Throwback Thursday: The ARC is Gone, Time to Invade Las Palmas

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.

It was a shame that as soon as the sun came out to show us exactly what a nice place Marina Rubicon could be, it was time for us to check out and move on.  We would have loved to spend a few more days at our favorite spot in Playa Papagayo, but the weather had not settled down enough from the storm passing through to give us a comfortable spot there.

Moving over to the south side of the island, we found a little known anchorage tucked next to a small resort and a few restaurants.  Here we sat and waited out rain for a few days, while venturing to shore just once, only to find the nearest internet was three miles away.  Not what we wanted to hear while trying to forecast weather for our upcoming 100 mile journey to Gran Canaria.  Through texting with my dad on our satellite phone, we were given the go ahead for good weather to get us to our last destination in the Canary Islands.

You can find the original post here.

 

Friday November 28, 2014

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We made it to Gran Canaria. It’s crazy to think this will be our last stop before our Atlantic crossing. I still have mixed emotions about going back across since it seems like we just got to this side of the ocean. Part of me wants us to get delayed to no end so that I can enjoy land based time for as long as possible. The other part of me wants to get it over with as soon as possible, not only putting our long crossings behind us, but also getting to spend more time in the Caribbean with friends and tropical climates before throwing ourselves into major boat overhaul mode for the rest of 2015.

When we left Playa Quemachia on Tuesday I was still a little apprehensive of the 25 kt winds and 3 meter seas as the last time we had those conditions was going from Sao Miguel to Maderia, a passage I’d still like to block from my mind for so many reasons. But as we raised the main and glided out from the anchorage and into deep waters it was actually a pleasant sail. The wind was coming on our back quarter and the waves were gently lifting us up and pushing us forward. I laughed to myself and though, if this is what our crossing back to the Caribbean is going to be like then sign me up, I can totally handle this!

As usual Matt was down in bed basically as soon as the sails were raised and we were on course, preparing himself to stay up late for the first night shift. I spent the afternoon alone in the cockpit, snacking on Maria cookies and watching the volcanic peaks of Fuerteventura disappear into the horizon. All of the shifts passed incredibly quickly, neither of us had any issue falling asleep right when we were supposed to, and before we knew it we could see the lights of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in the dark. Not even one of those situations where you can see a glow in the dark, but we could actually make out lights even when we were 30 miles offshore. The sail had actually gone so well that we had to slow ourselves down in order not to arrive in the dark.

Based on the insane number of ships showing on our AIS we did not want to get anywhere near shore without full daylight on our side. Matt even had to wake me up early to try and figure out all the lights in the water that were surrounding us in the dark. Trying to figure out what tankers were anchored outside the harbor and what ones were still moving, if the tri color light in the distance belonged to a sailboat, and if so how far it was from us, and if that ferry running up directly behind us knew we were there. The only way to describe this harbor is controlled chaos. I don’t think we’ve ever been to such a busy port. It seemed like all the vessels knew what they were doing for the most part, but the number of them was completely astounding.

When the sky eventually grew light and we could make sense of everything we were seeing, it was a mad rush to the harbor to beat out all the other sailboats that had obviously been waiting on the same weather window we had to make the crossing here. Assuming that the marina would have limited space even now that the ARC had left, we did not want to get turned away and literally have to travel all the way to the other side of the island to find another marina. Punching down the throttle we literally raced in another boat that was trying to pass us and caught the right side to be on of a departing tanker, while the other boat had to slow down and wait for it to pass.

Alligning ourselves with the hundred masts in front of us we pulled up to the marina and saw the numerous boats anchored out front. Confused on why they were all out there, we thought that the only available anchoring here was directly in front of a set of breakers and that these boats must be out here because the marina was overfilled and there was no other place for them to go. We figured that as long as there were numerous boats at anchor versus the marina, we would join them until a staff member came out to let us know we couldn’t be there. May as well steal a few days at anchor if possible.

