Building Seating in the Pilot House

Progress on the pilot house continues!  As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve currently lost misplaced my memory card that has the photos of us building up the seats for the area on the port side, so we’ll have to skip forward about a week and a half on progress in that area.  Just picture in your head a lot of cutting  of plywood and attaching it to 1×2″ cleats.

Before that was even possible though, we needed to replace the old floors with new 1/2″ plywood (epoxied on both sides and later to have 1/4″ maple placed on top), but before we could even do that, we needed to clean out our bilges and our metal tanks as best we could.  Mostly this job fell on to be because of my little hands and arms along with my ability to get into the small nooks and crannies that were hiding old dirt and other kinds of buildup.  For the most part I was able to scrape away any excess dirt and old oil from the engine with a combination of a chisel and a wire brush.

Not one of my favorite projects and I could have really done with those gloves that go up past for elbows for the amount of rubbing my arms faced on our metal frames.  Sometimes there was also the project of removing old insulation that fell below the waterline and is not necessary for us, but that was usually a much easier job.  As big of a pain in the butt that project was, it should keep any new corrosion from building in our bilges and give us much better peace of mind.

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 On to the seats!  The port side of our pilot house will have a L shaped settee, and since we’re building them ourselves, we’re going to make sure they’re as comfortable as possible for when one or both of us sits there.  Because we assume that will mostly be Matt’s sitting area, he wanted to make sure he wasn’t forced down into the forward salon because the seats weren’t big enough for him to be comfortable on.  What’s the point of having a pilot house if you never use it?  Based on a few measurements he took from Serendipity, we found out that a seat width of 26″ inches would be the most enjoyable for relaxing.  Since the previous seats in this area were only 14″ wide, there was no way we could copy that set up again and have enough room to easily sit there.

Because the new design for the seats comes out so much further than the old plan, we didn’t want to lose all floor room in this area as well.  So instead of having a 12″ platform that begins as soon as you come to the bottom of the companionway, we’ve decided to push it back so it only sticks out 6″ from the seats, as an extra step up to them.  This does cause us to lose a little more storage space in this area, but we do gain some of it back with the extra width of the seats since the entire area underneath them is reserved for that purpose.

Once we had the base built up as well as painted, it was time to work on the seats and back.  Using 1/2″ plywood for this as well, we used two sheets of plywood.  Overall we’ll have three access points to storage below, and on access point to an area that will house our batteries.  The very end area toward the center of the boat will be our wet locker, but access to that will be a swinging door from the side.  We’re also making opening doors to a storage area that will sit behind our backs, opening  up the area that curves along the hull.

After having put one shelf in here we decided that the lower area which gets thinner the closer you get to the floor will be a perfect place to store charts, since we have so many but use so few at one time.  Because they are so thin and can mold into that spot, and now we don’t have to worry about what other odd shaped items might fit in that spot.  The upper area for storage, I’m really looking forward to using for tupperware.  Silly, I know, but since we didn’t have a great spot for them on our last boat I’m so happy to finally have an easy access area for them.  I’m loving all this extra storage on our new boat!

old floors

Our old floors.

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Random Happenings in the Boat Yard

I know it has been forever since I’ve done any kind of boat work or boat related post, and for that I apologize.  With things like a failed computer that had me only publishing long ago saved drafts from my tablet, to the Florida summer heat leaving me incoherent at the end of every night to, honestly, becoming too addicted to our Instagram account, I’ve let the ball drop.  I’m going  to try and pick it back up because there’s a lot that’s been going  on over the past few months, and I’d love to keep you updated on it!

Just to start you out with a couple of the small things before I really catch you up, I’m posting a ‘Random Happenings’ post before I get to the down and dirty work that has been keeping us busy for the past few weeks.

 

  • We’ve purchased our canvas for the dodger & bimini!

Colors.  Just as much as renovating a home, picking out colors for a boat is just as much of an overwhelming task.  What do we think would look good?  What colors do we want to stay far away from?  What might clash with our bare metal hull?  And mostly….what can we afford?

As I’ve said before, I’m so lucky to be married to a man who’s biggest source of entertainment is researching items online.  Whether it be boats on yachtworld.com (how we came across Daze Off), eBay (how we were able to double the size of our winches for half the cost), or the fabric we’ll need to outfit the inside and outside of our boat.  We knew that Pacific Blue was out.  We had already done it on Serendipity, and as the number one canvas color out there on boats, we wanted something  that would help us stand out a little more.  As if that would be an issue anyway on this new boat.

We had been toying with the idea of a light or bright green for quite awhile, thinking that a lime green would give it a nice fresh look and give this old boat a more modern feel.  After searching for months and months, because we have that kind of time on our hands, he came across a  remnant roll of Ginkgo Green by Sunbrella.  It was a situation where we were not able to request a sample, but instead had to take a gamble buying the remaining 16 yards on the roll and hoped we liked it. Although at the amazingly low price of $6.95/yard, we were willing to take that gamble.  At a 70% discount, we were sure we could like it enough.

When the roll came in the mail we hurriedly ran it over to Daze Off and unwrapped it from the plastic to hold a corner of the fabric against the pilot house and see how the color looked in the light of day and between the white deck and silver hull.  A huge sigh of relief was released when the bright green matched the two perfectly and gave us the modern yet slightly funky look we were after.  It may be months down the road before its turned into anything, but at least we have it and won’t have to worry about hunting down a color later on.

Sunbrella ginkgo green canvas

  • We’re building up the pilot house…finally

This is the moment, at least I personally, have been waiting for forever.  It means that our construction phase is nearly over.  The last major renovation to the boat.  Sure, there’s still a million things to be wired and plumbed later on, but at least once this is complete it will look like a home.  Not to mention ALL the storage space we’re going to gain once this area is built up.  Can you imagine what it will be like when I don’t have to keep spare soda and chips in the van because its the only place to keep them safe and out of the way?  When all of our tools will have a home to be put away in?  It will be heaven.  I can’t say I’ll still love being in the work yard at that point, but at least our living conditions will be much more comfortable.

We’re starting on the port side and then moving to the starboard side once it is mostly built up, hoping the disassembly of the nav station and tool drawers can wait until we have a new surface to put them on.  The first step is framing in the curved area of the hull, which on that side, will eventually turn into storage units that will sit behind  the back of our L shaped settee in the pilot house.  Just as much of a pain as ever, trying to template these odd curves comes with it’s difficulties, but we’re still doing just fine with our 1/4″ pieces of wood attached together instead of using foam.  We’ve had this suggestion from many people, but we can easily take apart the template and reuse those strips of wood, so we think this way works out for us best.

