Currently In….

Currently in 1

For anyone who’s traveled and tried to keep a blog about it, you know how hard it is to stay up to date with your posts. For anyone who hasn’t, trust me, it’s hard. Keeping busy with activities, finding time to write, and usually trying to hunt down an internet signal can pretty much guarantee that you’re not still in the same spot that you’re posting about.

I hate being behind and if it were up to me I’d always be posting within a week of when events happened. I had actually gotten myself back to that point near the end of our stay in Miami, but one ocean crossing plus writers block, plus a dying computer that now shuts down on me at least once every 30 minutes means I’m not as on top of things as I’d like to be. In fact, right now I’m in the horrible spot that I’m extremely far behind and we’re just about to cross an ocean again. Believe me, I spent hours the first time searching it for a McDonald’s with a wifi hot spot, but I just couldn’t find one.

Now that we’re coming up on our next Atlantic crossing (again), it’s time for my friend Jackie to step in and keep all of you updated with our exact whereabouts and well being from text messages sent from our satellite phone that she then posts on the blog. I’m warning you about this now because I don’t want you to be confused that we were on our way to the Canaries and all of a sudden we’re now crossing the Atlantic. I will get back to those posts as soon as I can, but for the moment they’ll be on hold until we hit land again.

As I said, I hate being more than a week or two behind and even though I have every intention of catching myself up as soon as possible, A.) I still won’t be posting from our current location for a long, long time, and B.) I’m sure it will happen again at some point down the road. To help you avoid confusion on where I’m writing about and where we actually are, I can help you with that in two ways. The first is by checking the top left corner of our blog. Awhile ago I started a section called ‘Currently In -’ that I try and update as soon as we get to a new place so that even if I’m behind on my posting you’ll always know where we are.

The second is to head over to our Facebook page and give us a Like. Getting a quick note up there is obviously much easier than getting a post up on the blog and I’m constantly updating it whenever internet access allows. So make sure to keep an eye on us there, see what we’ve been up to that day, and enjoy more photos that don’t make it onto the blog!

Currently in 2

MJ Sailing FB

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Sailing Superstitions

Wednesday October 22, 2014


As we embark on our next journey from Madeira to the Canary Islands, I’d like to take a moment to talk about sailing superstitions. Let us not forget our last journey to get where we are from Sao Miguel Azores. I swear we did everything right and still had what I consider our worst overall passage to date. Maybe there was something out there I missed and need to pay closer attention to?

Most of the superstitions in the maritime world have been around quite awhile, and based on technology for the modern day seafarer versus our gadget-less ancestors, I can see why. Matt and I often joke that we would not be able to take this kind of trip if technology was even 30 years behind where it is today. Without our satellite phone, electronic navigation and charts, weather fax and even decent VHF radio signals, we would be completely lost. Celestial navigation? Hah, yeah right. Taking a position with a sextant? Nope. Basing our entrance to a tricky harbor on lining up with a building as a guide post that may not even be there anymore? No thanks.

We’ll be the first to admit that we heavily rely on all the tech that’s offered to us today, but it’s easy to see why the mariner’s of yesteryear based a lot of it on fate and superstitions. If I thought that keeping flowers off the boat or speaking to a red head before they spoke to me would give me any kind of control over the situation or guarantee me a good passage, I’d probably do them too. 

I think this quote on an article on Seafaring Superstitions sums up this theory perfectly.

You are a 19th Century mariner, living in the dank, dark quarters of a sailing ship, at the mercy of capricious wind and weather, six weeks from your last sighting of land. There is no marine weather forecast, no radio, no satellite communication; in fact no communication with the world as you knew it for periods ranging from months to years. You are virtually isolated from the rest of humanity. The captain is the absolute dictator; the ship is his kingdom. You and the rest of the crew are serfs. Small wonder you grasp at any support you can, whether real or imaginary.

LOOK Insurance is amassing the largest compilation of superstitions they can find and asked us to give our personal list of what we follow to avoid toil and trouble on the water. So here I will break into two sections, popular superstitions that we follow for particular reasons, and also little ones I’ve made up myself.


Well Known Superstitions

Never Leave for a Passage on a Friday

If we ever follow one superstition, this one would be it. This is supposed to be incredibly bad luck, and we’d probably laugh it off if not for all of our modern day fellow sailors I’ve read about that have done just this and encountered the worst storms they’ve ever seen or major damage to their vessel in one way or another. None of these sound worth tempting fate for, and even if we see that a weather window will give us a perfect opportunity to leave on a Friday, we won’t do it. We may try and find a sneaky way around it by leaving at 11:50 pm on a Thursday night, but never ever will will leave on a Friday for any jaunt of more than 100 miles. The first time we encountered this, before even really hearing about the superstition, was our first overnight trip on Serendipity, traveling across Lake Michigan from Muskegon to Milwaukee. Storms of epic proportions, especially for beginner sailors, dodging boats in the Chicago to Mac race, and total sleep deprivation.

We thought we could counteract this superstition, or at least worry about it on someone else’s boat, when we tried to join our friend Luis on his motor vessel last summer for a trip from Guatemala to the Bay Islands of Honduras, leaving on a Friday morning. The trip turned out to be ill fated from the beginning and was aborted before anything could really go wrong. So it stands, never leave for passage on a Friday.

This is an incredibly old superstition with religious background since it was written in the bible that Christ was crucified on a Friday. Other bad days to leave on due to religious affiliation are: December 31st (the day Judas hung himself), the first Monday in April (when Cain slew Able), and the second Monday in August (when Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed). Huh. Who knew?

