Our Atlantic Crossing in Video

Ever since we first left Florida for the Bahamas back in March of 2013, I kept telling myself I was going to capture our adventures in little clips and make them into videos.  The clips, I have some, the videos though, never came to fruition.  This time was different though.  With such a milestone in our sailing history I knew I had to record it and actually get it out there.  So I have!

Over the past few weeks I’ve spent hours upon hours going through all the ten second shots I took here and there of our crossing and compiled them into a little video for you.  Let me just warn you that it’s the first one I’ve ever done, and I wasn’t (and am still not) always sure of what I was doing.  Please be kind, and if you are, I’ll keep working to get new ones out in the future.

Without further ado, 46 days of our Atlantic crossing, squashed down into just over three minutes, for your viewing pleasure.

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Trans-Atlantic Q&A

Wednesday August 20, 2014

Fort Lauderdale from the Gulf Stream

Three thousand four hundred miles.  I still can not believe we sailed that distance from Miami to where we sit now in Horta.  I still remember how daunting it all seemed for weeks, even months, before we left.  I spent way too much time over-thinking all the things that could possibly go wrong, and all the rest of my time with my head buried in the sand so I didn’t have to think about it at all.

Yet here we are two months after departing, and we made it across, all in one piece!  To all of you that have told us we’re an inspiration and make you feel like you might one day be able to complete the same passage, thank you so much for your kind words and positive thoughts.  I kind of still can’t believe we made it all the way across here ourselves!

For those of you asking, how did you do it?, rhetorically I’m right there with you.  I’m not sure how we did it either.  Especially for little ol’ moi, who’s not that particularly fond of sailing passages.  But for those of you who had real questions, you asked, and I’m answering!  Here are the most asked questions on our Trans-Atlantic crossing.*

 

Did you bring enough booze?

In short, yes. Unfortunately for me since I enjoy a good sundowner, we have a pretty strict ‘No drinking’ rule while on passage. Matt always wants us at the top of our game so that we can handle whatever might come up while we’re on the water, so getting tipsy is not in the cards. Plus, one good sized drink will pretty much get me there these days. That’s not to say I didn’t sneak in a glass of wine on day 39 though, since I needed a little something to look forward to at that point.

 

Since there is only 2 of you, how did you split up sleeping?

Ever since our first overnight passage on Lake Michigan we’ve been trying to find a sleep schedule that works best for us. We started out with 3-hour-on, 3-hour-off shifts way back when we where headed down teh east coast of the US, but mostly because at that time I didn’t want to be in charge of the sails for any period longer than 3 hours since I didn’t know how to properly trim them myself. The three hours allotted to sleep however was never long enough to fall fully asleep and feel properly rested, so we switched to 4-hour-on, 4-hour-off shifts in the past year, and they’ve worked out well for us.

Matt & Georgie sleeping on passage

 

Did you run into any storms? How did you deal with them?

Between our total 46 days of sailing from Miami to Horta we ran into 4, what I would call storms. The two we had way offshore, on Matt’s Birthday, and halfway between Bermuda and the Azores, were cold fronts passing through. Normally we’d get about 24 hours of winds in the 25-35 kt range, along with seas of 8-12 ft. These ones we actually didn’t worry about so much because we watched them on our Weather Fax and knew they were coming. They built slowly and gave us plenty of time to prepare for the worst part, battening everything down and reefing the sails.

Our 2 storms off the coast of Florida, however? Completely different story. They were both quick, ferocious, and came out of nowhere. The first one we didn’t even see coming until it was on top of us, winds going from 12 knots to 62 knots in a matter of seconds, and then sustaining itself in the mid 40′s for the next 2 hours. For the second one we were given about 30 minutes warning, a broadcast over our VHF that it was moving from inland out to sea. This storm was about 30-40 minutes of 45-50 knot winds and took down all sails and motored directly into it (as best we could) until it passed over.

 

Did anything break?

No. And we are so thankful for that. With that being said though, it’s kind of because we took the coward’s route.  Going south of Bermuda until we reached it and then taking the rhumb line from Bermuda to Horta. Even that didn’t quite work out though when we added an extra 400 nm to our trip by going from 37° North down to 33° North just to avoid a stationary front. While all other boats were taking the most popular route of following the Gulf Stream North until they reach 40° North and then heading East, following the trade winds and currents but also encountering many more storms and strong winds along the way, we stayed in the lower latitudes, hanging out in the Bermuda/Azores high where everything was calm.

storm clouds over the Gulf Stream

Did you ever worry about running out of important supplies? If so, which ones?

I’d say the only supply we were really worried about running out of was diesel which is why we never turned on the engine even though we spent days on end drifting through dead calms, sometimes only covering 35 nm in 24 hours. We only carried 45 gallons with us, and although we refilled in Bermuda, we didn’t want to find ourselves nearing the Azores, in desperate need to use the motor, and finding out we had no more fuel on our hands. We were pretty content to drift in those glass calm conditions though; cooking, reading books, watching movies; so it wasn’t all that bad.

How did you plan for food and water?

The water issue was fairly simple for us since we have an HRO Seafari watermaker on board. We made sure to keep one of our tanks full at all times in case of emergencies, otherwise we’d run the watermaker for 3-4 hours every three days or so to fill up the second tank.

The food took a little more thought and planning. Back in Miami I tried to estimate how long it would take us to reach Horta, ending on 30-35 days, worst case scenario. (Boy was I wrong) From there I planned out meals and how far each of them would get us. A batch of chili could feed us for two days, a homemade pizza would cover two days, naked burritos could go for 1-2, ect. I also planned for days that conditions would be too rough to cook and made sure we had cans of soup, ravioli, or things that could be simply heated up.