The next stage of this project will be to build up the seats and what will be the storage units underneath them, before eventually moving on to the upper parts of  the walls, covering the three sides of windows.

*I had photos of this part of the project, but lost my memory card before I could transfer them to my computer, so you’re going to see a huge jump in this project.  Sorry!

pilot house 1

pilot house 2

  • Storm season is upon us once again

Oh yes, the reason it feels like we never got anything done last summer.  Come  3:00 pm, cue the storm clouds and heavy rain. A few things have changed since last year though, and hopefully our summer will be at least 50% more productive than it was last year.

The first reason for this is most of our work actually happens indoors now.  If we’re given a few good hours in the morning and afternoon of decent weather, we can make all of our major cuts with the table saw and circular saw outside, and spend the rainy hours of the afternoon indoors assembling what we’ve just cut.  Another is that we’re just doing many of our smaller cuts indoors at this point.  Once the big cuts to the plywood are made, most of the cuts from that point on are little cleats which we can easily tackle indoors with our oscillating tool or circular saw.

The other major reason is, other than a few big storms in May, the rest of the summer so far has been relatively dry.  I don’t even know how many days we’ve seen dark clouds come rolling up to us in the afternoon, winds beginning to gust…and then nothing happens.  Mostly we’re left with overcast skies and a bit of wind, but you won’t hear us complaining about that one bit.  In fact, if we can keep a dry yet cloudy a cool way of life all summer, we’d be on a fast track to get A LOT of work done by this fall!

storms in south Florida

summer storms in Florida

  • We bought an arch for the boat.  It didn’t work out.

This is an item we’ve been hemming and hawing about practically since we’ve purchased the boat.  We know we don’t want davits on this new boat, but we do need a system that will keep our radar and solar panels mounted.  Do we spend the money on an arch?  Do we even like the looks of a massive arch back there?  Or do we go much more simple with two vertical poles to house the radar and wind gen, and a horizontal one suspended between the two for our solar.

Having such a different setup on Serendipity where A.) our davits supported our solar panels, B.) our radar was up the mast, and C.) there was never a wind generator to deal with, I was at a bit of a loss as what to suggest for a solution on the new boat.  Will the three pole system work out?  If so, Sure, go for it!  If not?  Get an arch.  Easy peasy.  I don’t like to be bothered with details like that.  Whatever works, just get me the hell out of this yard.

Unfortunately it doesn’t  always work like that on our boat and we need to think smartly about all of our options.  In the end…the arch did seem the better option.  It would be stronger and give good support in all the areas we needed.  As far as looks go?  Well, hopefully it looks good, and if not….at least we know our goods are secure.

So when a 7′ wide arch popped up on Craigslist in Coco Beach within our price range, we figured we may as well bite the bullet and pick it up.  Choosing a random Friday night, we made the 2 hour dive north on I-95 to the boat yard where the seller lived.  Eventually finding it propped up against a gate (the owner was not there when we arrived) we noticed right away it looked very large for 7 feet.  Taking our measuring tape to it, we immediately found out why.  It was actually 9 ft wide.  We were half tempted to walk away from it right then, but we figured we may as well get it back to the boat and give it a try before we made any decisions.  If it didn’t work out, we could easily pawn it off on someone else.

Making a now 3 hour drive home on US-1 with this gigantic piece of metal hanging off each side of the van, we arrived back near midnight and didn’t even bother to take it off the van before passing out in our bed.  Over the next day or two we eventually did get it on the ground and even up on the boat with the help of one of our neighbors, only to find that the extra two feet of width made it too wide to fit on the aft end of our boat, especially with the angle of the feet the arch sat on.  We toyed with the idea of having our welder make a few adjustments to it the next time he was out working on our boat, but in the end, we decided it wasn’t worth the trouble and we’ll probably go with the other idea of the two vertical posts with a connecting beam.

Luck was on our side though in the fact that we had a neighbor in the boat yard that was more than happy to take it off our hands.

sailboat arch

9 ft sailboat arch

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Throwback Thursday: R&R in Playa Papagayo

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Even though we were really enjoying our time in Playa Francesca as well as it’s seclusion, we knew there were a lot more islands in the Canary Island chain to explore.  Making a quick 35 mile run, we ended up in the SE corner of Lanzarote in a little area called Playa Papagayo.  Due to the minimal amount of anchorages here, we were happy to have stumbled upon another one through some research, and although the day was becoming blustery and stormy as we dropped anchor, it looked like a nice spot to spend a few days.

Once we arrived though, our mornings and days became lazy again as we were in no rush to get anywhere.  Realizing we still had nearly a month before we planned to arrive in Gran Canaria, we realized how quickly we could cover ground when we wanted.  We did experience one morning with strong winds and a sandstorm rolling through our anchorage, but since we were not on a lee shore it still gave us no reason to move.

We liked this spot we chose.  It was fairly private with only 4-5 other boats in the anchorage with us, and had lots of sandy beached for us to relax on during the day.  A decent sized town with a supermarket was only a mile dinghy ride away, and we were always treated with amazing sunsets and even views of the neighboring island of Fuerteventura.

Aside from the dry desert hills that were rolling around us, it was sometimes hard to remember that we weren’t back in the Caribbean.  A perfect little spot to get in some R&R before moving back to big towns and civilization when we eventually did get to Gran Canaria again.

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday November 4, 2014

Papagayo Peninsula, Lanzarote

As if spending three days fully relaxing at Playa Francecsa after we’d just made our way over from Madeira wasn’t enough, we’ve been doing nothing more but the same ever since we arrived here in Playa Papagayo.  Unless you count forcing yourself off the boat to lounge in sandy coves with sparkling seas in front of you hard work.  Oh, and there was that one trip into Playa Blanca for exploring, a lunch out, and internet.

Our first full day in the Peninsula it was a little overcast, but that didn’t stop me from wanting to get out to do a little exploring.  Not that there seemed to be much more than just sand and a few rocks to the untrained eye, but according to the Canaries guidebook that our dear friends on Skebenga bequeathed us, there was a very popular and eye catching cove at the southern end of the point.  It seemed as if everyone visiting this island had the same guidebook I did since even though it was a bit out of the way, the beach was crowded and the one restaurant overlooking had every table full.