Don’t spit in the Ocean

Spitting in anyone’s face is just plain disrespectful, and Neptune is no exception. Not that we’re the kind of slack jawed yokels that can’t keep our drool in our mouth, we very rarely have any reason to spit, but on the occasions that we do, we keep it in the sink while on passage. While in harbor though is a completely different story, I trust our anchor to keep us safe even though some pretty nasty storms have been thrown at it, and I say ‘Spit away’. Just don’t ever ask me to take that chance while underway. Let’s face it, the ocean, although calm and soothing at times, can also be one crazy biotch. We’ve been back and forth at each others throats sometimes and although I consider us frenemies I’d like to stay on her good side here for the next couple of months, so don’t tell her I’m calling her names behind her back.

SS 2

Think these guys are superstitious about their races?


My Personal Made-up Superstitions

Do not trim your hair or nails while at sea

This is supposed to anger Neptune, although I have no idea why. I’d actually never heard this was a known superstition until now, although the funny thing is, I’ve already found it incredibly true. Without even knowing that this act was supposed to bring storms with it, I swear I’ve learned through my own practice that it will in fact do just that. I’m not exaggerating, every time we’ve had a storm while on passage I most likely trimmed or bit my nails the previous day. After noticing this trend on previous sails in the Caribbean I purposely tried it on our Atlantic crossing, and guess what?, we got a storm the next day. I will no longer even think of touching my nails now while on passage. In fact, I’ll actually freak out if I break a nail on accident. I’ve also found out that giving myself a pedicure within a few days of a passage brings storms. Truth is, I’ve noticed that the longer I go without putting pretty little colors on my piggies, the nicer our passages have been. So my nails will now be polish free until we reach the Caribbean.

Use Blistex lip balm for more wind and Carmex for less wind

Do you know where I got this one from? Yup, our Atlantic crossing. I’m not even sure what day into our crossing during my sleep deprived state that I was able to catch on to this little trick, and even if it’s just in my head, I promise it’s worked for me. The days we were in dead calms with barely 5 knots behind us carrying us along, if I put on my favorite Bistex lip balm the wind would pick up a little bit. Now maybe this meant just up to 8 knots where it wasn’t doing us a whole heck of a lot of good, but it was still something. Then on one day when we had one of our rare storms and I couldn’t find my Bistex, I turned to my Carmax instead. I’m not even joking, within an hour the winds died down at least 5-10 knots, which in my book is still soothing when you’re getting cannonballs of water exploding against your hull. I tried this trick again on our sail from the Azores to Madeira, and just and promised, if the winds threatened to stay above 30 I’d just swipe on my Carmex and they’d calm right down to mid 20′s.

SS 1

I’ve had a lot of fun writing this post, and in searching for a little more background on some of these maritime superstitions, I came across this quote:

Animals including particular birds were thought to bestow either bad or

good fortune. Swallows seen at sea signified good luck while curlews and

cormorants were bad luck. And killing a gull, dolphin or albatross was especially

troubling as these creatures were believed to hold the soul of deceased sailors.

All I want to know is….why would you kill any of these animals? Why??!! I hope that it is bad luck to kill a dolphin, you deserve to have your soul stolen if you do.

On another animal side note, who knew that black cats bring good luck at sea? Since Georgie is partially black, I wonder if she brings us partial good luck.


What sailing superstitions do you follow or have your made up? I’d also be curious to know, what ones do you blatantly disregard, and why?

Once you’ve thought of your answer, head over to LOOK Insurance and take their boating superstition survey!

racing on Muskegon Lake

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Random Images of Madeira

Monday October 20, 2014

I have not picked up my camera once since our trip to Pico Ruivo last Wednesday.  To put it plainly, I have been completely engrossed in my computer.  Writing posts, editing video, and trying to keep in touch with friends back home before my internet disappears in a few days as we make our way to the Canaries and finally out of marinas.  So since there isn’t anything new to talk about, here’s some random images of our almost three weeks here.  Crazy how the time flies!

Funchal, Madeira

center of Funchal, Madeira

sculpture in Funchal gardens

overlooking Sao Vicente, Madeira

Sao Vicente, Madeira

Funchal Marina

Jessica in Funchal, Madeira

Matt in Funchal, Madeira

old town Funchal, Madeira old town Funchal Madeira

outskirts of Funchal, Madeira

gin bar in old town Funchal Madeira

poncha bar

random images, small 1 random images, small 2

cable car station, Funchal Madeira


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The Most Fascinating Doors of Funchal

Saturday October 18, 2014

In Funchal there’s a little street in the old town called Rua de Santa Maria.  This is kind of a back alley area that houses dozens and dozens of restaurants and is very popular with tourists to sit and have a bite to eat or a glass of traditional Madeira wine while enjoying the charm of the cobblestone streets and the antiquity of the area.  Another fun thing about this street is the doors to some of these shops.  Just about every one of them is decorated with ornate paintings and designs.  Even further up this road you’ll find decorated doors as the restaurants dwindle into private residences.

During our few weeks here I have wandered this street many a time, with it quickly becoming my favorite area in Funchal.  A few times now I’ve traipsed back and forth through here with my camera and tried to capture images of my absolute favorite doors I came across.  There’s many I missed, only because I was starting to get strange looks from the diners around me, but here is a list of my top 9 doors on this little alley that I found the most fascinating.



doors of Funchal, Madeira


doors of Funchal, Madeira


doors of Funchal, Madeira


doors of Funchal,  Madeira


Doors of Madeira 5


doors of Funchal, Madeira


doors of Funchal, Madeira


doors of Funchal, Madeira


doors of Funchal, Madeira

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Hiking Pico Ruivo & Settling for São Vicente

Thursday October 16, 2014

São Vicente, Madeira

I don’t have to tell you how in love we are with this island.  I’ve pretty much been talking about it non stop lately.  The only problem is, I can’t quite say we love this island just yet, because we’ve only seen Funchal.  I’m sure I could fall deeply in love with the rest of it, I just needed a chance to see it.