I won’t lie, things were looking pretty bleak in the end. Not only did the crossing take 46 days of sailing instead of 35, but we also had 10 unexpected days in Bermuda to feed ourselves through. Plus the only provisioning we did there was a 5 lb bag of rice since that’s about all we could afford. By the time we reached Horta there were still some bags of chicken or ground beef in the freezer to make entrees out of, but the snacks were just about gone and I’d sometimes find myself eating a single dill pickle spear to get myself through to the next meal.

calm day on the Atlantic Ocean

Going non-stop for so long, did you get to spend any time together as a couple?

This question kind of makes me chuckle because most of the time we’re getting asked the opposite question of ‘Didn’t you get completely sick of each other after spending so many days non-stop together?’. But Julie, who asked this question, totally gets the reality of it. The truth is, during this crossing it felt like we never got to see each other at all. Due to sleep schedules alone we were only awake together about 8 hours day. Add a few naps to that number since we never felt fully rested, and that number was much closer to 4 to 6 hours together a day. In our at-anchor life, we spend 14 to 16 hours together a day.

The truth of the matter is, it was actually incredibly lonely out there. Weeks on end with only four to five hours a day to share it with someone. There were so many times I felt like being selfish and waking Matt up before his sleep shift ended just so I could have the company. I was like that mother that pokes her sleeping child, just so it will wake up crying and she can then spend her time soothing it back to sleep. I never did, but I came close a few times.

Did you ever feel your insignificance as this small little spec during your crossing?

During our crossing I kept waiting for this poinient moment. The one where you realize how expansive this earth actually is, or what a small role you actually play in it. For all the deep philosophical questions to come to mind of Why are we here, Are we the only ones in this vast emptiness of space? and so on.

I never experienced these, but then again, maybe I never had the chance to feel cut off. Our boat was full of electronics, and we used them all the time. My afternoons were spent choosing from hundreds of downloads on my e-reader, nights were spent listening to downloaded podcasts. Every two days we’d send out a text message to family members via our satellite phone, and receive messages in return.

We were never cut off. Therefore, we never felt completely alone, utterly insignificant, or hell, even have time to ponder why we’re here.

 

*With a few last minute questions coming in, I’ll probably be posting a Part II.  Let me know if you have more questions and I’d be happy to answer them along with the ones I couldn’t get to in this post. And to the gentleman who asked what’s the most we’ve traveled in a day in all our days sailing, it was 176 miles while riding the beginning of the Gulf Stream from Isla Mujeres, Mexico toward Key West, Florida.  If only they could all be like that.

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Picturesque Horta & Faial, Azores

Monday August 18, 2014

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Wow.  I still can not get over how gorgeous everything here is.  Every time you turn around there is something beautiful or charming or captivating.  It really is something out of a storybook.  If you ever want your life to look like it came out of a fairy tale, move to the Azores.  If I had friends here to keep me company, I don’t think I’d ever leave.  Any takers to come out?  Here, let me show you some more photos of how fascinating this island is to entice you a little more.

Horta, Faial, Azores

harbor of Horta, Faial, Azores

harbor of Horta, Faial, Azores

harbor of Horta, Faial, Azores

Matt on the breakwater in Horta, Azores

Horta's breakwater and Pico in the distance

Grassy fields and Pico in the distance.  Azores

Farmlands north of Horta, Faial, Azores

Caldeira, Faial, Azores

blue hydrangeas on road in Faial, Azores

oceanic pools, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

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Lazy Days & Porto Pim

Saturday August 16, 2014

Porto Pim, Horta, Faial, Azores

After our scooter rental on Tuesday, things have really slowed down for us and we’re just enjoying being on land, milling around with our days and doing as we please.  It is a bit sad not having the scooter at our disposal anymore, or any kind of motorized vehicle actually, knowing how much beauty there is on the island now and only experiencing a small part of it.  Not to say that we aren’t loving our time in the town of Horta.  It is a dream come true to be here.  But knowing those Capelinhos are sitting just a 30 minute ride away…..

I digress.  We really are loving it here.  Taking things slow, easing ourselves into the European culture, and just enjoying life.  I’ve taken it upon myself to turn my afternoons into cooking lessons.  With mostly constant internet at my disposal and a Continente supermarket just up the hill for ingredients (and maybe a few beers when Matt isn’t looking), I’ve been trying some new recipes that have been coming out great.  Even if it is just trying to make items that I love at home but can’t seem to find here, like my very own homemade tortillas for tacos and even homemade sour cream (thanks Boat Galley!).  Whip up a little homemade salsa (see how all of it is homemade?) and the only thing I’m missing for perfect tacos is cheddar cheese.  If I can sneak up one of the cows here, milk it, throw in some bacteria and other things I’m sure the internet can tell me to find, I might be able to knock that out too.

There’s also been the general wandering about town. We may not have the scooter anymore, but we did manage to eek one more trip out of it before returning it on Wednesday morning.  We turned what was originally going to be a hike up to the top of Monte de Guia into a lovely early morning scooter ride, and took in the bird’s eye view of Porto Pim below us.  A nice little bay with golden sand beaches, possibly one of the only sandy beaches on the island.  At the top there was a pretty church and pulchritudinous views to all the sights below. (I just thought it would be fun to use that word. And maybe I just expanded your vocabulary. Lesson of the day. You’re welcome.)