The cove itself was beautiful with emerald green waters dotted with rocks and coral, sporting the random head and bum of someone snorkeling through it.  The somewhat hazy sky did dampen my perfect shots a little though, and after making Matt stand on a rock at the top for 25 minutes waiting for the sun to come back out so I could get that perfect guidebook worth shot of the cove, I relented and we walked back to the dinghy and scouted a place to head back the next day with beach supplies in tow.

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Playa Papagayo, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Getting fully back into beach mode we spent the next few days tucked into one of three coves along the coast.  Although they seem inacessable, we’d still find small crowds of Brits and Spaniards that would either take the death defying (ok, not really) hike down from the top of the cliffs, or wait for low tide and stroll over the exposed and flattened rocks.  It was still more secluded and much cooler looking than the main beach though, so every day we’d load up the dinghy with our sport-a-seats and a cooler full of beer and snacks, and land ourselves there for a few hours of lounging.

Even though I should be promoting good skin care and staying out of the sun as much as possible, I completely spent a few days drinking in as much as possible.  There are few things I love more than the feel of a warm sun on bare skin, and seeing as how we hadn’t had a beach in front of us in months and being covered in clouds for the latter part of our time in Portugal, I figured I could sacrifice a few days.  Slathered in SPF 30 from head to toe.

After the third day of doing nothing but soaking up sun and Portuguese beers, we decided to do a little wandering to the main beach to see what we could find.  Turns out, it was all people fully eligible for retirement that could not be coaxed into wearing a stitch of clothing.  Masses of them engulfed the sands as they could not be persuaded to sit still; strolling, swimming, and bending over all over the place.  It was kind of cute, really.  The way they ran into the water with all the enthusiasm of a four year old child who was just told they were allowed to have cupcakes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.   These silverhairs were camped on the beach with cups full of beer, a sun high in the sky, and good friends surrounding.  It was kind of like watching MTV Beach House: The Golden Years.

At the far end of the beach, after we’d passed the gauntlet of saggy skinemax, we were rewarded with a relatively easy climb to the tops of one of the cliffs which afforded rapturous views of the anchorage and beach below.  The wind up there was something else though, and Matt was literally worried that I’d blow away.  Trust me, it’s one place you do not want to take a spill.

I wish I could have included more photos of this area as it was so stunning, but it was also really hard to get any shots without  any T&W (ta-ta’s and wang).  So just take my word when I tell you it’s a place not to miss on your trip through the Canaries.  Unless you can’t handle ta-ta’s and wang.

Papagaya Peninsula, Lanzarote

Sagres beer & beach

Papagayo Peninsula, Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Matt & Jessica on Lanzarote

 When we finally dragged ourselves back to the ‘Dip in the late afternoon we wallowed in lazy time including naps, matinees, and many snacks.  When the sun started to go down we’d take our seats in the cockpit to watch the show, all the while helping to empty the 5L box of white wine we purchased in Portugal.

I know, cry for us all you want, we lead such a ‘tough’ life, but I think our time here is exactly what we needed.  A return to our type of cruising filled with swaying on the hook, days full of sun & sand, and nights full of starry skies.

sunset over Fuerteventura, Canary Islands

georgie

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Taking on Cathedral Rock, Sedona

Remember how a few posts ago (before my computer crapped out on me and had to be sent away for repairs, leaving me unable to edit photos) I mentioned that I was remaking the rounds of almost every destination in Arizona I had made with my parents a few years ago, now once again with Matt in tow? One can not miss destination on that list was Sedona.  Having first visited this town four years ago while my brother and parents, I couldn’t let Matt miss out on it’s displays of red rocks and beauty.

Because my dad was still working most of the days during our visit, we needed to wait for the weekend to come before we had a full day to drive out.  Getting an early start on the day, I was happy to still have my body in sync with the Eastern Time Zone, so when it was time to wake up at 7:00 am, by body was thinking it was 10 and was ok with rolling out of bed that time.

Sedona, Arizona

Sedona, Arizona

A  few hours later we pulled into a gray and wet Sedona, and after having taken in the traditional breakfast stop of The Teapot, a restaurant with over 101 omelets on their menu, we were perusing some guide books in the lobby on how to spend the rest of our afternoon there.  Of course I had originally found Devil’s Bridge on Instagram and I wanted one of those apparent death defying photos to add to my own account, although once we had the chance to read up on it, it turns out our vehicle was not suited for the short cut and it would be a 1.3 mile walk each way.  I don’t think anyone other than myself was up for such a hike, just to get that perfect shot for social media (although I’m sure it’s beautiful to see without a camera in front of your face as well), but it was not going to be in the cards and we needed to make another decision.

Flipping through a few more pages I focused on the ‘easy hikes’ section and came across Cathedral Rock. A nice description and a hike that would amount in less than a mile round trip.  Pulling out my tablet and searching for directions, we were back on the road and ready to take in some sights.  Since nowadays everyone and their mother, including mine, is quick to pull out their phone or tablet to research anything and everything under the sun that catches their interest, it was her that let us know, while enroute, that  this ‘easy’ hike may not be as easy as we were led to believe.  From what she had found online, it was in fact a very short distance, its just that most of it happened to be vertical.

“No, that can’t be right”, I responded.  ”It didn’t mention anything about it in the guidebook.”

“I’m just telling you what I’m reading here.  It says that the hike is 600 feet of vertical trails, and it says its a strenuous walk.”

“But….the guidebook was on hiking.  All the hiking trails in Sedona.  This was listed as easy.”

“We’ll have to see when we get there, but I don’t think its a flat trail.”

As I’ve learned over my last 33 years of existing, my mother, as usual, was right.  As soon as we found the road leading to Cathedral Rock, the tall red stone jutting out of the earth made it very apparent that it would indeed be a steep climb.  One my parents were probably not willing to make.

road to Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock, Sedona, Arizona Having come on a Sunday, we found that we were not the only ones in search of a little beauty and adventure on this particular weekend, and the lack of available parking spots had us taking a few unscheduled detours past private homes perched on hills, before circling back down and snagging a spot in the front row.  Since we had made the drive all the way out there, we couldn’t just stand at the base and stare up at it without attempting to scale it.  At least for Matt and I.  Like a kid looking to leave a candy store with a fist full of goodies, I looked up at my parents, my eyes asking for permission to leave them behind while the two of us did a little exploring.