So with great public transportation and nothing but time on our hands as we wait for a decent window to the Canaries, I kept bugging Matt that we needed to do an inland tour.  See more than just this one town.  So that years down the road when we finally give up our life at sea and get our land legs back I can say with authority, ‘We should move to Madeira.  We loved that entire island.’

I had spent hours online researching the best places of the island to visit, but with only a bus at our fingertips instead of a car it wouldn’t be as easy to see multiple parts and we’d have to stick to one area.  Looking at photo after photo and spending one whole evening on a certain flickr account, I decided that São Vicente on the north side of the island was the place for us.  It looked as if it had a gorgeous beach with high rising cliffs on each side, a quaint little town for wandering, and caves to explore should the mood hit.  I was all set to buy our bus tickets out.

That was, until we ran into the Norwegian guys the morning of their departure.  We had noticed that they’d been gone the entire previous day and found out they went on an amazing hike through the center of the island from Pico Ruivo to Pico Areeiro.  They described it as very long at 15 km total, difficult at times as most of it was uphill, but by far one of the best hikes they’ve ever taken in their life.  ”It challenges hiking through the fjords of Norway”, they told me.  It did sound incredibly long and tedious, but how could you pass up something right in front of you that challenges the views of Norway?  That night I researched Pico Areeiro and decided that São Vicente would have to wait. We were going to hike a mountain.

Stopping at the information center in Funchal I picked up a few maps as the woman behind the counter stared at me with leery eyes as I told her my plans.  ”It’s a very long walk”, she told me.  ”Yes”, I replied, “I’m fully aware.  It will be about six hours”.  ”Tomorrow is supposed to be very bad weather”, she confronted.  I paid her no mind.  For some reason the woman of Portugal don’t seem to like me and are always telling me I can’t or shouldn’t do things that I later find are incredibly easy.  Like lugging our propane containers a mile outside town to have them filled instead of getting a taxi.

So as we woke this morning I prepared us the best I could, dressing us in layers for the elevation and even putting in a windbreaker since I remembered the fresh breeze at the top of Faial, although Matt declined his.  Hopping on the bus we rode through extremely beautiful seaside and mountain roads until we began climbing to the interior town of Encumeada where we would then follow the 11 km path to Pico Ruivo and from there continue on about another 5 km to Pico Areeiro.  Encumeada would start us at an elevation of 1007 m , the climb up to Pico Ruivo would bring us up to 1862 m, and we’d descend to Pico Areeiro just a little bit at 1816 m, although this was supposed to be the more difficult part of the hike, winding through extremely narrow paths and through caves in the mountains.

As the bus chugged and climbed it’s way up the mountain we watched the sun disappear and a thick fog settled in.  The winds were picking up as well and just as we started to laugh and point out how quickly they were rushing through this area, whipping around peaks and pushing bushes on their side, the bus driver stopped and motioned for us to get off.  Oh crap.  This did not look so fun anymore.  Stepping off the bus into 40 knot winds and a 20 degree temperature drop, we began to second guess ourselves as the bus sped away down the mountain toward São Vicente.

Pico Ruivo

Encumeada, Madeira

Bundling ourselves up in every layer of clothing we had on us, we found the beginning of the trail while at the same time muttering to ourselves ‘How the hell are we going to do this?’.  At this point we were pretty sure that the two of us together would not be coming back down alive.  Pushing our way up a dirt trodden path we found a bit of sanctuary behind the giant ridges in front of us, the wind luckily coming from the opposite side.  The side we were on still held it’s challenges though in the form of never ending steps.  This was not looking like it was going to be a gradual path up those 850 m.  Climbing and huffing and puffing we tried to gauge how much initial elevation we were making, hoping that it was all at the beginning and the rest would level out.  That we might be able to handle.  But if it was going to be 11 km of climbing stairs, that was a guarantee that neither of us would be making it back down.

On the bright side, during many of our breaks to stop and catch our breath we had amazing views down the cliffs to the north side of the island where São Vicente was nestled at the bottom.  The clouds on that side of us cleared just enough for us to see out to the valley below, but whenever we turned to look where we were headed next it was nothing but white.  We began to wonder if the hike would be worth it at all, coming mostly for the views and realizing there was a chance we wouldn’t even be able to make them out through the fog.

overlooking Sao Vicente, Madeira

hiking Pico Ruivo, Madeira

Matt hiking Pico Ruivo

On and on we continued to huff and puff as we climbed higher and higher.  The rocky stones in the dirt path would sometimes give way to grand staircases, but the theme always seemed to be onward and upward.  For a few moments we had forgotten about the wind since there had been no exposure to it since the beginning of the hike.  While rising up one of these grand stair cases we found another couple close to our age coming back down.  They stopped to chat for a moment, both of us asking where the other was heading.  It turns out they were trying to do the same hike as us, or at least just get to the top of Pico Ruivo, but about a quarter mile up ahead they found themselves exposed to the wind again and decided to turn around.