Another perfect place to sit and watch the world go by.  Maybe one of these days I’ll have to get off my butt and make the actual hike to the top to do just that, but honestly, walking across the street to the park is really so much easier.

Matt next to church on Monte de Guia

Porto Pim, Horta, Faial, Azores

bay next to Monte de Guia, Horta, Faial, Azores

Porto Pim, Horta, Faial, Azores

overlooking Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

 Matt also found an aluminum boat in Rhode Island that he’s really, really into and trying to get more information on, so at night here when East Coast business is still going strong but our internet at the marina is flat lined, we’ve taken to the town in search of a signal.  Just as beautiful as Paris in the rain, right?  I would assume.  Since I’ve never been.

Horta at night, Faial, Azores

Horta at night, Faial, Azores

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Touring Faial by Scooter

Tuesday August 12, 2014

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Today we decided to splurge on a little treat for ourselves and rent a scooter to tour the island of Faial. Having done a bit of research the previous day and then visiting a few of the rental shops this morning, we found that prices were basically the same whether you were on the main strip or off on a little side street. 18€ for a half day, or 25€ for 24 hours. We chose the latter. As we found in Key West, provisioning trips to the store are much more fun with a scooter at your disposal.

With having done the research on getting the scooter itself, I had kind of forgotten to do research on what to see with it at our disposal. I had no idea how long it would take to drive around the whole island, if that’s what we decided to do, or how long we’d want to be out before we tired of joy riding, so I only picked one sightseeing stop and left it at that. From our 19 year old Imray guidebook, which I’m ashamed to admit is the only placed I looked for things to do in Faial, one item had stood out to me while reading it over and over again on our crossing, and that was the caldeira. The sunken crater left behind by Faials volcanic cone. Our guide book touted it with the best views on the island and a perfect place to hike, stroll, or even enjoy a picnic lunch. Should we only have time to fit one big sightseeing stop in, I wanted that to be it.

Gathering information from the tourist information office that morning, along with multiple maps and directions, as soon as we had the keys to our scooter, we were off on the road that would take us there. Little did I know that the views taking us there would be almost better than what we found at our destination. Taking the well paved and well traveled road that led east on the island, we wound and rose up hills while breathtaking views of the harbor and town unfolded below us and I was pestering and poking Matt to pull over to the side of the road so I could get photos. Pulling over to one grassy spot and standing in awe for five minutes while other motorist made way for us, we found an even better spot another mile or two up the road. This one even came equipped with statues and an overlook. I guess I’m not the only person who thought this view was worth taking in.

Matt renting scooter in Faial

overlooking Horta, Azores

scenic overlook to Horta, Azores

Now that we were beginning to climb in altitude and were no longer blocked by the hills surrounding us, the winds began to pick up to something fierce as we rode along. The light and airy tank that I had been sweating through down in town was now doing little to keep me warm, and my helmet, although securely attached, was now starting to blow back off my head, forcing me to hold on to the scooter with one hand and constantly readjust with the other. Passing out of the farmlands and green fields, we entered the forest part of Faial where large ceder trees sprouted around us and fresh earthy scents filled the air. Both of us were dumbstruck by this sudden change and diversity and beauty. Simultaneously our thoughts suddenly changed to, ‘Do you see any property for sale, because I think we need to move here’.

overlooking Pico, Azores

hydrangea filled road on Faial, Azores

The ceder forests gave way to more winding roads with stunning views of Sao Jorge and Pico, with green hillsides and blue hydrangeas leading the way. It was almost too much beauty to handle, it seemed like something out of a fairy tale. On we pressed though, closer to the caldeira, and further on in altitude and dropping temperatures. As we pulled into the parking lot full of tourists for the caldera I doubt it took me two seconds to grab my windbreaker out of my backpack and put it on. From there we wandered through a small tunnel that brought us out to a viewing platform for the caldera, full of plaques listing the history and different kinds of flora and fauna to be found in the area. It was a nice view, although a little crowded, and even though we were clad in flip-flops, we decided we wanted to walk the rim to the highest point for even better views.

Trotting down the dirt path and occasionally stepping over rocks and up sometimes muddy slopes, we made it to the top of the caldeira just in time to enjoy 60 seconds of a remarkable view before the clouds rolled in and draped us in fog. Taking in as much of the 360 degree view as possible, we noticed that we were quickly the only people left there and wondered if something nasty was moving in since all the other hikers had already made a hasty decent back down to the parking lot. We quickly joined them, bathed in sunshine once more at the bottom, and hopped back on the scooter to see what else we could gawk at that day.

The caldera sits right in the middle of the island and we chose to take a route north and then drive the remaining circle around the island back to Horta. For the most part we were on paved roads, although we did take one dirt path just off from the caldeira that would lead us out to civilization again. Of course it had to be an area that we were taking a somewhat steep decent, a blast in a rally car I’m sure, but not the best thing for rental scooters. Inching carefully forward it wasn’t until we were about 100 feet from level ground that we wiped out in the reddish soil. Luckily neither of us were badly hurt, although Matt did end up with a few new scrapes, and we’re pretty sure the ones on the bike had already been there. Soon enough though, we were back out on a main road, one that completed a higher elevated circumnavigation of the island.

caldera, Faial, Azores

caldera, Faial, Azores

As we were winding up the hill, passing under leafy green trees and gorgeous ocean views off to our side, I figured this was the perfect time to blurt out ‘Happy Anniversary!!’. I knew Matt wouldn’t have remembered this date. No, it’s not our wedding anniversary (although our 10 year is coming up this December, woohoo!), that one I’ve ingrained in his mind long ago. This was our two year cruising anniversary. It hadn’t even hit me until we had been out for an hour or two that morning, and even though it happened accidentally, what a perfect way to celebrate. Wow, to think of how far we’ve come in the past two years. From our familiar stomping grounds of Lake Michigan, all the way down the East Coast, touring the northern part of the Caribbean, and now all the way over here. And to think I had been ready to throw in the towel at 10 months. To keep going is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

seaside town in Faial, Azores

 