Somehow even though this was an incredibly short passage, both of us were completely drained of energy for the rest of the day. We slept away most of it and barley woke up in time to make dinner before going right back to bed for the night. Yesterday we did get off the boat long enough to wander a few blocks and find a grocery store to stock us up for the weekend. We also tried to make a stop in the marina office to check ourselves in, but after taking a number and sitting in a set of plastic chairs for 45 minutes while not a single new person was called up to the desk and we were fifth in line, we decided to put it off for another day. Completely forgetting that it was Thanksgiving back home we did nothing special and enjoyed our normal nightly routine of a movie from our hard drive while eating dinner.

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Today we had wanted to get off the ‘Dip and do a bit more exploring except a terrible front was moving through the area and making conditions unbearable. During the afternoon it was just cloudy skies and winds around 30 knots, nothing to cause worry but enough to keep us on the boat. Through the evening and into the night though, things only got worse. Much, much worse. Even though we were inside a very protected harbor, the winds blowing through were so intense that I shudder to think of what conditions offshore were.

While I tried to settle into the settee with a bowl of popcorn and a chick flick on my Android. Even with earbuds nestled tightly in my ear I had to pause the movie a few times to check the howling winds outside since they were becoming deafening. Turning on the instruments we watched the wind gust up into the 40s….and then stay there. Through the next few hours it kept raising and raising until we were getting sustained winds in the 50s. At that point panic started to set in as we just waited for our anchor to drag or for one of the boats ahead to drag back into us. The winds were so powerful that if our bow even started to fall a few degrees off of direct wind, it would catch our hull and start to push us beam in. Back and forth we twisted from one direction to the other, all the time thinking of the strain on our anchor and chain.

There was one boat next to us that dragged further and further out of the anchorage and into the shipping channel, but unlike the storm we experienced in Play Francesca, it would be suicide to send Matt out in the dinghy to alert or try to help them. Luckily they became aware of this problem very quickly and began to move themselves back into the anchorage. For a period though they were fighting winds so strong that even though I’m sure they were motoring at full power, they weren’t even able to move forward, only keep themselves from getting pushed backward.

Chatting online with my blog friend Kit that’s in Tenerife and experiencing even stronger winds according to Passage Weather, she relayed that what they were receiving was sustained winds and gusts into the upper 60s. Jealous of the fact that they were in a marina instead of at anchor like we were, I quickly was comforted with our location as she told me that on the way to the showers, sheet metal was peeling off buildings and flying into the anchorage. Her and a visiting friend had to literally drop to the ground to keep from being hit by one. Not anything I would like to experience.

Both Matt and I were kept up by this storm until 4 am when we were no longer able to keep our eyes open and the winds were just beginning to subside. So…suddenly that Atlantic crossing isn’t sounding so appealing anymore. I think a plane ticket and hired crew to sail Serendipity to the Caribbean sounds much better. Now if only I could find a trustworthy crew to do this for free…..

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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: 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: Land Ho!

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.

28 days after leaving Bermuda, and 48 days at sea since leaving Miami, we finally made landfall in Horta.  All of the nights of terror I been experiencing in the Bahamas and Miami earlier in the year prior to leaving were all for naught.  We did not get stuck in the 2-3 expected gales that one has on an ocean crossing (or so we read), and the storms we did encounter (other than our first night out of course), were nothing that us and the ‘Dip couldn’t handle. The few storms that had sent cannonballs of water against our hull only proved how strong all of us were.

Mostly the passage consisted of drifting along in winds under 5 knots and in glass calms seas.  It may have been an extremely long journey, but it was a comfortable one.  If we did one thing wrong I’d say that we may have provisioned a little light on food (mostly snacks) and are now arriving to our destination about 10-15 pounds lighter than when we left the US, but hey, a little fatigue and weakness is easily curable once you reach a land of plenty again.  And I was beyond ready for land, internet, and a full nights sleep again.

You can find the original post  here.

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Faial, Azores

When I woke up this morning there were only 45 miles separating us from Horta. A very dangerous distance because it gives you just enough hope that you will in fact be there before the sun goes down, but also allows you enough leeway to completely eff it up and leave yourself at sea for another night. We had 10 hours of daylight left and would have to average 4.5 knots to make it in time. Not normally hard, but the king of ‘I won’t turn on the engine, what’s another few days out here’ has seemed to move on board sometime since the Bahamas.