As the guy tried to explain, we think they were French and English was a second language, they were by no means professionals and they felt that to continue would be too dangerous and they were better off coming back down and completing their tour of the island from the safety of their rental car.  We don’t consider ourselves professionals either, but can sometimes muster ourselves up to be hardcore for just a little bit, and decided to continue on.  At least to the point they were referring to and could decide there if we wanted to move forward or turn around.  Progressing up the mountain another ten minutes we came up to a clearing that had no protection from the strong winds we initially experienced and suddenly saw exactly what they were talking about.

The winds here hit us like a freight train, suddenly gusting up from a light breeze to somewhere near 60 knots.  Not only that, but we were in complete cloud cover and could not see more than 100 feet in front of us.  No wonder this other couple turned around.  To venture on looked like suicide.  We quickly agreed that to continue on would be completely unwise and possibly even dangerous and we also turned ourselves around, even rushing back down the areas we could, trying to catch this couple to see if maybe they would give us a ride back into town instead of waiting for the bus to swing around again that afternoon.

stairs hiking Pico Ruivo

hiking Pico Ruivo

Jessica on stairs of Pico Ruivo hike, Madeira

Back at the bottom of the hill the French couple was long gone and the next bus through this area was still hours away from arriving.  Scouting the small diner and gift shop that made up this town we looked for vehicles of only two people that might be able to give us a ride back to Funchal or at least down the mountain to São Vicente, but every car or van we came across was packed full.  Giving up we decided to walk the 10 km ourselves since we figured we had planned on getting a hike in that day anyway and at least this was downhill.

This notion only lasted about half the way down until it felt like we were never going to reach our destination.  Every time we’d round a corner and look down the valley we’d think, ‘Ok, only about two more turns and we should be there’, except every turn led to at least five more.  Finally at one lookout point we broke down and asked a couple that had stopped to enjoy the views if they could give us a lift the remaining few miles.  They kindly obliged and our weary legs finally had a rest.

outskirts of Sao Vicente

church at São Vicente, Madeira

 When we got down to São Vicente we realized the town itself didn’t have a whole lot going for it.  Not that it was a bad place, it was just much smaller than we were expecting.  There were a few shops, lots of restaurants, but that was about it.  Coming from the metropolis of Funchal though, I can see how anything could look kind of small.

What the town lacked though, the seaside definitely made up for.  There were gorgeous black sand beaches with tremendous waves constantly crashing on them.  A true surfers paradise.  With an hour to kill before the next bus would come around to bring us home, we just sat on the seawall and took in the views of the staggering cliffs that sat on the ocean while thundering waves crashed at their feet.

In the end, I guess the day worked out kind of perfectly.  I doubt we would have had the strength to hike the entire way to Pico Areelio even on a clear and calm day, but there also wasn’t enough in São Vicente to entertain us for an entire day.  So breaking it up between the two gave us a taste of both worlds.  It also gave us a chance to see more than just one spot on the island and let me say for sure that Yes, I could absolutely see myself living here someday.

São Vicente, Madeira

10.16.14 (11)

Jessica in São Vicente, Madeira


Here’s a quick little clip of some of our sights for the day.

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The Market of Funchal

Monday October 13, 2014

Market of Funchal

I really must stop picking our activities based on TripAdvisor reviews.  But this act never ceases, it happens everywhere we go.  As soon as we get to a new city I’m busy typing into my computer ‘Things to do in …’.  And what else comes up besides a million and one TripAdvisor reviews.

That’s exactly what I did our first morning here in Funchal, and right after riding the cable cars up to a botanical garden, making your way to the Mercado dos Lavradores, or Workers Market was a close number two.  Just about every review I read on this market said it was a bustling colorful place and was an absolute must see on your stop in Funchal.  Then I clicked on the pictures.  Oh my god, the pictures!  Every single one was stunning and vibrant, full of people, baskets of overflowing fruit, and bushels of flowers crowding the lens.  I’d never heard of this place until now, but I was pretty sure I couldn’t go the rest of my life without seeing it.

Since all the reviews advise that you get there early in the morning and the fact that our internet isn’t decent until after 11 pm, let’s just say that we’ve become night owls as of late and don’t tend to get ourselves up and moving until the market is probably closing down.  For a few days now I’ve set our alarm for 8:30, and this morning we finally roused ourselves out of bed to it’s sound and got moving.

Walking the few blocks through the morning haze and getting there just after 9, we were surprised to find we were just about the only ones in the whole indoor market.  We (I) had assumed that every morning it would be full of locals buying their daily produce as well as tourists fresh off their cruise ships, and we’d have to elbow our way through the square to actually see anything before it was all snatched up.  Not quite the case.  At all.

Since we seem to visit the local supermarkets just about every other day we were fully stocked on all the necessities and this was really more just a chance to look around and for me to snap a few photos.  There were still baskets brimming with tasty looking fruits on the ground level, but instead of taking up the entire center square like I had pictured, they were all tucked off to the side and the fact that no one was standing near them made me wonder if we’d just entered a zombie apocalypse.  (Surely a fruit stand is the last place you’d find a zombie, so it should be where all the remaining humans are hiding.)

Anyway…it did seem as if we had the full run of the place between both shoppers and shopkeepers.  It took us all of 4-5 minutes to wander the ground floor before walking up the steps to the upper level where there did seem to be just a little bit of life, mostly in the form of vendors trying to sell us things.  Fresh off the staircase we did stop at one stand where a gentleman had a beautiful display of a wide variety of items, many of them things we’d never seen before.