They of course let us go, and we promised them we should be back in less than an hour.  30 minutes up and 30 minutes back right?  And so Matt and I quickly ran away while we left my parents behind in the car. Don’t worry, we left the windows cracked for them.

base of Cathedral Rock, Sedona

overlooking Sedona, Arizona

Sedona Arizona Although we had been experiencing some blustery conditions at breakfast and I had been very happy to have on my jeans and fleece, they were quickly becoming unnecessary as we just as quickly began passing people at the base of the rock.  Because I somewhat expected this I had left my fleece behind, having traded it for a cardigan, but even that was tucked away in a little bag and my jeans were already starting to glue themselves to my leg.

Passing people left and right, we scampered up the red rocks, trying to keep to our timelines so my parents wouldn’t worry and call the rangers on us once our 60 minutes were up.  Or least, that was my excuse for rushing.  Matt just likes running up mountains.  We did stop every now and then to take in the views as well as a few photos.

Although the climb didn’t seem hard, it was becoming never ending.  What I thought was the top of the trail only led to more trail heads off to the side and more climbing.  Just when I was sure that we’d already been up there for nearly an hour and would have to run back down now, a few couples passed us on their decent and not only let us know that we were so close to getting to the top, but the views were absolutely worth the effort to keep going.  Luckily they were telling the truth that it really was only a few more minutes of climbing, and also, the views were definitely worth the effort.

At the top we were greeted with a cliff that had a small walkway wedged out over a fairly sheer drop, and views of the valley from the opposite side of the rock we had come up. The popular thing to do was have your photo taken at the edge of the cliff, and because that’s what everyone seemed to be coming up for, we had to wait in line a few minutes before I was able to make my way over for my own photo shoot.

top of Cathedral Rock Top of Cathedral Rock

cliff atop Cathedral Rock

Taking in a few more side trails before we made our way back down, we were once again a little bummed that we didn’t have a full afternoon to devote to our climb here.  I really should do my research better.  Given my parents a free pass to go out and enjoy a winery without me, and pick Matt and I up a few hours later, instead of making them sit at the base and wait for us.

Grudgingly making our way down, we were also making up for lost time by basically skipping and jumping the entire way.  Most people will tell you that the most difficult part of a climb is the descent (and we found that to be true at Machu Picchu), but in this case it was incredibly easy.  Even grace-challenged moi was able to jump and leap without any fear of tumbling down the face of a mountain.  Although there were one or two areas I was forced to do a butt crawl because of the steep angles of the rock and improper footing.

What seemed like 10 minutes later we were back and the bottom and taking the trail to the parking lot, searching for my parents and hoping they weren’t worried like crazy.  Turns out they were just fine without us.  They had taken a nice little walking trail at the bottom for 45 minutes or so, and then went back the car to enjoy a few drinks while using their binnocculars to watch us and others make their way up and down.  They had no worries about us at all.

top of Cathedral Rock trail

balancing  rock, Sedona

coming down Cathedral Rock

Sedona

And although we never made it to Devil’s Bridge where it would have looked like I was teetering on top of the earth, I think I ended up with my Instagram worthy photo anyway.

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Throwback Thursday: Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

While we absolutely loved our time in Maderia, mostly just wandering the streets of Funchal, we knew we eventually needed to make our way south to the Canary Islands where we would prepare to once again cross the Atlantic to the Caribbean. As much as I could have wandered the back alleys of Funchal, gazing upon their elaborately decorated doors, or any other of their quaintly European sights, we were also eager to get back to a spot at anchor and where cruise ship passengers weren’t passing by our cockpit and trying to stare at us through our companionway each evening.

It would take us approximately three days to sail from Madeira to the nearest Canary Island, Isla Graciosa, and after a few days of nasty weather and swells that were threatening the marina we were stationed at, there was finally a break in the strong wind and waves to get moving again. Having a calm and pleasurable passage, we made our way from the outlying Portuguese Islands to a new set of Spanish ones.  Three days later with our hook sunk into the sand for it’s first time in three months, we were in love with being on the hook again.

A small and mostly uninhabited island, it was quite a change from the metropolis we’d just come from, but a few days of peace and quiet with sandy beaches and beautiful waters were just what the doctor ordered.

You can find the original post here.

Monday October 27, 2014

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canaries

I am in love with being at anchor again, what a wonderful feeling. This has sorely been missing from our lives for the past few months. Although we were happy to have our dose of civilization and conveniences, there’s still nothing that beats a few days of seclusion with beautiful surroundings.

There wasn’t much that we did after arriving on Saturday, even though we came in first thing in the morning. Any time after an overnight passage it usually takes us a little time to recover from the loss of sleep, and honestly, we weren’t ready to get out of the lazy habit of doing nothing all day just like we had while sailing. Even dinner was just a pizza heated up in the oven as I couldn’t motivate myself to do much more than that.

Yesterday was a bit more of a productive day and it started in the middle of the night when the winds picked up and shifted to the south where we were fully exposed. We had heard that southerlies were a big thing to watch out for in the Canaries as a lot of anchorages are exposed in that light, as well as the southerlies being quite powerful. Since our Weather Fax hasn’t been picking up a great signal this side of the pond we had even hailed a cruise ship a day outside of Lanzarote to get a forecast and specifically asked if any winds from the south were coming up in the next few days, in which we were told no. Come 2 am though and our whole anchorage was full of boats bouncing all over the place. Matt even took it upon himself at 3 am to jump in the dinghy and shuttle out to a neighboring boat that had dragged out toward the channel to make them aware of the situation and see if they needed help. I think they had just woken when he got there and thanked him for coming over, but since their anchor seemed to have caught again they didn’t want to go through the hassle of re-anchoring in the middle of the night.

The winds did not die down through the night and when the sun rose at 7am you could see cockpits full of people monitoring the conditions and making sure they were not moving anywhere themselves. I brewed a few cups of coffee for the two of us, and poor Matt who’d barley gotten any sleep through the night was sent down to get some rest, although it didn’t take and he was quickly back in the cockpit with me. In the late morning and early afternoon the winds began to shift a bit more to the east and calmed down just a little bit which allowed everyone to relax and resume normal cruising life. For us this meant getting our suits on and heading over to the beach for a day of sun and relaxing.

We’d heard through the grapevine that Spain has some nude and topless beaches, but we assumed they were in designated areas, and nothing prepared us for when we landed our dinghy on the picturesque beach here in Playa Francesa to find a couple laying out on the sand completely nude. They probably couldn’t have been more than 20 feet from us and it was one of those situations where you do everything to advert your eyes from that direction because you don’t know the protocol, and even glancing down the beach to take in the surrounding sights seems like peeping. We made sure to set up our sport-a-seats well down the beach as not to run into this issue all afternoon.

