The Liebster Award

MJ Sailing's Leibster Award

Do you know what I love? Question and answer posts. They’re so simple. No trying to find out how to make your day sound exhilarating or exciting when it hasn’t been, no trying to think of topics that could in any way be exciting (we actually tend to sit around more than we get out), and they give you a glimpse into our lives instead of trying to pick through the hundreds of blog post that are already published to look for the information you really want to know.

I’ve done just a couple of question and answer posts on here before, and I’ll embarrassingly admit that even though some of you were kind enough or curious enough to go on our Facebook page and ask those questions, a few times I may have been left a little short and had to make a few up myself. I know, how lame.  I had to ask myself my own questions in an interview.

So you can imagine my surprise, and my gratitude and pleasure, when we were nominated for the Liebster Award. Don’t worry, there’s no need for me to start thanking the academy yet. We’ve come a long way, but we still don’t have that kind of status yet. The Liebser Award exists only on the internet and is given from blogger to blogger. A fancy chain letter, if you will. Each blogger nominated for the award has the option to accept it or not, and if they do, they thank and link back to whom they were nominated, answer ten questions posed by that person, and pay it forward by nominating up to ten blogs of their own choice and asking those bloggers ten questions to answer.

Since I find it heartwarming that we were nominated, and now learning that the term Leibster comes from German roots meaning valued, endearing, sweetest, and kindness, I will be accepting this award.

Our nomination comes from Mark and Cindy of s/v Cream Puff (thank you for thinking of us!), and here are the 10 questions they have for us:

 

 

Meet the crew. Who are you? Each share something about the other (not on the blog).

We are Matt & Jessica, 32 years old, couple for 14 years, and married for almost 10. We started out sailing six years ago on Lake Michigan, and a year later, realized we wanted to sail off into the sunset, working very hard for the next three years to make it happen. So far we’ve been out cruising for two years, and have decided that we like this lifestyle enough that we’re going to try and stretch our dollar as far as it can go to ensure that it will be quite some time before we have to go back to the rat race that is our former life.

Jessica on Matt: Even though Matt’s pretty good about letting me watch chick flicks whenever I want without complaining (he usually just busies himself on his computer) there are a few of them that he can not stand to have playing if he’s anywhere around. I had to leave The Notebook at our hostel in Peru because he didn’t want it back on the boat.

Matt on Jessica: I don’t think she’ll actually ever learn to play the guitar that was given to her as a Christmas gift years ago. For two years now we’ve been dragging that thing around, and I’ve only seen her pull it out a handful of times.

(Jessica: I’m trying to change that! I really do want to force myself to get into the habit of constant practicing. Rock star status is still in my future!)

 

What advice would you give to a wannabe traveler just starting out?

The first year of cruising is probably going to be the hardest, but if you stick in there, chances are by the time you reach year two, you’ll realize it’s the best thing you could have done with your life. The first year is full of overwhelming transitions, and as it seemed for us, constant boat work and repairs, as well as traveling at lightning speed to cover LOTS of ground, which meant not a lot of time left over for just enjoying life.

By the second year you’ve got most of it figured out, or have at least figured out what you want from the lifestyle. Then the cruising you’ve always dreamed of can really begin. Still with those pesky boat repairs and maintenance. They may dwindle, but they never go way.

Matt & Jessica at Nazca LInes

Can you roll your tongue or wiggle the end?

Yes, we both can both roll our tongues! But only I (Jessica) can fold it in half from left to right, and only Matt can touch his tongue to his nose.

 

What is your favorite restaurant in the whole world?

Boondockers in Glen Arbor, MI. It wasn’t necessarily the food I went there for, although it did always have a live band playing on the weekends, who’s cover of Amie by Pure Prairie League could always steal my heart away. But I think part of the reason I love it so much is because if I was there, it meant I was having the time of my life. That I’d probably just come from climbing the Sleeping Bear Dunes or kayaking down the Crystal River. It also meant that right after dinner I had a bonfire on the shores of Lake Michigan, curtained by a sky of stars to look forward to. Plus this restaurant did have a pretty good chicken tenders basket, and all the seasonal beers on tap.

Serendipity in Port Antionio

 

If you sail as a couple, who is really, and I mean really, the captain?

Even though it’s me (Jessica) on paper, it’s Matt on the boat. He knows much more about boats than I could ever possibly learn, or want to. We each have our strengths though, and if sailing the boat is his, then weather reading and preparation is mine. We’re both a little half and half on navigation, where he knows the rules of the road a little better (who has the right of way), but I think I have the edge in map reading.