He began pulling out partially exposed fruits and slicing off pieces to offer us a taste.  The first item is what he called a pineapple-banana and looked like a very long green pine cone from the outside.  Upon tasting it, it actually did taste like both a pineapple and banana (called a Monstera).  He asked if we would like to purchase one of these local and found no where else in the world fruits, and we thought, ‘Why not?  It’s not like we’ll ever find it anywhere else!’.*  After this he motioned for us to put our hands out, and on our wrists he dolloped little gooey seeds that we were hesitant to try at first, but after sampling them found they were the sweetest and most delicious things we’d ever tried.  We quickly ordered a few of them as well.

After finding out our bill for these five items was 12€ we decided that would be it for our shopping portion of the day and just began to wander instead.  Matt always keeping his distance from any of the future stands since he finds it rude to browse closely without the intent to buy.  ’Why just get their hopes up for a sale and end up wasting their time in the end?’, he always tells me.  So we made a round of the remaining top floor without ever really stopping again, although some of the spice oriented stalls did look pretty interesting.  Getting back to the staircase we wound down it and found ourselves outside the doors again after having only spent a grand total of 20 minutes inside.

I may be judging this place a little harshly, but I think we may have just come at completely the wrong time of day or the wrong day of the week altogether.  As I mentioned before, we weren’t really looking to purchase, just to browse.  But being the only visitors there instead of coming while it was bustling with other people and we could have been flies on the wall, we were instead the sole target of all vendors and didn’t feel like we could freely peruse as we had originally wanted.  We went there for the experience and it kind of turned out to be a non-experience.

My overall thoughts on this place?  It really does have everything you could want in a market if you are looking to purchase.  Fruits, vegetables, a fish market, carneceria, spices, nuts, ect. An interesting spot to pop in and check out, but don’t plan your day around it.  Plus, expect it to cost more than you’ll be paying at the Pingo Doce right around the corner.

*Editors Note:   It turns out these pineapple-bananas are actually from Central and South America and are imported to Madeira. Liar!  Now that I’m going back again and looking at a few new TripAdvisor reviews, it looks as if a few others were as underwhelmed as we were.  Plus we found out they sweeten their sample fruits with sugar.  No wonder the ones we tried at the market tasted so much better than the ones we brought home with us!

Funchal Market


Funchal Market

fish at Funchal Market

fruit for sale at Funchal Market

spices at Funchal Market

nuts at Funchal Market

flowers at Funchal Market


This is what I was looking forward to, when does this happen?

(Photo taken from here)



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It’s a Home Celebration!…?

Saturday October 11, 2014

celebration in Funchal Madeira

This afternoon Matt and I were out and about town during one of our ritual wanderings when we came across a celebration that had been set up just a few blocks inland from the marina.  We weren’t really sure what it was for, but the fountain in the center of this park had a long string of multiple colored flowers streaming outward and above the center of the pavilion.  Situated in the center were rows of picnic tables, and lining the outer walls were multiple booths ready to hand out a hot snack or a cold drink.  For a price of course, they weren’t giving them out for free.  Unfortunately.

Walking around the sheds we stopped long enough to listen to a little bit of very traditional Portuguese Folk Music being played upon the stage, as well as some very traditionally dressed people lining up in front of the stage in costume.  We were hoping for some dancing on their part, but it looked as if they were only set to stand about and clap to the music.  After they wandered away I was able to catch just enough of the Portuguese from the announcer that there would be more music and dancing that evening, with the main event beginning around 8:00.  Since we had already spend a good portion of our day wandering the high hills of the city, we agreed that a nice siesta and dinner were in order, but we’d be back that night to check it out more.

While back at the boat I used our perk of being in a marina, wifi access, to try and research the festival a little more so we could fully appreciate it when we went back.  Flipping through a few of my photos I saw a big banner that read ‘Casas do Povo da Maderia’.  Searching that phrase alone I was shown a flood of links and clicked on a few, and after translating those pages, realized they were all for vacation homes in Madeira.  So, was this similar to those time-share things people get suckered into back home?  Listen to my two hour speech on why it would be the best decision of your life to rent a condo on the beach for two weeks in Jamaica and in return we’ll give you a dinner certificate?  Is that what we’d just fallen into?  Listen to our music and enjoy our food as we shove pamphlets in your face showcasing our best ocean front rentals?  I doubt it.

So I turned to Google Translate.  What this told me is the literal translation was ‘Madeira’s people’s homes’.  Well, that didn’t help me out any.  Back up plan of searching Funchal along with the date and see if that brought anything up.  Nope.  Whatever this celebration was, it was not being advertised.  Although that didn’t mean that we’d enjoy it any less.  Showing up fashionably late we made our way back around 8:30.

By this time the pavilion had become packed and we were lucky to find room to stand between a couple of the food stalls.  It did put us front and center for the stage though, which helped me to get a few good shots and video when people weren’t wandering in front of my lens.  The music was once again all in Portuguese and none of the American or British covers we experienced with the orchestra back in Ponta Delgada.  It was fun, but without a good place to sit or stand, and constantly having to move out of the way for people to pass through, we eventually gave up on the night after about 30 minutes.  It was still a good excuse to get off the boat though and see something a little different from the everyday norm.

celebration in Funchal, Madeira

traditional celebration in Funchal, Madeira

celebration in Funchal, Madeira

Portuguese music, Funchal, Madeira

celebration, Funchal, Madeira

celebration in Funchal

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Cruise Like a Norwegian

Wednesday October 8, 2014

Santa Maria Gin Bar

Every night in every city around the world it happens.  People pour into local watering holes to well…drink.  It’s our mission to traverse the globe getting to know these different people and their drinking customs, bellying up to the bar, and with any luck, making some new friends. Wait a minute, that sounds kind of familiar. Ah yes, that’s right. I stole it from Three Sheets (Around the world one drink at a time), but I think it aptly describes our night in Funchal tonight. Except, instead of getting to know the locals and their drinking customs, we observed them with two Aussies and three Norwegians.