The next few hours on the beach were great and it felt so nice to get back into these elements after being forced into marinas for the past three months where there were no suitable sandy beaches nearby. Sandwiches were enjoyed, cold beers were sipped, and we slowly went back from pasty white to something resembling a little color (after slathering ourselves in SPF 30, of course). We did just a little bit of wandering around the beach, climbed the hill for some magnificent views, and waded in the water to find out it was much cooler than one would expect for such a lower lattitude. Matt had wanted to come back out later with our snorkel gear to check out some of the small reefs in here, but I’m not even sure I could spend 10 minutes in that water. Wow, I must be becoming very babied with the tropical waters I’ve become accustomed to over the past few years if I can’t spend much time in waters comparable to those I grew up with in Lake Michigan.

We did have a nice surprise waiting for us in the afternoon too. I should say, the surprise came earlier in the day, we just weren’t able to enjoy it until later. Just after we had showered in the morning and were getting ready to head out to the beach we saw a dinghy that was going from boat to boat and eventually made it’s way toward us. It ended up being a father and son from the boat Matt had visited in the middle of the night, and they were going around the anchorage trying to find out who had come out to them to let them know they had dragged out into the channel. When the man first pulled up he asked Matt, “We’re you the one that was on my boat last night?”. Matt, thinking this man was assuming someone had unlawfully boarded their boat in the middle of the night and this might lead to a big argument replied, “No, no, I wasn’t on your boat, but I did come up to it to see if you were ok”. Well it turns out this guy wasn’t looking to pick a fight at all, he just wanted to find and thank the person that had come out to check on them.

Even better, once he found this person he wanted to thank them with a bottle of champagne. Ummm, what? Champagne? Matt kept trying to turn him down saying that he was happy to have helped in any way he could, but the champagne was absolutely unnecessary. Which it was. But then again….free champagne. Luckily this guy would not take no for an answer. After thanking us a few more times in broken English (having a native tongue of French), him and his son were off again and we had a nice drink to chill and enjoy that evening. And boy did we.

Where we’re anchored in Playa Francesca there are stunning views of the cliffs of Lanzarote across the El Stretcho. With a bit more of luck on our side we had the sun setting behind us and lighting up these cliffs with orange and red hues as if they were on fire. Opening the champagne to enjoy with these fine views we soon realized we had no way to close the bottle back up and it would all have to be drank in one sitting. And since Matt isn’t very into champagne unless it’s incredibly sweet, a good portion of that job fell onto me. Not that you’d find me complaining, but it did make it a little harder to become productive once the bottle ran dry. My intended dinner of a KFC chicken bowl quickly turned into a pre-cooked pizza in the oven. Oh well. C’est la vie. When life gives you champagne, you drink that sh*t.

Matt at bow

Matt at beach

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands

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champagne dinner

sunset over Lanzarote

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Throwback Thursday: Hiking Pico Ruivo and Settling for Sao Vicente

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Even though both of us were ennamored with our time in Madeira, I never seemed to pull out my camera much for my time there.  Maybe it was a good thing though, as I was just enjoying being there instead of being there as a tourist with the need to capture every outing.

There were times I did make missions to go out with camera in hand though, like when I hiked to the top of a tall hill in town to catch the sunset, or the one time we met some young people to hang out with from the marina. (Spoiler alert: Norwegians can drink a lot).  We also took a trip out to the local market one morning  as it was touted as a ‘must experience’ through Trip Advisor reviews there, but we were sorely disappointed with what we got.

One morning we decided to see further than what the main city of Funchal had to offer.  Hoping on a local bus, we rode around to the opposite side of the island to check out a hiking trail up a volcano that our new Norwegian friends told us about.  Once arriving though, we found out that our friends are much more adventurous than us, and I should have listened to the woman at the information station about the weather.

You can find the original post here.

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

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Jessica in São Vicente, Madeira

 

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

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Q&A Revisited

As I go back through my old posts each week as I pick out the next volume of Throwback Thursday, I get a little chuckle out of how much our lives, and we ourselves, change year to year. Our experiences, our expectations, and our thoughts on different aspects of cruising.  What my opinion was a few years ago has definitely changed on a few things, yet sometimes I nod my head and say to myself, ‘Yes, exactly!  I still feel that way!’.

Back in early 2014 I had done a question and answer post on some of the most popular question we get asked, and also a few specific ones posed to us on our Facebook page when I posted we were answering anything you wanted to ask.  Just for fun one evening I was going through that post again and the statements above really hit me.  Some things are so certain for us that they could be etched in stone, yet for other items we’ve either just had the opportunity to experience so much more since then, or our view as we’ve grown older has just shifted.

So, since I’ve been without my usual computer lately and I’ve needed a  post to go up without the ability of editing new photos or the luxury of easily typing on a keyboard (this post comes to you after about a week of sticking my fingers at a touch pad), I thought I’d go back and revisit those questions from 30 months ago to see just how much has changed in that time.

You can find the original post and answers here.

What has been the most jaw dropping experience with an animal/fish/bird, ect?

Wow, it took a few years, but we’ve finally begun having our animal experiences.  Now that I have a few to pick from, I’d have to say it was the time that Meinke whales were swimming right next to the boat a few hundred miles off the coast of the Dominican Republic.  Literally within touching distance from us, this pod spent a good 30 minutes watching us in the cockpit as we watched them. Coming in a not too distant second was the escort of saddleback dolphins we had on our way into Madeira.

Minke whale in North Atlantic

saddle back dolphins

 

How long do you imagine you’ll cruise?

Our answer used to be ‘until the money runs out’, but now I think it has turned into ‘as long as we’re still enjoying it’.  Sure, the money may run out before that happens, but I don’t think we have any plans of just up and leaving the lifestyle because of that.  

Now that this time is actually coming upon us, we’ve had to give some serious consideration to how we’ll fill the kitty again. One thing we’ve both agreed on is we have spent way too long in Florida and we plan to make our escape the first chance we get. We thought crewing as deckhands or stewards on the mega yachts of the Caribbean could be a good source of money (as hard as the work is), but we doubt they would let us bring Georgie along for days or weeks at a time. So the plan at the moment (although its apt to change) is to get ourselves to the USVIs where a work visa is not required, and see what kind of work we can pick up there.