Luckily for me the winds have shifted behind us and built up enough, near 20 knots, that we were just holding that 4.5 average when I came up on watch. Through my whole four hours I watched the spedometer like a hawk, and even a momentary dip down to 4.3 would result in a sharp intake of breath. I was not going to lose landfall tonight.

Just as I was beginning to go crazy near the end of my shift since the winds were now almost completely downwind of us which was causing the headsail to flop around a bit (and drop into the low 4s..gasp!), Matt woke up from his sleep shift and I quickly ordered that we raise the spinnaker pole to get our speed back. That did the trick and we were comfortably coasting at 5 knots.

All afternoon I kept my eyes glued to the horizon in front of us for any sign of land or life. Directly across from the island we’re landing at, Faial, is another island, Pico, with a volcanic peak of 2350m high. It’s said that on a clear day you can spot it from 50 M away. This unfortunately, was not a clear day. After thousands of miles of nothing but sun and clear skies, our welcome back to terra firma was presented with low lying clouds and mist ahead of us. I had been burning holes into my eyeballs staring into the reflected light, trying to be the first one to yell ‘Land ho!’ while Matt napped below, but I couldn’t make anything out through the haze.

It wasn’t until hours later when I had given up and begun my showering routine to make myself presentable to people again after a month at sea that Matt was able to pick out a shadow through the clouds. After lots of pointing and references I was able to see it too, honestly a little disappointed that this barely visible outline was my welcome back to humanity. It was land though, and we were quickly approaching it with just enough time to eek in before sunset. Although I think it’s high time we finally update our clocks to the proper time zone, a full two hours ahead of what they’re currently reading.

If anyone was even going to be there to check us in at the now revised hour of 8:30, I wanted to make sure I looked very nice and hopefully distract them from the fact that I was handing over veterinary papers for our cat, just in case we didn’t have all the right ones. Plus I was just excited to have any reason to wear something different than the pajamas I’ve been living in for the past four weeks. Now came the very important decision of what to wear for my first night in Europe. Khakis and a cable knit sweater? My llama skirt from Peru?…there were just so many choices! I had finally settled on a pair of skinny jeans, a tank and a cardigan, but Matt stared with disappointed eyes. “I thought you were going to wear a dress?” he asked. “Have you looked around?”, I replied, “It’s cold out here”. I guess a drop down into the low to mid 70′s now makes freezing weather for us, and it was more than my Caribbean geared attire could handle.

Finally I changed into a somewhat nautical themed sweater dress and applied some eyeliner before joining Matt out on deck again to watch that shadow on the horizon grow larger. We were finally getting to the point now where we could make out features on land and spot little houses and villages on the hilltop. The nearly setting sun was throwing rosy glows off the clouds, and even though I had imagined coming in to the crystal clear images splayed throughout our guidebooks, the view of Faial as we sailed in was indelible. It was just as beautiful as I could ever have imagined, and I stood there slack jawed until I remembered that we actually had to begin taking steps to get ourselves in the harbor.

Bringing down the spinnaker pole, we rolled in the genoa and coasted along with just the main for a little bit, until we were well into the channel between the two islands. As the engine was turned on and sputtered to life, we brought down the main and began running dock lines and hanging fenders. I swear, Matt and I can sail a whole ocean together and not have any arguments or communication issues until we’re landing. As I was trying to run the dock line at the bow it kept getting tangled in the wrachet straps for the dinghy, and since it wasn’t being done in a timely matter, a very impatient and agitated person was yelling at me from the cockpit until I became so flustered that I couldn’t touch anything and went to switch places instead. Since it was the only boat related spat we’d had since coming into Bermuda though, I think I’ll still consider our overall travel a success.

Faial, Azores, Portugal

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Matt & Georgie coming in to Horta

Horta, Faial, Azores

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Getting all the lines squared away we pulled up to the reception desk and music blasted from the main road. Unbeknownst to us, we arrived in the middle of Semana do Mar, or Sea Week. Horta’s biggest yearly event. Having read about it in our guidebook we knew that it was at the beginning of August, but we thought it only spanned one weekend and that we had already missed it. But from the sights and sounds on shore, it was still in full swing, lasting ten days instead of 3, and we could not wait to get out and partake.