While making our gorgeous drive back to Horta through small villages and sea side towns, we passed a sign on the road that had a set of binoculars, meaning there was some kind of overlook or sightseeing attraction, and we thought, ‘Why not?, let’s check it out’. Just like on our way up to the caldeira, the road leading to this new spot almost looked better than what could have been waiting for us at the end. Resort buildings that were alluring but not over the top, more cedar lined streets, and old world stone buildings with bright blue shutters. What we found waiting for us at the end of the road was just icing on the cake.

If the cedar forest was varied from the quaint towns on the coast, we had just stepped on to Mars. The area the signs had been leading us to was the Vulcão dos Capelinhos or ‘Little Cape’, a monogenetic volcano (so Wikipedia tells me). I didn’t really know what it all meant at the time, all I knew is that it was one of the most incredible things I’d ever seen and completely not at all what I was expecting. This area is part of a volcanic eruption that lasted from September 1957 until October 1958 that enlarged the area by 2.4km with volcanic ash. Over 2,000 people had to be evacuated, many moving to the US or Canada.

What’s left of the area now is desert and sand with backdrops of large sandy and rocky cliffs that range from golden beige to espresso brown to burnt red. There’s a lighthouse that overlooks all of it, and at the bottom of the road leading to the coast is a portioned off swimming area between large jagged rocks. Following the other groups of loiterers, we trekked up the steep sandy hill to the top of the barren landscape. The views only got better the higher we climbed, and we marched through the dust and stones to find one spot that looks north over the coast and a staggering colorful cave with lush green hills just behind it. I could have stared at that view all day without it ever getting old.

Lighthouse do Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Lighthouse at Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

Capelinhos, Faial, Azores

 If it wasn’t for the fact that it was turning into late afternoon and we still hadn’t eaten yet, our lunch still packed inside the scooter sitting in the parking lot, I probably would have. Back down the hot and dusty hills we went, the lack of food and water so far for the day finally catching up with me. Stumbling back to the scooter I kept repeating to myself ‘I’m going to die. Holy crap, I’m going to die. Feet don’t fail me now.’ I made it back to the scooter without collapsing and we rode the half mile down to the natural oceanic pools where we dug into our sandwiches and watched the families on holiday. Matt was lucky enough to have worn swim trunks out for the day and even took a dip in the refreshing water.

I think it’s safe to say that even having the highest of expectation of Faial, it continues to blow them all way. Around every corner is something new and unexpected and stunning. I’m not lying when I say I think I could put roots down here. Turn that scooter around I think I saw a place for sale next to the stone house with the blue shutters!

*I’ve only used a small portion of the photos from today in this post, make sure to stay tuned for Picturesque Faial to see more!

Matt diving into natural pool in Azores

family at natural pools, Faial, Azores

natural swimming areas, Faial, Azores

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Full Moon & Fireworks

Sunday August 12, 2014

moon rising over Pico, Azores

Wow, Semana do Mar has kept us out every single night this week.  Since forced into a marina though (they don’t allow anchoring in the harbor here, we were a little disppointed about that), there’s no reason not to step off the boat every night and check out the festivities.  Plus I can usually talk Matt into buying us at least one round of those incredibly delicious 1€ sangrias, which are almost worth getting off the boat for themselves.  With equally incredibly low wine prices here, I’ve found 1 liter boxes at the supermarket for 1,25€, I’ve actually tried to make my own sangria but have come nowhere close.  I may have to spend much of my time in Europe perfecting this and possibly buying some brandy or Triple Sec.

While sitting around this evening drinking one of my own not-so-perfect sangrias while making dinner, and momentarily running up the companion way to take some photos of the sunset reflecting off the volcano of Pico, I heard a friendly ‘Hello!’ off the dock next to me.  It looks as if someone else had the same idea as I did, and happened to be another American who was quite surprised to see another vessel in the marina carrying stars and stripes on it’s stern.  He introduced himself as Richard, a New Yorker that had just arrived in his 44 ft Katy Krogan, the exact same boat that our friend Luis owns in Guatemala.  After talking for a few moments about our trips over from the States, he informed me that not only was tonight going to be a full moon, something I’m not sure I’d been paying attention to, but that this moon was going to rise right over the peak of Pico.

An awesome photo opportunity it sounded like, and while thanking him I let him know of the fireworks show that was supposed to be going on that night, a piece of information I’d gathered from the local OCC Port Officer when he came to greet us a day or two after our arrival.  (João, an extremely nice gentleman that gave us so much great information on the town and on Sea Week).  I let Richard know that I didn’t know exactly what time these fireworks would be put on, but if they followed suit of the late night beginnings of most other events, it would probably be sometime between 10:30 and midnight.

After my nice chat with Richard I went back to making dinner and almost forgot to keep an eye on the time for when the sun was setting and the moon was rising.  I had barley cleared the plates from the table when I remembered, and I grabbed Matt’s arm and rushed him out the door with me as I ran down the docks to the breakwater to try and get the best spot for a photo op.  We were just in time to get a few shots of the full moon hovering right over the cap of the volcano, although I am a little sad I didn’t get there just a few minutes before to watch it peaking out from behind.

sunset over Horta Marina

sunset over Pico, Azores

full moon over Pico, Azores

full moon over Pico, Azores

After going back to the ‘Dip for a bit, honestly after going out every night since we’ve been here can be a little exhausting after our recent laid back lifestyle, we waited a little bit before going back out for the fireworks.  We knew they must be starting soon since the walls overlooking the harbor were quickly lining up with people.  Snagging one of the last available spots we sat down and waited for the bright explosions of light to begin.