Charlotte Amalie harbor

 

What’s your favorite island?

Madeira.  Not only did this place become a front runner as our favorite island, but it now tops the charts as our favorite all over destination as well. We came upon it after one of the slowest and draining passages we’ve ever made, but even if it had only been a day hop over, I doubt we could have been disappointed.  Arriving from the water are cliffs that plunge 700 directly to the water, yet terra cotta roofs line the hills between peaks and valleys.  The town of Funchal we stayed in was incredibly well kept and just stunning.  All of the sidewalks were patterned in black and white stone, while restaurants and bistros called out from each corner.  Nothing about this area felt commercial, and even the chain grocery stores still had their little charms.

There are parks galore, filled with flowers and benches, perfect for overlooking the sea.  Public transportation is very easy through their bus system, and even just sitting in the seat while staring at the views out your window as you circle the island is worth getting on alone.  Although there are also many resorts that cater to the higher class, everything feels very open and accessible. There are black sand beaches for laying out and numerous trails for hiking mountains and greenery.  Plus, it’s actually cheap!  Cheaper than being in the US!  We loved our time there and it was very hard for us to leave when we did eventually need to move on.

cliffs of Madeira

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old town Funchal Madeira

Do you feel your boat is big enough for the two of you to live on?

The last time I answered this question we were on Serendipity, and at that time, she was enough for us. And as I mentioned in the post where we purchased Daze Off, we were never openly searching for a new boat, we just came across a deal that was too good to pass up. Or so it seemed at the time.  We never had any idea we’d be spending this long fixing her up.

With that being said, I’ll answer this question the best I can at the moment.  Our new boat is obviously not done, which means we are not out cruising on her yet, and therefore don’t know exactly how she’ll suit all our needs. The extra space is already very apparent though, and I think she’ll be the perfect floating home for us when we’re finished. Fingers crossed that’s not too far down the road though!

cleaning galley matt behind wheel

 

What is your favorite thing about sailing?

Sailing or cruising? We’ve found over the years they are actually two very different things.  We love crusing for the fact we get to bring our home with us, so wherever we find ourselves we always have everything we need. It also gives us a sense of stability to have this one constant in our lives no matter what part of the world we happen to be in. Imagine being in a new country every few weeks yet still getting to go home every night. It’s an amazing feeling.

As far as the sailing itself goes, I’m still going to stand by my old statement. (The sun on my face, a slight breeze through my hair, and getting into port. True blue sailors, we are not. I guess that’s just something you learn along the way. Or maybe it’s that passages are usually nothing like pleasure cruises on Lake Michigan.)

Passages are not always pleasurable, but sometimes you do get those perfect days. I do love sailing for those instances when the wind, waves, and current on your side. When you feel at one with nature and the empowerment of harnessing the wind to get you from one destination to the next.

The last thing, which I think hits both lists, is the opportunity to visit those rarely explored places that most people don’t see because they’re only accessible by water.

calm waters on Atlantic

 

 

So far, is there anyplace you’ve visited that is a must to go back to sometime?

The list keeps growing and growing.  We’ve found we tend to leave a piece of our hearts in so many of the places we visit. We’d love to go back to Cuba for it’s beauty and authenticity.  Guatemala had it’s rolling green mountains, friendly locals, and very affordable pricing. Bermuda was as picturesque as a postcard, and Horta had it’s European feel with stunning views overlooking Pico.

Maderia was still the most breathtaking landfall we’ve ever made and gave us the perfect mixture of city living and striking vistas. The Canary Islands held infinite amounts of diversity, and the Virgin Islands contain perfect tradewinds and quick and easy hops from island to island.

It would be hard for me to leave any of these of the list because I truly want to visit each and every one again in my future. I’m also looking forward to adding

approaching golfete

Horta's breakwater and Pico in the distance

sunset in Madeira

dunes at Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

The Baths Virgin Gorda

 

What are some of the things that annoy you most about living on a 34 ft boat?

No longer in 34 feet!  And boy what a difference 3 ft in length and 12 inches in beam will do for space.  Since we did spend another year on Serendipity after writing the original answer though, I’ll add on to it.

(Old) Surprisingly, not as much as there used to be. I’ve even made peace with the fact that all the contents of my chill box will. make their way to the companionway steps while I’m rooting around for items in there, since when the chillbox is open, I have 50 sq inches of available counter space. There’s still little things that get on my nerves, like having to shower in the cockpit when it’s anything but hot out, finding a necessary tool in our completely unorganized tool bag, or pulling out 15 items first to get to my can of diced tomatoes lodged near the bilge.

Once I made peace with (most) of those qualms though, here were a few other things that still bothered me until we sold her.  This is a silly one, and I know I’m being girly about it, but the fact that all my clothes were shoved up in the v-berth in a couple of zippered camping bags used to drive me mad.  Not  only would I have to wedge myself into the space behind the door just to access that area, but I would have to unload so many things that were jammed into that open locker space just to get a bag out.  And if it happened to be dark out?  Forget about it.  Problems with water finding it’s way to the light on that side of the boat meant it was never on, and I’d have to literally use a head lamp just to  rummage through my bag of clothes just to find the item I was looking for.

On the new boat I looooove that I have a clothing cabinet out in the middle of the salon which is always flooded in daylight, and even if I have to pull out a few layers of clothes to reach what is in the back, it’s still a much easier job than I used to have.

Sabre 34 Targa galley

Sabre 34 Targa v-berth hanging locker

 

How often are you at anchor vs in a marina?

We anchor out whenever and wherever we can, but after leaving the Caribbean we found out that isn’t always possible.  Upon arriving in Bermuda for our 10 day stay there on our Atlantic crossing we were so happy there were spots to anchor out as we thought we’d be forced into an expensive marina. Once we got to the Azores though, there were literally no spots for  us to anchor in the towns we were visiting because the island groups is an archipelago in the middle of the ocean with no reefs, and water depths plunging from 30 ft to 600 ft in just a few seconds.  Because of that we were forced into a marina during our entire stays in Horta and Ponta Delgada, about 7 weeks total.  We thought we’d have the ability to anchor once we arrived to Madeira, but it turns out that charter boats take up the entire anchorage, and even though we tried our best, we couldn’t manage to find a spot that would keep us from swinging into them.  Another 3 weeks spent in a slip.