We met Michelle and Adam, the two Aussies, two days ago when all of us happened to be headed to the marina’s showers at the same time. Or the loo, or whatever it might be referred to as by them, not even realizing they were just hot off a passage themselves. Isn’t that so fun to say though?, ‘I met them on my way to the loo’. Since how were we supposed to know at the time that this young couple were cruisers and not just backpackers looking for a lukewarm shower? You don’t see many young people out in these mid-Atlantic islands, it just doesn’t happen.

Except for the 30-something American guy I struck up a conversation with in Horta while going up to the marina bar for a bag of ice. He probably thought I was getting ready to throw some kind of mixer on our boat that evening, completely unaware it’s real use was to dump over my head with a bucket of water. Come to think of it, he looked kind of fun. I should have gotten his boat card or an email address…something that would have kept us in contact and let us do something social during our weeks in Faial. Instead of sitting on the boat by ourselves. Every night.

But getting back to the people we hung out with tonight, Henrik, Kristian, and Marius, of S/Y Doris, make up the Norwegian part of the group are three of the cutest young guys you’ve ever seen. These friends, that we met through Michelle and Adam, are on their way from Bergen to Sydney in just one year. These three boys have piled themselves into a 32 ft boat, and if you ask them why they’re out doing this they’ll tell you Because it will be the adventure of our lives – who could say no to something like that!

The seven of us started our night at one of the quaint little bistros that line the concrete walls surrounding the marina, and with a nice tall beer cheaply priced at 1,30€, the next few hours few by as we all talked about our travels and shut the place down at the early hour of 23:00. (Yes, military time. That’s something you have to get used to over here). Not ready to end the night, and after speaking with Michelle about some of the local drinks and customs, we definitely were not ready to call it quits before trying some Poncha. A local drink from Madeira made with a distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon rind, and added flavors. Sounded tasty to me, and since I never got my birthday Caipirinha, I was not going to leave this island without getting a Poncha in me.

Dragging our group to the old town next, since I’ve fallen so extremely in love with it over the past few days, we expected the clubs to be going strong and overflowing with other tourists like ourselves. How wrong we were though. Wandering it’s most restaurant and bar ridden road we only came across only one establishment that was still open, the Santa Marina Gin Bar. Sounds like the perfect place to grab a Poncha, right? After the group of us grabbed another round of beers and made our way to the posh outdoor terrace, Michelle and I decided it was time to skedaddle off on our own to try this drink.

Walking up to the bartender we asked the gentleman if they offered it. He told us that no, they did not, but there was a place open in the downtown area that was still open and did carry it. Since we were already saddled up to the bar we asked how much a gin & tonic would cost. We did happen to be in a gin bar, and when in Rome… “8€” replied the bartender. “Oh”. We sighed nonchalantly, not about to drop that much money on one drink but also trying to come off as upscale as the bar we were in. “Did a guy just walk out of here with 7 beers?” “Yes”. “Well, we’re all set then, thanks anyway!”, and ran away, hoping he didn’t see us counting the meager change in our coin purses.

crew of S/Y Doris

Santa Maria Gin Bar, Funchal

Santa Maria Gin Bar, Funchal, Madeira

Hannah and Adam at gin bar

Back out on the patio where the cheap beers were flowing, we sat around and talked for a bit about Australia and all the things that can kill you there. Michelle and Adam, living their lives here, and the Norwegian boys, on their way here, were all very interested in this topic. Yes, drop bears did come up a few times. Before we knew it we had closed down the gin bar as well but still had not had a single taste of Poncha. Getting directions from the bartender on this mythical place where we could actually find it, we wandered the dark roads of Funchal until we wound up directly across the street from the marina where we had begun. Another round of beers were ordered and this cute old man that we think runs the place kept bringing us out little plates of popcorn and seemed to be very charmed every time we would take a moment out of our conversation to thank him for this.

Eventually Michelle wandered off inside and when she came back she was holding two passion fruit Ponchas for us girls to drink. Just as the description promises, it was very sugary and sweet. I was really going to take my time and enjoy this drink. That was, until Henrik spied us and I handed over my glass for him to have a taste. The next think I know my whole glass of syrupy goodness was down his throat. After I’d only had one sip. I started at him slack-jawed and stuttered “But…but..that was my drink! You drank my drink!”. Completely stone faced Michelle looked on at him and replied, “That was her drink. You need to go buy her another one.” The poor guy had no idea that I was only offering a taste and not the whole thing. But, being the good guy that he is, he disappeared into the bar and came out with a tray of seven Ponchas in his hand. And Michelle, being the sweet girl that she is, placed her already existing one between us to share.

After this point, all was right with the world again. I had my Poncha, I had popcorn, and I had friends. And can I just say that after not having gone out for a social night with other people since back in Miami, it felt really really good.

Taberna in Funchal Madeira

Marius, Kristian, and Adam

me & Michelle




smoking a cigarette

 I stole some of the guys items as photo props.

me & Marius

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In Search of Sunset

Sunday October 5, 2014

Funchal harbor at sunset

If I thought the fates had been aligning against us for what I still consider one of our worst overall passages ever, it turns out they were actually aligning for us to bring us to the most wonderful place in the world. Seriously, we have been in love with Madeira ever since we spotted it’s little hillside villages and elegant bridges spanning across the many valleys. The love continued once we stepped foot on land yesterday to take a walk though the high end and completely picturesque town of Funchal. The sidewalks are still paved with little black and white stones depicting beautiful designs, and the buildings, statues, heck, even the city bank, are perfectly maintained and sharp, but still hold an old world charm. Hard to explain, but just trust me when I say the whole area is gorgeous.