If you’re wondering why I’m the captain on paper, just try sending a young female through customs and immigration and see how quickly she gets through it, and with how many smiles in return.

 

What are you favorite meals to cook while sailing?

While sailing? That would probably have to be Pop Tarts, since most of the time when we’re underway I can barley get myself below deck to use the head, let alone cook a meal as we’re getting tossed around. If you’ve followed some of our recent posts though, you’ll know that this trip has been incredibly flat and allowed me to move around the galley as if we were at anchor. That being said, passages still make me incredibly lazy, so my number one go to meal would have to be a naked burrito. Use one pan to cook up a few cups of rice, and another to heat up a can of chicken (adding some spices like chili powder, cumin, and garlic if I’m up to it), then add in a can of black beans to heat. Put all these into a bowl and top with salsa, sour cream, cheddar cheese, and voila! A hearty, filling, and easy to prep meal.

 

Who’s idea was it to buy the boat, and how did they convince the other person?

If you refer to our About Us tab, you can get the full story, but buying the boat in general was a mutual decision. We never had the intentions of leaving our lives behind when the first boat was purchased, just something to keep us busy on the weekends and take advantage of the waters of Lake Michigan, instead of just admiring them from the sidelines.

West Harbor, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Our buddy boat armada in Port Antonio, Jamaica

 

Where is your dream destination?

Matt has always had a fascination with the areas that very few people have been to. Unfortunately, they also happen to be, in my opinion, in cold and inhospitable areas. Cape Horn, the Falklands, and the Baltic Sea. Why, Matt, why???!!! I think he likes isolated areas of beauty, but he at least agrees that should we ever make it to those areas, it will not be in Serendipity.

For me, I can’t say. I’ve never had my heart set on any one particular place, there’s so many different areas I’d like to see. But the Mediterranean is one of them, so I’m very excited that we’re on our way there now. I think I’d also like to see the islands of the South Pacific, but again, probably on a different boat than Serendipity.

 

Why did you pick sailing as a form of transportation or hobby (over an RV/camper for instance)?

Why does anyone get into sailing? From far away it’s exotic and alluring. The movies make it look so romantic. Have you seen that scene from Casino Royale where they’re taking their beautiful Spirit 54 into Venice, while James Bond is wearing a preppy pair of chino pants or a cardigan and Vesper has on her cute nautical stripes and tortoise shell sunglasses?

That’s the image that most non-sailors have of sailing. I know it was mine. And just like any advertisements out there, you think by buying into this product, that’s exactly how your life will be.

Vesper sailing

 This is the life I imagined for myself.  I’m getting…..closer.

 

Would you please describe your best sailing day ever?

Usually my best days of sailing involve flat seas, which doesn’t always make for the best sailing. According to people who actually enjoy the sport. There is one day however, that I think satisfies both, and it was sailing the Delaware Bay back when we were only a month or so into cruising. We had just met Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip, our soon to be cruising buddies down the east coast and half of Caribbean, so it was nice to have someone else, just as young and new as us, making the same trip.

Even though waters on the Delaware Bay are touted to be some of the worst you might come across, we had a beautiful sunny day with only light waves on the water and 15-20 knots of wind in the air. The sails were perfectly trimmed, the ride was comfortable, and the current was pushing us along at up to 8 knots at some points. The scenery may not have been as perfect as some of our Bahamian cruises (still with Brian and Stephanie), but just something about that day holds a special place in my heart.

Read our full post on it here.

Comer Channel Bahamas

Cruising clear Bahamian waters with s/v Rode Trip.

 

I would like to nominate:

 

Skelton Crew – Jackie and Ron, our boating besties, about to set off from Lake Michigan in 2015.

Rode Trip – Brian and Stephanie, our first buddy boat, now also taking on the Mediterranean, in a new and larger boat.

Mondo Vacilando – Chris and Melody, sailing the east coast and Chesapeake while looking for their forever boat.

It’s a Necessity – Genevieve and Eben, along with Arias and Ellia. Cutest little philanthropic family sailing the Caribbean.

Turf to Surf – Ryan and Tasha. From cruising to a Clipper Race, to backpacking, these two cover every form of travel.

Tamarisk RTW – Jason and Piers. Two brothers taking on a circumnavigation on their Sundeer 56, and shoot some truly amazing photos along the way.

Sailing Chance – Kelley and Jason.  With one trip to the Bahamas under their belts, they have hopes of sailing all the way to Colombia one day to open a surf shop.