There must have been a lost in translation moment somewhere along the way, or fireworks in Europe are completely different than they are back home, but we never got the big bangs and fizzles.  What the show was instead was a bunch of sky lanterns.  Over by the quilt-work patterns of the breakwater, glowing lights began floating into the sky, a few at a time.  We oooh’ed and awwww’ed, still not aware this was their ‘fireworks’ show.  Soon the sky was full of tiny glowing dots, drifting off toward the dark horizon, and then it hit us.  Ohhhhh, this is the fireworks display.  We weren’t let down though.  How could you be?  Watching those soft lights float over the harbor, past the volcanic cone of Pico, and out into the darkness of the Atlantic was one of the most beautiful sights either of us have ever seen.

fire lanterns at Horta's Semana do Mar

fire lanterns over Horta's harbor

fire lanterns over Horta's harbor, Azores

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Horta’s Sea Week

Saturday August 9, 2014

view of Horta from marina

Did you know that when we checked into Horta this week, we were the 1,000th boat to pass through? They decided to throw a party in our honor, Semana do Mar, or Sea Week.  Eight days of celebrating just for lil’ ol’ Serenipity’s crossing.  No, I’m just playing.  Yes, there is something called Sea Week, and yes, it did happen to be going on when we got here, but it was no way in honor of us.  (Although we truly were the 1,000th boat of the year….so the man at the marina told me.)

The tradition of Sea Week began back in 1975 geared towards yachtman, but is now a big tourist draw between all the Azorean islands and even folks from the mainland.  It is always held between the first and second Sundays of August, which is great news for us because we thought it was soley the first weekend of August and that we’d just missed it.  Luckily that was not the case, and even after we pulled in after our multiple weeks at sea after leaving Bermuda, things were in full swing, current American music blasting from speakers lining the street as we covered the mainsail and began throwing out fenders.  Let’s just hope that everyone was already tipsy enough that they didn’t notice our dock line debacle as we were just hundreds of feet from the marina office.

I am just a little bit disappointed that we weren’t here to experience the whole thing, because the open ceremonies sound pretty cool.  Here’s a little description taken from The Azores Islands Blog.  Following the official opening of the event, a Mass is celebrated in the chapel of Our Lady of Guia, on top of the hill of the same name and the image is then transported by boats in the Nautical Procession, passing through Porto Pim Beach, entering the Horta Harbour and disembarking in the Santa Cruz quay. The image is then carried in procession to the Church of Angústias under the alert gaze of the people with houses along the route, who exhibit their valuable mattresses out of the windows of the upper floors.  Sounds pretty cool, right?

There was still plenty to keep us entertained though, even though we’d arrived half way through the celebrations.  Most of our interest was focused on the nightly events, although all the nautical competitions are held during the day. This includes a full list of things ranging from the typical yacht races (Regattas of the Channel; of the Mermaids; of the Former Participants; and of the Horta trophy) down to things like a Horta to Porto Pim canoe race, swimming across the harbor competition, and even water polo.  I um, may not have researched these awesome sounding events until they were already over.  Ooops.  Now you can see why we were focused on the evening activities.

Each night so far we’ve wandered out, still on East Coast time, which seems to be perfect because it fits perfectly into European lifestyles.  Music groups start at at the big stage around 10 pm, and last until 3 in the morning.  Even little kids are wandering the streets with their parents until well after midnight.

During these nights we break up our time between watching shows of traditional music and dance at the little park situated across from the marina, browsing the crafts sold by locals and gypsies, although honestly, half of it looks like the $1 junk made in China and breaks after three uses.  Loooots of cheap plastic toys for kids.  There are also tables set up with jewelry and knickknacks made from whale bones and other stones and jems.  Then we’ll usually grab a 1sangria and sit on the sea wall, doing a bit of people watching until something starts on the main stage, or we find ourselves in bed a little too early because we still haven’t gotten over our exhaustion of 29 days of sleeping in 4 hour shifts.

Last night though, the best thing in the world happened.  Not only had we met up with two other young cruisers to wander around with, always fun to hang out with people around our age, but after milling around the large stage and listening to a band that I think is popular in mainland Portugal, they brought a DJ up on stage to start playing electronic music for the rest of the night.  We l-o-v-e electronic music.  We’ve been listening to DJ Tiesto since he first came on the scene over a decade ago.  One of the best parts of being in Miami was getting an electronic station on the radio, something that is very hard to do, and we’re normally left trying to download new music through A State of Trance.

Breaking to the front of the crowd, we literally rushed the gate as we began jumping up and down and pumping our hands in the air.  Being outside, a light rainy mist fell on us and caught the lights that pulsed out through the crowds.  It was honestly like a scene out of a music video, and possibly one that we looked ten years too old to be a part of. Behind us I’m sure the adolescent crowd wondered what these old people were doing, but we couldn’t have cared less.  At least we weren’t as bad as the guy next to us.  Late 30′s, semi bald, bearded face, wearing glasses and a skin tight leotard and doing the robot.  Does seeing that mean that we’ve officially arrived in Europe?