Tonight I took a chance to explore it a little more myself when I accepted a challenge from Jennifer over at Three Sheets Sailing for Share a Sunset on Sunday. Ok, so it wasn’t so much a challenge as a group invitation for cruisers all over the world, but it was my own personal challenge to find the most beautiful spot in the city to watch the sunset from and capture that moment.

What Jennifer had put together on her Facebook page was a really cool and unique opportunity for us who travel the globe to remember that no matter how far apart we may be at times, we’re all watching the same sun set in the sky every night. Starting out in the South Pacific, those who had first exposure to that day’s sunset would post a photo of it on this page along with the location. Then as the world continued to turn and others watched day turn into dusk, they would put up their photos. An extremely cool idea that I hope carries on.

Grabbing my camera and leaving Matt back on the boat, I set off for the hills, determined to find a nice spot on a hill that would overlook the city and the harbor as the sun was setting on it. Even though we’d done a little wandering the past few days I found myself in areas of the city we hadn’t passed through yet and were definitely missing out on. The old city with all of it’s character and bistros, and a pizza place that smelled absolutely heavenly. I walked up the hillside past a church holding a celebration, and through balconies glancing down at natural Atlantic pools.

Needless to say, I got a lot more out of this challenge than just finding a pretty picture to put up online. I discovered parts of a city that I keep falling in love with more every day. Watch out Cuba, I might just have a new favorite island. Oh, and the part of global togetherness was pretty cool too.

stone beach in Madeira

sunset in Madeira

sunset in Madeira

Funchal at sunset

sunset over Funchal

Madeira at dusk

Funchal, Madeira, at night

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La Bella Isla Madeira

Friday October 3, 2014


Last night we broke down and finally used the engine on and off through the night to finally get ourselves some speed and pointing capabilities. And partially to dodge the line of tankers that wanted to come just a little to close to us. I had a moment where I was handing the reigns of my shift over to Matt where two tankers were headed right at us, one on each side, but a little too close for comfort. Calling one man on VHF and getting no answers the first few times until I repeated it a few more times with a very stern ‘Please respond’ at the end, I politely asked if he could miss hitting us by subtracting a few more degrees from his current course since I already had a tanker on one side of me and the wind on my nose in another. I barley got a response and wasn’t even sure he heard me until I saw the course on his AIS falling a few degrees. I may have thanked him for his help a little too hastily since that number began to rise again, but by that time it was Matt’s problem and I was on my way to my bunk. A little course alteration on Matt’s part and throwing our deck lights on to make sure this guy knew exactly where we were, and all was good and we were in the clear within ten minutes.

When I woke up this morning, our tenth day at sea, Matt told me there would be a slight change in plans. The wind had never shifted north enough for us to be able to make the easting we needed to get to Porto Santo. But..we could get ourselves on the west side of Maderia Grande, and once there we would be sheltered by the winds and could motor smoothly into the harbor of Funchal. Whatever. If it meant I could fall asleep at anchor that night, I was in. Setting us on a course that was just far enough off the wind that we might actually be able to get there, he let me know that we needed to maintain a speed of 5 knots to get there before nightfall. If we couldn’t do it under sail power alone, the engine needed to be on and running high. Turning off our diesel hog, I was able to get in one enjoyable hour of sailing before we kept dipping into the mid 4′s and a panic ran through me that this had the potential of leaving us at sea another night and I rushed to turn it back on.

As we rose and fell through the building swell that was coming from our back quarter, I read up on Madeira and Funchal through our Imray guide, having skipped it the first time around because I never expected it to be a stop. I found a few fun little facts about the town, a nice black and white photo depicting the harbor and the homes sitting on hillside behind it, and a little blurb that Maderia’s west side, of which we would be passing by in a few hours, contained sheer cliff drops into the water, supposedly the second largest in the world. It also appeared as if this island contained volcanic peaks that almost rivaled that back in Pico, and should also be visible from the water at distances of 30-50 miles. Riding every crest I’d stare out into the distance, waiting for something to come out of the shadows, but it wasn’t until we were less than 15 miles off on this hazy day that I was able to make out an outline through the brume.

Over the next few hours I watched it become larger and clearer. Finally it came into view and I stood in awe at the massiveness of it. I had not been expecting anything so colossal. For a few minutes as I stood on the cockpit seats with my head over the dodger and letting the strong breeze blow through my hair I had a pod of dolphins pass by, jumping through the considerable waves that followed behind me. They were gone almost as soon as they had come, but I had other more important things on my mind. Land. We were finally within site. We were going to make it there if it killed me.

And that my friends, is when you speak too soon. Although the swell was mostly behind us, by this point it had grown to the predicted 12 feet that our weather report (my dad) had forecast. Up until that point winds were in the mid 20′s and although it wasn’t a calm ride, it was mostly comfortable. Then we came across something I’ve had little to no experience with. Just as we were rounding the western part of the island and I assumed this solid block of land would begin blocking us from the gusts, we hit a wind zone. A little thing I had read up on a bit for in the Canaries, but didn’t know I would come across here. In these wind zones, the wind will funnel itself around a portion of land and increase itself anywhere from 10-20 knots, almost instantly. I had just found myself in one of these areas and now my 25 knot winds were holding in the upper 30′s and sometimes gusting into the mid 40′s. I kept thinking they would go down in just a few minutes and hesitated to wake Matt to help put a reef in the main, the only sail we were running with at the time.