Before we could go party though, ourselves and the boat needed to be checked in to Portugal. Having called many times on the radio prior to arriving and getting no response, I went to scour the office of the marina but could find no sign of life there either. Getting ourselves tied up to the fuel dock at 8:05, it looks as if we had just missed them. Our passports wouldn’t be stamped until tomorrow, allowing us one more day in a Schengen country. Darn.

We used up our last remaining hour of daylight talking to other sailors that had just come in within the past two days, many of them not faring as well as us. While we had taken a more southerly route and became trapped in the stillness of high pressure systems, most others took the northerly trade wind route and got a little bashed up along the way. We talked with one boat that had their autopilot crap out their second day out, meaning the crew of 4 had to hand steer the whole way. And to make matters worse, the halyard for their headsail broke not too long after, meaning they completed the rest of the journey with just the mainsail. Stories like that make me extremely happy we took the route we did, even if it means it took us twice as long to get there. Time we have. Money for fixing boat issues…not so much. Or at least, not that we’d be wiling to part with.

Bidding adieu to our new friends as our stomachs growled with the recognition that it had been about 8 hours since we’d last eaten, we pulled some Euros out of an ATM and went to join the throngs of people milling in the streets. One small section of park was set up with a stage playing what I’m guessing was traditional Portuguese music, and small food stands were set up all around it. Our noses guided us toward a mini doughnut stand where we happily handed over a few Euro for our first taste of fried sweet goodness in months. Continuing up the road we wandered into a tent filled with other food stands and restaurants.

Getting an eye full of this one stand that was selling huge sandwiches filled with sausage or presunto, we were sold. As Matt grabbed his sausage filled baguette and I asked for my presunto to be slathered in a creamy cheese, we ordered a few cans of Coke and went to sit with our new treasures on a wall overlooking the harbor.

Taking everything in as we enjoyed the food and the sights, I turned to Matt after about ten minutes and asked, “Does it feel strange to you to be sitting here, finally on land after 30 days, surrounded by people, and drinking a can of Coke? Do you feel as excited as you thought you would to be back on land after so long? Like this is what’s been missing from your life?”

He thought about it a second and observed, “No, not really. This is definitely nice, but it just feel like ‘Today we were at sea, now we’re on land’, easy transition, not as big of a deal as I thought it would be.” I pondered on it for a second, kind of surprised to hear myself say, “Yeah me too.” Smirking he looked over at me and asked, “So then you think you could go back out to sea for another month?” Laughing I looked back and him and replied with a resounding “Absolutely not!”.

Horta Harbor, Azores

Horta fuel dock, Azores

Horta insignia

Horta harbor at dusk, Azores

 

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Throwback Thursday: This Could be Paradise

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.

With Matt’s birthday on the high seas, and the storm it brought with it, behind us, we continued to slowly trudge toward the Azores.  Riding  the southern route and it’s high pressure system, we were only averaging 500 miles a week.  So two weeks in and only 1,000 of 3,000 miles completed, we knew we would not be in for a speedy, or even average arrival.  Winds were averaging just under 5 knots and excitement would grow when they began to jump to 10.  The headsail would finally begin to fill and take shape, and our pace would pick up to nearly four knots.  Every time though, without fail, this would only last an hour before the next storm was on the horizon, edging closer and having us reef our sails once more, just in case.  It was a long and tiring routine, and one that had me sometimes questioning my mental state because it sometimes seemed like we’d be at sea until September.

The plan had been to take a direct route from Miami to Horta with no stops, even though Bermuda was on the way and would make a great retreat for a few days.  Both of us had decided early on though, especially since this was by far the longest passage we’d ever attempted to make (our previous one being 4 days), that any stops along the way would make it extremely hard to get moving again.  Due to all the delays we were having in Florida getting  ourselves ready for the crossing, we didn’t want our arrival in Europe to be delayed another few weeks.

Fate had it in mind though that we needed a break from our slow drift across the Atlantic, and the banging of our luffing sails we had to endure day in and day out.  Hurricane Andrew was just starting off the coast of the US, and although every prediction had it moving out to sea much further north than we were traveling, we didn’t want to take the chance.  Changing our route just a little further north, we set our sights on Bermuda.  Just after 24 hours after the decision was made, we were pulling into St. George’s Harbor and taking in all the stunning sights and smells around us.  We had found civilization again after 17 days at sea.