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Horta Sea Week

Pico, Azores, at sunset

Horta, Azores, breakwater at dusk

Horta's marina at dusk

musical performance Horta Sea Week

musical performance Horta Sea Week

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Our Atlantic Crossing by the Numbers

8.8.14

Our pathetic attempt at a crossing, I should be calling it.  Wow, looking back at these numbers?  Dang, we was slow!  Check out our numbers below to find out where we were on this globe each day, how many miles we completed each day, and our total miles.  If you look closely you’ll notice that we only had 6 days that we even made 100 miles.  You’ll also get a laugh when you see our 35 mile day.  Or at the fact that we had to jump from 37° North down to 33° North to avoid a low pressure system.

I do have to say though, for the comfort we experienced during this crossing and the lack of hardships for Serendipity made the slow pace well worth it.  An average of 3 knots of speed?  That’s ok.  So far we’re the only boat in Horta that’s not making some kind of repairs after their crossing.  So, here are the numbers of our 48 day* crossing from Miami, Florida to Horta, Azores, Portugal.

 

Day 1 – 6/12/14 –  26°.00 N  80°.02 W –  0 nautical miles

Day 2 – 6/13/14 –  27°.18 N  80°.00 W –  88 nautical miles

Day 3 – 6/14/14 –  28°.56 N  80°.01 W –  95 nautical miles – 183 total

Day 4 – 6/15/14 –  30°.33 N  79°.36 W –  115 nautical miles –  298 total

Day 5 – 6/16/14 –  30°.36 N  78°.48 W –  58 nautical miles –  356 total

Day 6 – 6/17/14 –  31°.14 N  78°.37 W –  39 nautical miles –  395 total

Day 7 – 6/18/14 –  31°.43 N  78°.01 W –  45 nautical miles –  440 total

Day 8 – 6/19/14 –  32°.00 N  77°.00 W –  59 nautical miles –  499 total

Day 9 – 6/20/14 –  31°.39 N  75°.36 W –  76 nautical miles –  574 total

Day 10 – 6/21/14 –  31°.37 N  74°.07 W –  68 nautical miles – 642 total

Day 11 – 6/22/14 –  31°.22 N  72°.24 W –  97 nautical miles –  739 total

Day 12 – 6/23/14 –  31°.21 N  70°.54 W –  80 nautical miles – 819 total

Day 13 – 6/24/14 –  31°.30N  69°.50 W –   60 nautical miles – 879 total

Day 14 – 6/25/14 –  31°.30 N  68°.44 W –  55 nautical miles – 934 total

Day 15 – 6/26/14 –  31°.34 N  67°.26 W –  70 nautical miles – 1,004 total

Day 16 – 6/27/14 –  31°.31 N  66°.05 W –  70 nautical miles –  1,074 total

Day 17 – 6/28/14 –  31°.33 N  65°.09 W –  52 nautical miles –  1,126 total

Day 18 – 6/29/14 –  32°.22 N  64°.40 W –  70 nautical miles –  1,196 total

Bermudian Break

Day 19 – 7/8/14 –  32°.22 N  64°.40 W – 0 nautical miles –  1,196 total

Day 20 – 7/9/14 –  32°.39 N  62°.43 W  - 99 nautical miles –  1, 295 total

Day 21 – 7/10/14 –  33°.04 N  61°.32 W –  68 nautical miles –  1,363 total

Day 22 – 7/11/14 –  33°.33 N  60°.29 W –  68 nautical miles –  1,431 total

Day 23 – 7/12/14 –  34°.07 N  58°.49 W –  89 nautical miles –  1,520 total

Day 24 – 7/13/14 –  34°.36 N  56°.56 W –  100 nautical miles –  1,620 total

Day 25 – 7/14/14 –  34°.59 N  55°.38 W –  68 nautical miles –  1,688 total

Day 26 – 7/15/14 –  35°.15 N  54°.37 W –  55 nautical miles –  1,743 total

Day 27 – 7/16/14 –  35°.38 N  53°.46 W –  51 nautical miles –  1,794 total

Day 28 – 7/17/14 –  36°.12 N  52°.58 W –  53 nautical miles –  1,847 total

Day 29 – 7/18/14 –  36°.50 N  51°.41 W –  74 nautical miles –  1,921 total

Day 30 – 7/19/14 –  37°.03 N  50°.39 W –  56 nautical miles –  1,975 total

Day 31 – 7/20/14 –  36°.55 N  49°.59 W –  35 nautical miles –  2,010 total

Day 32 –  7/21/14 –  36°.36 N  49°.08 W –  56 nautical miles –  2,066 total

Day 33 –  7/22/14 –  36°.03 N  47°.27 W –  86 nautical miles –  2,152 total

Day 34 –  7/23/14 –  35°.28 N  45°.03 W –  129 nautical miles –  2,281 total

Day 35 – 7/24/14 –  34°.38 N  43°.41 W –  87 nautical miles –  2,368 total

Day 36 – 7/25/14 –  34°.31 N  42°.57 W –  47 nautical miles –  2,415 total

Day 37 – 7/26/14 –  34°.10 N  42°.17 W –  44 nautical miles –  2,459 total

Day 38 – 7/27/14 –  33°.47 N  41°.00 W –  68 nautical miles –  2,527 total

Day 39 – 7/28/14 –  33°.32 N  39°.09 W –  95 nautical miles –  2,622 total

Day 40 – 7/29/14 –  33°.07 N  36°.48 W –  120 nautical miles –  2,742 total

Day 41 – 7/30/14 –  33°.08 N  34°.30 W –  117 nautical miles –  2,859 total

Day 42 – 7/31/14 –  33°.25 N  33°.27 W –  64 nautical miles –  2,923 total

Day 43 – 8/1/14 –  34°.55 N  33°.05 W –  93 nautical miles –  3,016 total

Day 44 – 8/2/14 –  35°.25 N  32°.51 W –  57 nautical miles –  3,073 total

Day 45 – 8/3/14 –  35°.54 N  31°.34 W –  87 nautical miles –  3,160 total

Day 46 – 8/4/14 –  36°.06 N  30°.55 W –  43 nautical miles –  3,203 total

Day 47 – 8/5/14 –  36°.54 N  29°.45 W –  83 nautical miles – 3,286 total

Day 48 – 8/6/14 –  38°.31 N  28°.37 W – 114 nautical miles – 3,400 total

 