Sailing Journey – Drena and JR.  Replenishing the cruising kitty and sailing the Chesapeake until they can get back to the Bahamas and beyond.

Hannah and Kyle – British dancers turned backpackers who spent 10 months taking on Central and South America.

 Mr. & Mrs. Globetrot – Julia & Yuriy. Portrait & fashion photographers from Seattle that travel the world and capture the most beautiful parts of it in their breathtaking photos.

 

My questions for you:

Explain yourselves. Take that to mean however you wish.

When is the first time you ever set foot on a sailboat?

Where is the worst place, traveling or stationary, you’ve been with your boat? Not a city/country you visited, but a place you were physically on the boat.

If a genie granted you a lifetime supply of one kind of alcohol, what would you choose?

What’s the nicest thing the other person has done for you while traveling?

If you had the option to transport yourself anywhere in the world right now, where would it be?

What did your family say when you told them you were going to up and leave everything in order to travel?

Do you think you’ve found the place you’d like to retire to?

What language do you think would be the most fun to speak, even if you have no plans to learn it?

Outside of the US, where has your most expensive meal been?

 

Opt out questions for our non sailing friends:

What was the most used non-electronic item you packed on your travels?

What was the worst mode of transportation you’ve had to endure?

 

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Somethings Brewing out There

Thursday August 28, 2014

8.28.14

There is definitely something brewing outside there today.  Effects of hurricane Cristobol?  I thought so at first, but he’s still about 1,000 miles west of us right now.  All I know is that the skies out there are gray and the wind is getting gusty.  It seems as if something is brewing though. Keeping a keen eye on our new electronic barometer now since it’s still a novelty, I’ve noticed that it’s dropped about 4 mb in the past 6-8 hours.

Just makes me happy we’re not out on the water right now, and I think everyone else around here has the same idea.  All the empty slips in the marina are filling up with little fishing boats, and a few masts were spotted making their way into the bay this afternoon. All I know is we’re tucked safely into a slip, there is not in fact a hurricane barreling down on us (at the moment), and all these dark clouds seem like the perfect excuse to sit on my butt all day and get some writing done on the blog.  Add in a cup of hot coco, possibly with a shot of Bailey’s, and this storm can last all night long.

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Early Morning Walks

Wednesday August 27, 2014

8.27.14 (2)

Insomnia…kind of sucks. There are two things though that make it infinitely better. One is when you realized that you have no job to wake up early for and nothing planned for the next day, so it doesn’t really matter if you’re in bed until one in the afternoon making up that sleep. The second thing that makes it better is when your partner happens to be suffering from it on the same night as you. No worries of tossing and turning restlessly in bed with hopes of not waking them when your mind is still racing at 3 am and you’re pretty sure you’d be much more productive on your computer at the moment instead of trying every sleeping position known to man.

This was the case for Matt and I two nights ago. If you can believe it, our sleep schedules are still a little messed up from our crossing. For the first two weeks we were in Horta I was honestly worried that I might be pregnant because I’d sleep from 11 to 11 Every.Day. If it wasn’t for Matt following mostly the same schedule I probably would have been running to the nearest pharmacy for an at home test and started calculating health care expenses in Europe while wondering what it would be like to have a Turkish baby. But then all I hear is Fat Bastard in my head saying ‘Turkish behbeh…it’s what’s for dinner’. No one wants that. Eventually I settled into a 12 am to 10 am nightly routine where Matt’s still been stuck in a 2 am to 12 pm. (TMI side note: I did take a test just to be safe and it came up negative. Looks like my IUD is still doing it’s job).

Anyway…back to the story…when 4 am rolled around and we realized that we were both still wide awake we decided to have a night time matinee. Or whatever you might call a middle of the night movie instead a middle of the day one. When the credits began rolling on James Bond as he caught the bad guy but realized the next assignment was right around the corner, I took a peak out the companionway to watch the sun coming up across the harbor by Pico. It was the perfect golden hour of light where the sun was illuminating the town of Horta instead of shadowing the area as it does when the sun goes down. It made me think that one of these mornings I need to get my butt out of bed and capture more parts of this town with my camera in nature’s best lighting. I thought it would be days away if at all, I mean, I had just screwed up my sleep schedule even more by having a 6:15 am bed time, but I did actually listen to my alarm when it went off this morning and got myself off the boat just before 9 am.

