


i just remembered my first beloved scott, who was killed in an auto accident when his family returned from their circumnavigation… you see risk is relative, the sea didn’t kill him but i thought perhaps i did… if only i had dropped that bunch of keys or taken a different turning or anything to throw the timeline out by a hair, allowing him to miss that impact…perhaps then this would be a letter to scott rather than one to you…i’ve written many letters to scott over the years, he was 17

and here we are now, just sailing along, on a 3500 mile passage from the galapagos to the marquesas, the forever storm not raging on this day

yes, here we are, on one of the loneliest stretches of water on spaceship earth, about to hear the sound of a colossal impact…  

— katiejane

Oct 3rd, 2014- speed 5.2 kts, position: S2° 24.617′ W102° 48.827′, course: 249˚ true, wind: 12 kts ENE, swell: 2meters

07:30 A jolting slam and I’m awake nearly thrown off my bunk. We’ve hit something. A shipping container? A ship? There are no ships here. Haven’t seen anything for weeks. I’m in a deep haze after having just fallen asleep post 6 hours night watch. Up the companion way and on deck. Kj looks frightened, confused. Off the stern emerging from a cauldron of bubbles is a giant humpback whale… 20 meters long? Well, bigger than our boat certainly. There’s 2 other whales nearby and a small red slick of blood. So not a shipping container, but a whale. Fuck, how can we hit a whale, or did it ram us, protecting its young or fighting off a competing paramour. They do this, I’ve read about it, but that’s just in books. I do the perimeter of the boat, hanging off the lifelines looking for damage. Nothing apparent. Kj’s not sure what happened. Just a thud, a brief stopping of the boat, then the sails filling and the lurch forward. I jump down below and look in the bilge. 2 feet of water where there should be a couple of inches. Sinking. No, can’t be sinking. Check the aft bilge. No sign of damage there. Look in the side lockers. Nothing. Check the chain locker at the bow. Nothing. No sound of rushing water.  Where’s the water coming from? My head is in the engine compartment and I switch the manual bilge pump. There’s the familiar gurgling sound of water being pumped overboard until it clears the top of the pump and makes the gasping sound of only air being drawn; like a straw in an empty cup sucking water between ice cubes. I listen carefully. No dripping, no sound of water coming in for the moment — just the sloshing sound of water gliding across the hull. The normal sound. The good sound. The sound you go to sleep to. OK. It’s OK for the moment. Right? Get the go pro on a stick. Good idea. I film the hull on all sides from under water. Plug the card into the laptop and there she is — Iona. She looks like a whale underwater. Bulbous with a giant long keel like a fin. No holes. Thankful for 70’s 2 inch layup — they didn’t know how much fiberglass to use, so they just kept adding layers — a modern boat would have been crushed. But the 5 inch stainless steel tang that juts from our bow to hold down our bowsprit… something’s wrong there. It’s bent at a 45˚ angle. This piece of metal that you can drag this 20 ton boat by. It’s bent. That was the point of impact. The whale wasn’t sleeping, I don’t think so, not with the other two about. This is migration season — when the whales move across the Pacific on this well worn route. We’re the trespassers here, tolerated but not welcome. We’re not sinking. Ok, we’re not sinking. I find that the automatic bilge pump has burnt out. Water has been slowly leaking from our water tank for days, accumulating unnoticed. I’m tired, but awake the rest of the day. Another whale glides alongside later in the afternoon. Not happy about this. People pay small fortunes to see whales, but I’m done. This new whale is the same size as our boat. 43 feet. He/she swims alongside for 10 minutes at a time, then dives and passes under us.  The depth sounder says 5 feet. 5 feet below our keel. Then it slips back and surfaces behind just clearing our rudder. Then repeat. This has been going on for 3 hours now. If it hits our rudder… stuck in the middle of nowhere — no ships, no help, no way to steer the boat; just thousands of miles of empty sea. People pay money to see whales. I’d pay never to see another whale. No more whales please. Go away. I’m tired. I want to sleep. I need to sleep. Please go away. We’re not sinking.  

— chris

drink in sky and the sounds of her falling smile, where is that plank for doing handstands out across the void? let’s do that today, are you warm enough? it gets cold out there and we are coming back so we do need to be equipped, GEIGER COUNTER emerging and merging into the other, and the clicks in my body, involuntary dancing, moving into its new form, here it comes — waterfall of flowers — should be a flowerfall, GEIGER COUNTER hear her roar, money saving device decoding salves and balm, the raincoat paraded her Kalashnikov, tripped over shoe lace, geiger counter, if she had one, ruining people’s lives amounted boxes, vegetable peeler put its grinding resentments out in the open and i shuttered the camera, what a day clambering over isolation in high high heels briskly managing burst pipes, the resentment flowed in the streets, never seen it like that, where will you go next? pay taxes and fold envelopes, stay keen and blade sharp in your slavish devotions, war is coming, show her the fight, show her survival, kill when you have to — practice practice — spain will embrace us, two fingers of a flightless bird so dig, let’s go underground, night escarpments no faces in the carpets, i’m not talking to you, you go the other way, this way is mine  

— kj, stream of conscious journal pacific ocean

The new Liar, Flower album, Geiger Counter, is out now.

my name is katiejane garside, i have sailed around the world two times (once as a young teenager and once as the mother of a one year old baby girl). i have fronted these bands: daisy chainsaw, test department, queenadreena, lalleshwari, hector zazou’s corps electronique, ruby throat, and now this band liar, flower.