Now that our Atlantic crossing is finished, at least the West to East part, I’d like to know what questions you have for us regarding it.  Anything you’re curious to know that wasn’t mentioned on the blog?  Please ask!  I’d love to put together a Q & A post about our crossing.

*In the above number I’ve added our first days out of Miami and Bermuda, although it took us 24 hours to actually gain any miles.  So technically there were only 46 days of 24 hours sailing straight.

 

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Blue Island

Thursday August 7, 2014

blue hydrangeas of Horta, Azores

We could live here, we honestly could.  Horta is so much better than we ever could have expected, and our expectations were already pretty high.  It doesn’t matter that we’ve been here all of 24 hours or that we’ve only seen within a few blocks of the city center….we’re sold.

A little history on Faial is that it’s called Blue Island, for the masses of blue hydrangeas that cover the island.  Introduced from China in the 18th century, these flowers have become a symbol for the Azores as a whole.  Originally settled in 1468, this island has gone back and forth between Spanish and Portuguese rule with many bloody battles fought here, and the town of Horta had to be built back up after being burned to the ground twice.  City status was given to Horta in 1833, and in 1877 the building of the harbor’s breakwater began.

Horta itself has three very big draws to the traveling sailor.  The first is viewing the insignias of transient yachts that line the breakwater. Once this tradition started it only took two seasons for the walls to be completely covered. Bright images contain boat names, crew members, burgees, and designs of the yachtsman that have passed through.  The tradition has now built up to ghe point that it’s considered unlucky to leave Horta without making your mark.

A second draw to the visiting sailor is a stop at The Cafe Sport, a meeting place for yachtsman that overlooks the harbor.  Opened by Peter Azevodo in 1953, this cafe has stayed in the family for three generations and has been catering especially to the cruising crowd.  The rooms above the cafe hold a museum of Azorean scrimshaw,  and the walls of the cafe itself are hung two to three deep with burgees bearing the names  of some of the best known yachts of ocean cruising.

The last, and biggest draw, I think, is the Semana do Mar, or Sea Week, and something we were lucky enough to make landfall during.  It begins during the first week of August and is a week and a half of festivals with music, dancing, craft displays, and of course, yacht races.  There’s a fully crewed opening race, a single-handed race, ladies race, and the all-comers Canal Race.  From what we’ve experienced last night, it looks like a pretty big deal with plenty to do.  More than I can give a quick synopsis on, and something I’ll have to dedicate a full post towards.

Of the 9 islans of the Azores, Faial is one of the smaller ones with a size of 22km by 15km.  The highest point of the island is the rim of Cabeco Gordo, part of its volcanic crater.  Farming and fishing are the biggest trades on the island, but as they’re becoming more of a tourist destination, restaurants, shops, ansd whale watching tour offices line the waterfront.

As we’ve spent the past day wandering around we’ve fallen in love with its small town European charm.  The sidewalks are paved with black and white stones that form cute little designs, and the buildings give off an old world appeal.  The many churches that sit atop the hillsides have an interesting and beautiful style of architecture.   We found an abandoned one at the top of a hill that we think would be a perfect place for us to renovate and move in to.  I think I can definitely live the rest of my life staring across the water to the volcanic crown of Pico.

*Information on Horta taken from Imray’s guide to the Atlantic Islands.

house at Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

Horta marina, Azores

views of Pico, Azores

abandoned church, Horta, Azores

abandoned church, Horta, Azores

 

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Our Never Ending Atlantic Crossing; Aka We Bought a New Boat and We’re Headed Back to Florida

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So it looks like after all of our hard work to get ourselves from Miami to the Azores, we will not be sailing the azul waters of the Mediterranean this year. Or next. Maybe the year after that.

This is because we are now turning our butts around and hightailing it back to Florida. What?! I know, something about that state just has a certain pull on us. We also have something waiting for us there in the form of 37 feet of aluminum hull.

But I am getting way, way ahead of myself here, let me back up a moment. First just let me say that we love Serendipity. She’s been a great boat to us and we’ve never been openly seeking to get rid of her. I just happen to be married to a man that spends a fair amount of hours cruising Yacht World, just for fun and just to see what’s out there. A little pastime of his. I have blogging…he has researching boats for sale.

We’ve known since we bought her that Serendipity would not be our forever boat, but she fit the bill for what we were looking to do at the time. A young couple that could comfortably cruise around for a few years in 34 feet. In the back of our minds though, there’s always been what we want in our next boat. The next boat will have a bigger galley (me), preferably be an aluminum hull (Matt), have more general storage (me), and have a pilot house (Matt). Plus we both agreed that an extra 8 to 10 feet would be pretty nice, something we can grow into and maybe eventually start a family on. Nothing that we needed right away, but something to keep an eye out for in case it came along.