The best vantage point of Horta has to be from the water itself, but since our dinghy is still secured safely on deck I knew I wouldn’t be puttering out into the bay for those views and would have to settle for the far breakwater leading into the harbor. I walked out there with my camera only to find out that it was blocked off to me and after getting to an area that housed a few local fishing boats I had to turn around. I still managed to snap a few good photos before heading back toward town. Since I figured Matt wouldn’t be up for a few hours and a cafe con leche was sounding really good, I rounded my morning off with a stop at Calrsberg for a way overpriced, 1,60€ coffee with milk. Ouch. I think Matt and I paid that for us each to have one on a side street cafe.

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Spindrift

Monday August 25, 2014

8.25.14

Being, as we were, the 1,000th boat to Horta this year, it’s kind of put us at the back of the pack as far as the majority of cruisers passing through this area goes. Not only will a mass of sailors pass on Sea Week at the beginning of August because it’s just too late in the year for them, but now sitting here ourselves well after it has ended, even the people who managed to eek that into their itinerary before moving on to the Med have now long gone. The marina is basically a ghost town, transient cruiser population: Serendipity.

That is why whenever I see a new boat coming into the harbor, I get very very excited. Nevermind the fact that I’m too shy to go talk to these newcomers or strike up any kind of conversation that might lead to sundowners, it just makes me feel better knowing we’re not the only ones left still passing through the area. So yesterday when we were headed out for my birthday dinner and I saw a new mast by the fuel dock, we decided we needed to check it out.

This was not just any mast however. It wasn’t only 60 ft tall and attached to a fiberglass boat full of German’s who will pass through a November gale and say ‘It iz nothing’. What drew us over to the fuel dock was a mast that surged over everything. This large black tower had to be close to 200 ft and was so tall it required a red light at the top so air crafts could avoid it. When we rounded the bend to see what it was attached to we were almost stopped dead in our tracks at the sight of this monolithic sea vessel. It was apparent as soon as we laid eyes on it. This boat was built for speed. Major speed.

Having done just a little more research on it now I’ve found out that this is the Genes-X Spindrift racing boat. It is a 33 meter racing trimaran that can reach speeds of up to 40 knots. It pulled into Horta just the other night to have work done to it’s rudder, but from what I can see of that bright orange bit sticking out of the water, they must have that project almost completed and be ready to be on their way again.
Most of the crew looked a little too busy with projects to be able to stop and chat them up at all, but according to their website it looks as if their next stop is France. I’m thinking that if I ask them really nicely, maybe they’ll let us tie a tow line between their boat and Serendipity and bring us along for the ride. Bring our average as of late from 3 knots to 12 or so. I think I can live with that. Heck, maybe they’ll even be up for switching a few crew members that will bring the ‘Dip the rest of the way in for us as Matt and I crew on Genes-X. I’m really good at being rail meat.  You can just drop us in mainland Portugal, we’re not picky.

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Some Things Never Change

Sunday August 24, 2014

8.24.14

I have to say, there is some good that has come of us being stuck in Horta while we figure out what we want to do with this aluminum boat in Rhode Island. Had we not started looking at it we would have left for Gibraltar about 8 days ago, the weather window was perfect and we were otherwise ready to go. The downside about leaving then, however, is it would have put us at sea on my birthday. And even if it isn’t much, I like to celebrate my birthday.

Trying to make the best of what would have been a crappy situation had we gone, I was ready to kick back and enjoy the day with a bag of Skittles and a 2 liter of Publix Black Cherry soda, had we been on the water. I know, really big measures to take in the way of celebrations, but you only turn 32 once, and I figured, Why not live a little?

Since we are still in Horta though, I’m tucking those little treasures away and doing the best I can to celebrate on dry land. The earlier part of my birthday didn’t go so great when Matt and I decided to tackle the project of varnishing the galley. If we do get this new boat, Serendipity is going to be sold and that means she needs to be in tip top shape. And it also means this project we’ve been putting off should probably be completed sooner rather than later. I was left with the easy job of taping off everything next to the teak, it was my birthday after all, but somewhere along the way a few wakes were thrown our way when I was bent in positions with my head upside down, and I immediately went from zero to sick. Seeking refuge in the v-berth, I napped the next few hours away and swore I wouldn’t get out of bed the rest of the night.

Not being one to make a big fanfare for birthdays himself though, as you probably read on his own birthday, Matt was not going to let me put a rain check on this day and cash in my celebrating another night. If I was not up for going out tonight, I would not be going out at all. These marina charges are digging into our pocketbook and extra fanfare has to be kept to a minimum. Dragging myself out of bed I enjoyed a hot shower at the marina and put on one of my finest dresses to go out.