Just as I was contemplating ‘Do I , or do I not?’, one of the large waves from behind us caught us at a strange angle and began rounding us into the wind. Sometimes this will happen by 10° or so and the autopilot will work to fix itself in a matter of seconds, but this was closer to a 90° change, and we showed no signs of turning back the correct direction. Lunging toward the autopilot I quickly threw it on standby and yanked the wheel hard to starboard, slowly putting us back on course, but not before the next wave started to come and tried it’s best to keep us pointed into the wind. As we reached the crest I finally got some semblance of steering back and set us once more to where we were supposed to be. My heart was pounding, but we seemed to be ok. For the moment.

Just as my pulse was returning to a normal rate, it happened again. Once more I flew to the rear of the cockpit as fast as humanly possible, but with my harness and tether on I was only able to go so far. Staring at the stern as my hand once more cranked the wheel to port, I was not able to fight the force that was rounding us up. For one whole set we sat almost at a standstill with our beam into the waves and I was sure the next one to come would be the one to roll us over. Fighting the panic in my chest I moved myself behind the wheel to the best of my ability with my harness still clasped into a pad-eye by the companionway, letting the tether rub across the top of the wheel as I put all of my strength into keeping it hard over. What felt like an eternity later, although I’m sure it was mere seconds, the bow started following my directions and we were out of harms way. This time it didn’t even take me two seconds to yell down to Matt who was still comfortably sleeping in his bunk, that he needed to get his ass up so we could put a reef in.

Changing our course to almost directly downwind so the waves would not keep catching us on our side, we reefed the main and things instantly felt 1,000 x better. And knowing that we were no longer knocking on death’s door (I know I’m being much more dramatic about this than it actually was), we could finally enjoy the views in front of us. The dramatic cliff drops were just as good as the guide said they would be, and the only thing we could do was stand there with our mouths open as we watched them go by.  From there on things just kept getting better.  Just as suddenly as we had entered the wind zone we were now out of it and in the lee of the island.  Winds became just a slight breeze on our cheeks as we could now feel the sun beat down on them as well.

Taking full advantage of the now gorgeous day, I put some music on to blast through the cockpit speakers and opened a beer while I continued to watch our views get better.  It was like the universe was watching out for me and saying ‘Sorry about that earlier snafu, let me make it up to you with some of the most spectacular views I have to offer you.’  And oh yes, they were.  As that weren’t enough, just a few miles further along the coast we were treated with a remarkable dolphin show.  These things were really trying to show off for us.  There wasn’t just your usual swimming next to the boat while sticking their head above the water every now and then to get a better look at us.  For literally hours we watched as groups of these magnificent creatures did jumps, twists, and tail stands.

Then just as the sun was beginning it’s descent and radiating perfect orange beams onto the cliffs in front of us, we neared the harbor of Funchal.  Calling in and getting in touch with the harbor master I found that just as our guide book promised, it was possible to anchor in this harbor.  Finally.  Not having dropped the hook since Bermuda I think all of us, the cat included, were looking forward to a little swinging room on the boat.  Entering the inner harbor and finding the catamarans the harbor master had mentioned to us as the best place for us to be, we dropped the anchor just as the sky was growing dark.

Letting out all the necessary chain in this fairly deep port, we glanced around and realized how close we were to not only the chartered dolphin watching catamarans next to us, but the large cement breaker behind us.  After 5 minutes of staring around we made the executive decision to get the anchor up and just go in the marina instead.  Calling the harbor master once more to let him know that instead of anchoring, we’d now be coming in, and where was the reception area and what side should we have our fenders on.  The only response I received was an infuriating “I’ll point you in the right direction when you get in here, but I can’t tell you what side you’ll be on, so just put fenders on both sides”.  Well, not only do we not have enough fenders to go all the way around our boat, but it was literally now getting black out, so how the hell are we going to follow your directions if I can’t even see you?

Arguing with the man on VHF for more information, which he wouldn’t give, then arguing with Matt about the lack of information, and arguing on the VHF once more, we just decided to throw two fenders on each side and get ourselves in with any last little bit of daylight we had left.  Once the anchor was weighed I quickly handed the wheel to Matt and ran up to the bow to watch for our harbor traffic controller.  Fortunately I did spot him just as we rounded the corner into the marina and he yelled out “Follow me!” as he hopped on a little bike and began to race it around the inner breakwater.  Matt was not a happy camper behind the wheel as I tried my best to shout not only directions back to him from the bow, but when to watch out for the mooring lines attached to the bows of all the boats docked here.

If we had to join the ranks of those before us in this marina that backed their boats into sample size spaces in the dark, I think we would have happily turned the boat around and heaved to a few miles off shore until the sun came up.  I think the harbor master realized this and took pity on us, guiding us to a large open space of dock where he instructed us to side tie.  The lines were still a mess since he ‘couldn’t tell us what side we’d be on’, and I did a slapdash job of getting them run through the chalks on our starboard side before handing them over.  Our landing into this spot was not very graceful.  Withing a few minutes though, we were securely tied up and the engine was off.  The longest (perceived) passages of our lives was officially over

cliffs of Madeira

cliffs of west Maderia

dolphins in front of Madeira

dolphin jumping at bow

cliffs of Madeira

Funchal, Madeira


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