Well, it did. While sitting in Horta, just as we were about to cast off the lines to sail the remaining 1,200 miles to Gibraltar and really begin our European cruising, my ever searching hubby came across a 48 foot aluminum boat with a pilot house sitting back in Rhode Island for a very affordable price. Introducing the idea of this new boat to me, I was a little less than enthusiastic about not only giving up on Europe, which I’m dying to see, but crossing back over the Atlantic so we can get this new boat and probably have to spend a year working in restaurants or Bed Bath & Beyond to build up the kitty again. When I say it was affordable all I mean by that is we have the money to buy it, but it would have taken up just about all of it.

This would be however, our f-o-r-e-v-e-r boat. Worth the sacrifice in the end, so I told him to go ahead and put an offer on it. A little bit of a low ball offer, and I’m not sure what I was expecting from it, maybe a big ‘eff you!’ from the current owner, but imagine my surprise when the broker came back the next day stating our offer had been accepted.

But wait? Didn’t you just say that this new boat is 37 feet and sitting in Florida? Yes, I did. Keep following along, I promise I will explain everything and it will all make sense in the end.

With this 48 foot boat we were not going to have a survey done since it was recently purchased by it’s current owner and a full survey had just been done last October. We felt comfortable that this recent survey along with a disclosure agreement from the owner, as well as a flight from Matt to view it in person, would be enough for us. When the disclosure agreement came back though we found there was corrosion by the stern tube, information that was not on the listing and we had no prior knowledge of. The current owner had already had a quote done for repairs, and with this new cost added to it we didn’t know if it was still in our budget. It was something we wanted to mull over for a few days.

Thinking about it long and hard we decided that we’d go back to the owner and say that if they were willing to lower the price to cover half the cost of repairs we’d still take it. Unfortunately the owner was quite firm on the price, especially since our initial offer was already at the bottom of what he’d be willing to sell for. We were disappointed but at the same time could understand. We thanked him and moved on. It appeared as if the Mediterranean was still in our future, but now we were two weeks even further behind. Fall weather was coming along and those last 1,200 miles were not looking too appealing. Seeing there were very high winds sitting between us in Gibraltar, we decided to break up the trip and get ourselves to Sao Miguel, an Azorean island 150 miles east of Faial.

The trip was a quick 36 hours, but still gave Matt enough time to think about this new dream boat that he was letting slip through his fingers. As soon as we pulled up to the docks in Ponta Delgada and aquired an internet signal he was online with the broker stating that we’d take the boat, corrosion and all, for the originally agreed upon price. Au contraire….., things do not always work out the way we hope. During our little sail in the Azores, other potential buyers had gone to see this boat and new offers were coming in. We found ourselves in the middle of a bidding war, and even though we had upped our previous offer by 5k, we still lost in the end.

To say that Matt was let down would be a complete understatement. The next 48 were spent with him sulking about Serendipity, lamenting how he screwed it all up. The overcast skies and rain we were getting complemented his mood perfectly. So while he was going back to his favorite pastime of hunting new boats on Yacht World, his mood cheered a little when he found a 37 foot aluminum boat with a pilot house, sitting in Florida, with a very affordable price tag. He was so hopeful and excited when he looked at me with big saucer eyes, asking if he could put an offer on it, that there was no way I could turn him down. Just to see what we could get away with though, and I think part of me still hoping that we’d make it into the Med, we put in an extremely low offer of ten thousand less than the asking price.

This broker was very quick and efficient and within a few hours we had a counter offer splitting the difference between the two. The big saucer eyes turned me to again. I knew it was all over. Just like when Matt knew we’d be coming home with a cat the moment we walked into the rescue shelter in Georgia two years ago, I knew we’d be heading back to Florida with a new project boat on our hands.

Ok, now for the details! Our new boat is of French design, a custom built Trisalu 37, built in Quebec in 1983. It’s a shoal draft cutter that has a center board with a draft of 7′, but when raised we’ll be down to 3’6”. Something that will be great for the Caribbean. One of the things Matt likes best about it is the deck salon, and was a big selling point for us. There’s been recently replaced sails and engine, but there are definitely areas that need work as well. We’ll be going through and replacing all the wires and hoses, and transferring over some random items from Serendipity, like the water maker. To see a list of all her features, check the link here.

This new purchase is definitely going to be a project boat for us. As Matt likes to say, it’s basically going to be a gut and rebuild. But we’ll be able to make it exactly how we want it, so I think it will be worth all the time and the effort in the end.

So what does all this mean for Serendipity? She’ll be coming back to Florida with us where she’ll promptly be put up for sale. The plan is to get ourselves to the Canary Islands shortly, spend a few months exploring them, and then depart in December or January with a planned landfall of St. Martin. From there we’ll do a bit of quick island hopping on our way north, hopefully still making visits to Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, skipping the Bahamas, and getting ourselves to the new boat sometime in March.

This is definitely a huge change in plans for us, which is why I told Matt that I’m never making plans again. They just never happen. So if you ask what we’re going to do when this new boat is ready to cruise, I really couldn’t tell you. We might hang around the Caribbean or we might do another Atlantic crossing, finally seeing Europe. I don’t think we’ll know until we’re out on the water and we’ll see how we feel at that point. I do know however that this extra time back in the States will allow us a visit out to my parents in Arizona (who I haven’t seen in almost two years!!), possibly a visit back to Michigan to see friends and family there, but best of all, a chance to cruise with our boating besties, Jackie and Ron of Skelton Crew, who should be arriving in Florida with their boat just as we’ll be getting ready to toss off our lines. And isn’t that worth going back for just in itself?

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