Knowing that we would actually be around for my birthday now, I had stalked a few of the restaurants in the area this past week to see which one looked most appealing. What I had settled on was a little place that didn’t look like they catered the best food, or even a Caipirinha, a local drink I’ve been dying to try, but it offer beautiful views of Porto Pim from their outdoor seating just next to the bay. Over the next hour or so, even though the weather was not on it’s best behavior, we enjoyed our table along with some beer and bread and cheese until our food came out. Both of us having ordered sandwiches, we were a little surprised when they came out open-faced. Eating my stacked tuna sandwich with garlic mayo proved….challenging. Poor Matt’s open-faced supposed pork sandwich turned out to be nothing more than packaged deli meat and cheese that we’d been buying ourselves at the local supermarket, thrown on a piece of bread. As I mentioned, we pretty much only came here for the views.

Porto Pim, Horta, Faial, Azores

Porto Pim, Horta, Azores

eating dinner by Porto Pim, Horta

bread and cheese appetizer

open faced tuna sandwich

eating my birthday dinner

dog on beach, Porto Pim, Horta

What beautiful views they were though. After our meal we went to wander the waterfront a little, this time from a vantage point we hadn’t seen yet. Off to our right there was what looked to be part of an old fort that sat on the water, complete with a few small towers and a large archway that led right out to a small beach. Stone slabs paved the way down to sand and water and we followed the side that was high and dry out to the sandy beach, unfortunately strewn with bits of garbage. Deciding that this was not the cleanest place to walk and wasn’t giving me the best views to look back to where we had been sitting and eating, I followed the stones out toward the bay where I waded in ankle deep water to be able to photograph the spot we had just been sitting.

Not the smartest idea, as Matt had already warned, since this area of stone and water was also covered with a slippery moss. I paid no mind to his warnings as there were important photographs to be taken. Two steps further out into the water and it didn’t matter how careful I was trying to be, there was no traction here. My feet went out from under me and before I even knew what was happening, I was face down in two inches of water after hearing a loud smack on my way down. Matt came running over as fast as he could, probably assuming the loud noise was my hip bone cracking on the stone, but that would have been a welcome scenario since I knew what actually caused it. What broke my fall on the way down was my brand new camera.

An older couple that had been sitting on a bench by the entrance to the area had also scurried over after they had seen me go down. Once I had righted myself and began walking back to dry land, the woman hurried over to me. ‘Oh honey, are you ok?’. Silence. ‘Do you speak English?’. More silence. I stood there completely mute and dumbfounded, disconcerted over the damage I might have just caused my camera. I couldn’t live with the fact that I might have just broken it. I’ve already gone through that torment once this year, and if it was not working anymore, I truly was shit out of luck. There would be no more replacement cameras in my future.

Matt wasn’t going to buy it for me. When I got my first Sony NEX in St. Augustine he told me to take good care of it because it was the only one I’d be getting. My current body was purchased for me by my parents after I threw a reverse psychology tantrum about having to shoot JPEG photos throughout Europe. ‘I’ll just have to photograph the world’s most amazing places with a point and shoot. It’s ok. Don’t worry about me. Photography was only turning into my biggest hobby’. Ok, truth be told, I wasn’t trying to get them to buy me a new camera, and when they offered, I told them they must absolutely make it a birthday and Christmas present combined. They didn’t listen. Just another random act of kindness from them because they love me and want me to be happy. Which simultaneously makes them terrible direction followers and the world’s best parents.

When I finally gained my voice back I let the woman know I was alright and assured Matt that I hadn’t broken any bones on the way down, and surprisingly nothing hurt. Or maybe that’s what I thought I said when the only thing that was actually coming out of my mouth was “My camera….oh god, my camera”. I took a few deep breaths as we moved to leave the place, trying to hold my tears back until we were at least on the street again.

Once we were out there it was time for the moment of truth. I slid the switch from Off to On and watched my display light up. I sucked in my breath. There was hope. I pressed the shutter button and heard a clicked and saw the image pop up on the display. Matt grabbed it out of my hands to look it over himself and also snapped a few photos. Everything looked to be in working order. Maybe I hadn’t just ruined my life after all. Time to let out a few tears of joy and then head back to the boat for an outfit change before hunting down that karaoke bar to properly finish out my birthday.

walking beach of Porto Pim, Horta

buildings overlooking Porto Pim

wet dress after falling in water

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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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