Arriving to the Canaries was our first sources of anchorages on that side of the pond, although from what we’ve read and heard, they’re quickly disappearing or being turned into mooring fields.  Luckily the only time we had to head into a slip there was to wait out a terrible storm where we needed the break walls of the marina to keep out the heavy swell.

Our entire time over  there we longed for the wide availability of anchorages the Caribbean holds, and truth be told, is part of the reason that crossing an ocean, again, was so tolerable to me after just having done it.  I knew what was waiting at the other end.  Crystal clear  waters over shallow sandy bottoms that allowed us the peace of swinging on the hook.

storm over Marina Rubicon

boats at anchor in Simpson Bay

Serendipity in Bahamas

How’s Georgie doing?

This question originally came about because we almost got rid of Georgie in Guatemala because she couldn’t seem to stand living on the boat. Once she had a taste of land life and freedom, it was like a prison sentence to get her back on the boat each night.  After a stint of us leaving her to be watched for six weeks in Guatemala by a friend, and beginning to travel on the boat once more, she was as happy as could be and it was like we had a brand new, cheerful cat in our lives.

Since we’ve been living on the hard for the past 15 months though, you can tell Georgie misses life on the water.  We let her outside every day on her leash and harness, where she’ll watch all the happenings in the work yard from the shade of the trees outlining us, and occasionally chase a random gecko that crosses her path.  Whenever we’re leaving for a few days though, we bring her to our friend Ellen’s boat in the water where she can not run fast enough to get on deck.  In short, I think she’s tolerating this pseudo life on land, but she’s just as excited to get back to the water as we are.

Georgie & rainbow

Georgie Daze Off

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: La Bella Isla Madeira

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

Finally getting our weather window out of Ponta Delgada, we jumped on the first chance we could get to move ourselves to the Madeira Island group about 560 miles away.  Although we were lucky not to have any tropical storms bearing down on us, we suffered from less than favorable winds the entire time.

Doubling our expected time at sea, it may have technically been under the 28 days it took us to get from Bermuda to Horta, but it still goes down in our books as the longest passage ever. Thankfully we were rewarded with the best landfall we’ve ever made, and still our favorite stop on our travels.

You can find the original post here.

Friday October 3, 2014

Madeira

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

M

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Throwback Thursday: Open Air Orchestra

Now that we’re sitting in Indiantown Marina and it’s obvious that we’re going to be here for quite a long time while we fix up Daze Off to sail, I don’t want to bore you with stories that are only related to boat work (but don’t worry, they’re still coming).   I know that’s what some of you crave, but if you’re like me, you also need a little fun in there.  A little travel and a little adventure.

So for the foreseeable future while we are doing nothing much more than boat work I will be adding a Throwback Thursday post in every week as well.  Cataloging our trip so far, giving you that needed sense of travel and adventure, and for those of you that haven’t started with us from the beginning, catch you up on some of the most important or memorable parts of our travels.

The plans had been made to purchase Daze Off, and with a bit of time spent online with banks as well as dealing with the time difference between us, an electronic payment was sent and she was all ours.  With our new route mapped out, all we had to do was wait for the right weather window that would let us get to our next stop. Not very easy with a hurricane headed right in our direction!

As we waited for a safe window that would take us to our next destination, we tried to take in all the activities Ponta Delgada would let us. Lots of aimless wandering, and even an outdoor orchestra just steps away from the marina.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday September 20, 2014

Orchestra of Ponta Delgaga, Sao Miguel

I’m so happy that it’s finally settled that we have a next destination now. Instead of wondering if we’ll be heading to the Mediterranean or back to Florida, and otherwise stalled until we had that answer. At least now we can begin looking to move forward again, and that next forward is Porto Santo, Portugal. No, it’s not part of mainland Portugal, we’re not going to travel 800 nm just to have to immediately drop south. Porto Santo is part of the Madeira island group, approximately 560 nm SE of Sao Miguel. We think it will be a nice stop before getting to the Canaries, and I have it on good authority from my new online cruising friend, Kitiara, that there are some beautiful golden sand beaches there perfect for laying out after snorkeling through it’s clear Caribbean like waters. Something that we haven’t been able to do since Bermuda, and something that’s sorely been missing from our lives lately.

So there you have it, our next step after spending muuuch longer in the Azores that we ever originally anticipated. Ha, what was supposed to be a 7-10 day stay only in Horta has now turned into almost six weeks in only two spots. That kind of seems to be a trend for us this year. Get to one spot and stay put for weeks on end. It feels like the only real cruising we’ve done so far was our five weeks in the Bahamas. But the Canaries should hopefully give us a good chance to do some island hopping and get back into the cruising groove. We think there’s a window to get ourselves out of Ponta Delgada early next week, and hopefully from there it’s only 5-6 days to Porto Santo where we can spend about a week soaking up sun and sand before moving on again.

Tonight however, we took advantage of the fact that we’re still in a big city with a lot going on. While doing some of my daily wandering earlier I came across a sign in the main square that there would be the town’s local orchestra playing that evening at 10:00. That is still one thing I have yet to get used to in this European culture. Everything starting so late. If it were the US I doubt anything would start after 8:00, probably coming to it’s close around 10:00, but hey, I guess that’s how they do things over here. You won’t hear any kind of complaints from us, especially since we have no kind of schedule.

Somehow we found ourselves arriving a little bit late to this outdoor concert, after squeezing in one last McDonald’s meal we assume until the US, and then guzzling coffee back at the boat just to make sure we could stay awake past 10:30.  When we did get there everything was already in full swing.  Crowds filled all of the folding chairs in front of the stage and spilled out into both sides of the streets.  We weaved our way through people until we were adjacent to the stage to enjoy the show.  Aside from the orchestra playing their instruments there were also a few singers on stage.  One had a Portuguese accent and must have been a local, and the other was channeling Amy Winehouse in everything from wardrobe to vocals.

The songs we heard when first arriving were all covers of hit songs in English.  While sipping from our little single serve bottles of wine, we listened to songs from The Beatles , Bill Withers (Ain’t no Sunshine), and Aretha Franklin.  Both the vocals and the accompanying instruments were beautiful, and I kept cursing myself for not getting out for some of the weeks earlier concerts that were probably just as good.

