Kourtney Patterson crossed the Atlantic in a 38-foot wooden sailboat and came home to St. Augustine with the story of a lifetime.


Patterson, 28, and her boyfriend, Pete Grundvig, pushed off Norna, their 38-foot traditional-gaff-rigged cutter from the docks at the Conch House on May 30, 2010. It would be a 43-day beat to windward before they saw the coast of Spain. It was Patterson’s first overnight sail.

“I wanted to go back after two days,” she said Wednesday, sitting aboard Norna in the mooring field in front of the St. Augustine Municipal Marina. “That was when I realized I had to mentally handle my fear.”

Patterson found her sea legs that night and never looked back.

“That night was truly amazing,” she said. “I remember watching the stars come right down to the horizon.”

Soon, she was taking the night watch.

“She was great on watch,” Grundvig said. “I could always sleep well.”

The pair sailed Norna through the Mediterranean Sea and back out to the Canary Islands. Then, it was a 25-day sleigh ride on the tradewinds to Grenada. They hopped up the island chain and eventually made their way home to St. Augustine with more stories than you could tell in a week.

So Patterson wrote a book. “Accidental Sailor Girl” was independently published last week and is for sale locally at Sailors Exchange on King Street and LYMI Oddities on Anastasia Island. A book signing is planned for 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at Sailors Exchange.

The book title, the couple explained this week, suits her to a tee.

“It really was all an accident,” the dreadlocked St. Petersburg native said. “I didn’t have a place to live, I wanted to go surfing, so I came to St. Augustine, and I didn’t know anybody. I was living on the beach, but that was starting to get too sketchy, so I bought a boat.”

Her first vessel, Happy, a 27-foot fiberglass sloop, was in a little bit of danger back in 2008 when Tropical Storm Fay was threatening the Ancient City. Grundvig, a seasoned mariner, came to the rescue and the rest is history.

“You don’t meet many guys like Pete,” Patterson said with a hint of those same nighttime stars in her blue eyes.

A Flagler Beach native and lifetime sailor and woodworker, Grundvig bought and lovingly restored Norna over a 10-year period after it suffered a propane explosion in the same mooring field where she floats today. Originally built in Denmark out of larch and white Norwegian pine, Norna turns heads in every anchorage she enters.

Her handmade mast of Sitka spruce and New Zealand kauri wood gleamed brightly in the sun on Wednesday. The pair call their floating home “a work in progress,” because of all the time, energy and money involved in keeping a traditional sailing vessel properly maintained.

“It’s actually a lot like living in a log cabin,” Patterson said of the oakum-and-tar-caulked craft that is electrified with solar and wind power.

The next plan for the sailing duo is replenish their cruising kitty, and in the meantime take some smaller trips, up to Cumberland Island and out to the Bahamas. Then maybe another big trip. And definitely another book.

“You know of all the places we’ve visited, we’ve always been happy to be coming home to a nice place like St. Augustine,” Grundvig said. “We’re very happy here.”