Some of the best parts of coming out to see the orchestra play were watching the kids that were dragged, quite willingly it looked like, by their parents.  All over we could see little ones under the age of 10, dancing around, swaying to the music, and clapping along.  The best part was when this little girl of about three or four years spent a good portion of the concert seated on a red carpet right in front of the stage, rocking back and forth on her legs as she listened to the music and then clapping loudly and long with everyone else at the end of each song.  Even better though was when her mother called her back over to the side of the stage we were positioned on, and this practicing ballerina was dancing along with the music, obviously in some kind of dance course and practicing her moves.  Boy was she cute.  If she didn’t have a set of parents and grandparents watching over her, she might have found a new home on Serendipity.  (Kidding!  We’re not actually into kidnapping adorable children.)

Once the music turned from English to Portuguese we stayed for a few more songs before making our way to the food tents that were set up about a block away, no doubt part of the evening’s festivities.  Scooping up a few of deep fried donuts from one stand, we wandered to the back of the pack by a reflecting pool and listened to a few more songs before calling it a night and heading back to the ‘Dip.  I have to admit, I do not like the gray skies that we’ve been cloaked under here for the past few weeks, which really has me wanting to get a move on to somewhere warm and sunny, but it will be sad leaving this city behind.  There’s definitely never a shortage of activities and events going on.

Ponta Delgada Orchestra

outdoor orchestra

Ponta Delgada Orchestra, Azores

shadow puppets

Ponta Delgada orchestra

little girl watching orchestra

view of crowd at orchestra

statue in main square, Ponta Delgada, Sao Miguel, Azores

 

 

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Our $70/week grocery cart

Last week we came up in the news again in CNBC with an article and short video, looking more into the monetary side of our lifestyle.   How much did we used to make each year?, how much did we save for the trip?, and our approximate yearly budget.

One of the questions that came up was how we were able to amass the kind of savings we did in the short time we did.  My simple answer was: we chose to live frugally as soon as we knew this trip was going to happen. We stopped taking all kinds of vacations and trips, except for a weekend of camping every year for my birthday, and we cut out all unnecessary spending. Cable was cut back to just Netflix.  Dinners out with friends turned into dinners in with friends. My little shopping sprees at the mall turned into occasional visits to Plato’s Closet (a trendy second hand store if you’re not familiar with them).

One thing that has always worked to our advantage though, and still does today, is because of the fact that we are not really foodies, we’ve always been able to keep grocery costs low.  Or let me rephrase that. We do like food, and we even aappreciate well prepared meals, but we can just as easily go without them if need be.

Personally I can attribute lack of interest in extravagant foods to my life growing up. I’m not trying to throw my patents under the bus here, because I’m sure this is true for a lot of families,  but we never had real homecooked meals. With two working parents and an early dinner time (5:30), our meals were simple. Spaghetti with sauce from the can; burgers or pork chops on the grill; a hamloaf thawed cooked in the oven. Throw in a side of applesauce and a bag of microwave vegetables and dinner was complete. I never minded though. The food tasted good to me, and I always left the table with a full stomach.

Although Matt’s father prepared delicious time laboring works of art every night, he never got the food gene passed down to him. Most days he actually considers eating to be a waste of time and is still waiting for his complete daily nutrition to come in pill form.  Yet one more reason I will never get him to pick up a spatula. So, whenever we need a quick or easy way to cut our spending, food is the first thing to fall by the wayside.

Ever since we moved to Indiantown especially,  our days are so full of work and our bodies are so tired through every stage of the day, what we’re eating is usually the last thing on our mind. Don’t get me wrong, its not like we could satisfy ourselves with a bowl of gruel,  but all we really want or need at this point is something to fill up our stomachs that doesn’t taste too bad.

Let me walk you through an average day of our eating habits:

Breakfast is 90% of the time a bowl of cereal with a cup of coffee. Cream and sugar in mine, black for Matt. Once in a great while it could be a bowl of oatmeal, or if we’re out of both of those (our chosen grocery store is 20 miles away), toast.

Lunch is a ham or turkey sandwich with cheese, and some chips for snacking. On very rare occasions we might have a bowl of Kraft mac’n'cheese. Water or soda for a beverage.

Up to this point there is little to no variation to our daily eating habits. This is what goes in our stomachs 7 days a week, 365 days a year. At dinner I can get a little more creative, but still try to keep total costs of ingredients under $5/night.

Some of my go-to favorites here are still hamburgers and chips; spaghetti and a meat with homemade sauce; shredded chicken tacos; and grilled pork tenderloin with baked or mashed potatoes. Sounds pretty tasty still, right? And because I did use my previous 2.5 years of cruising free time on my hands to brush up on my skills in the kitchen, they usually are. You’re still able to do that with a $70/week grocery cart?, you may ask. Yup, and that is because we have lowered ourselves to shopping at Walmart.

Not only do we make our weekly trips there, but we buy store brand as much as possible. And as much as we dislike the corporation, our wallets do appreciate the visit there.  Check out their prices of a lot of staple items we purchase.

Milk: $3.50/gallon

Malt-o-Meal cereal: $4.50 for 32 oz.

Great Value brand coffee: $6.50 for 32 oz

Loaf of bread: $0.98

Lunch meat: $3.50 for one pound

Sliced cheese: $2.25/8 oz

Potato chips: $1.85 a bag

Boneless skinless chicken breasts:1.99/lb

Ground beef: $3.50/lb

Pork tenderloin:  $2.99/lb

Flour tortillas:  $2.00 for 20

Ice cream: 3.00/gallon

Oak Leaf wine: 3.50/bottle

2 liter of soda: $0.99 for RC Cola from our local Circle K

Drinking water: $0.35 per gallon at a local filling station

We snack very little, and treats for us usually include a bowl of ice cream for Matt, and a beer or wine for me. We’re simple people with simple needs, and it has really helped us keep costs down in many areas of our lives.

Although I still really enjoy a good meal every now and then and would love to be set free in a grocery store with no budget, I’m ok with basic at the moment when it comes to food. Basic keeps the dream going. It puts miles under our keel and new stamps in our passports. So if you ask me if I’d rather have a high end meal or spend an afternoon swimming with pigs in the Bahamas, its a no brainer for me to put my culinary needs second.

I’d like to know about you though? Are your meals on board extravagant or ordinary?  What’s your favorite meal to cook on board? And most importantly, what cheap meal tips do you have for me? Jessica cooking first meal on Daze Off eating my birthday dinner   *Just a side note thatI’m without an actual laptop for 3 weeks while mine is being serviced, so I apologize for the few or off topic posts that you’ll be seeing over the next few weeks. Its hard to type out a post on my little tablet, and almost impossible to edit photos to the degree I’d like.

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