After getting a full nights rest and sleep, we went out the next day to explore an island that is truly paradise.

You can find the original post here.

Sunday June 30, 2014

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

I realized something a little strange this morning after waking up, making myself a cup of coffee, and sitting to savor it with my laptop resting on my legs while enjoying some top 40 tunes blast from the radio.  The luxury of being able to do all these things, after being deprived of them for the past 18 days, feels completely normal.  There’s no novelty (ok, maybe just a little bit) of making my morning mine, instead of waking up groggy and sitting on watch for the next for hours while trying to be as quiet as a mouse as not to disturb Matt while he sleeps.  The transition from passage to anchoring has been pretty seamless.

After saying that, let me tell you this.  We had no expectations of Bermuda upon arriving here. Or if we did, they weren’t very high. Neither of us had done any research on this island since we figured we’d never be visiting it, and the only knowledge I had of it was vaguely remembering bits and pieces from Brian and Stephanie’s visit here last year. We honestly expected it to be like the Bahamas. Dry, barren, and flat. You come for the water, but not for the land. Wow, we could not have been further from the truth. This island is amazingly beautiful, and we took a few hours today to explore the area around St. George, where we’re anchored.

Based on just a little bit of an internet connection that Matt was able to find us last night, I was able to look up and print a walking tour of the city to my desktop.  Reading through it I found this area is incredibly historic (of course, settled in 1609, it should be), an UNESCO World Heritage Site (woo hoo, another one checked off!), and had more than enough things to look at to keep us busy all day.  There were churches, town squares, museums, forts, beaches, and even a few restaurant recommendations where we could rest our weary feet at the end.  Yeah, like we can waste money on such frivolities.  Instead, I’d be hauling around a bag with a couple of sandwiches, granola bars, and a nalgene bottle full of water.

In true Jessica form, I managed to leave my sheet of copied ‘must see’ areas on the boat, and was forced to recount what I could from memory.  Sure we could still stumble upon whatever church or home was listed in the tour, but how could we look at it with the same kind of awe and reverence if we didn’t know who built it at what time, or exactly what purpose it stood?  Then I remembered we don’t always pay attention to those kinds of things anyway.  Normally just the year something was built, and most buildings should have plaques letting us know that information anyway.

The dinghy dock from St. George’s Harbor into town dropped us off right in the main town square, and just randomly picking a street right or left, we were drawn toward the brick paved allure of Water Street and proceeded to gape at the immaculate shops and restaurants that lined it.  Again, we were expecting an area that was to be just like the Bahamas, and unless you’re in an outrageously expensive resort there, all other areas tend to be a little run down and in need of some TLC.  This spot, however, was high class living, and just mere yards from where our boat was anchored out in the harbor.  No wonder all the hoity toity sailors of Newport, RI bring their boats here for holiday.

Water Street, St. George, Bermuda

 Finishing back out at the main road we pointed ourselves in the direction we had just come from, knowing that the beaches and forts were in that vicinity, and whatever else we passed along the way would just be a bonus.  We happened to stumble on a few bonuses, both in a religious background.  The first place we found was one of the major stops that had been listed on the walking tour, St. Peter’s Church.  We (I) may have left all information relating to this place back at the boat, but knowing their own importance, the church had plaques plastered from one end to the other, giving a full history.  Among many other interesting facts, we learned that this church was built in 1612 and is the oldest Anglican Church in the western hemisphere.  You could almost get a sense of early settlers attending service here, and I had a good time searching the grounds on the cemetery for the oldest headstone I could find.

Next on our walking tour to the beach was Bermuda’s Unfinished Church.  Getting back to our guide tonight I found out this church was started back in the 1870′s when St. Peter’s Church was damaged in a storm, and then gave me a link to click on to find out why it was never completed.  Thanks for the required 3G data plan to get any information, walking guide, I don’t have internet anymore! (I’ve now gone back and researched and found out it was likely not finished due to the local population wanting to repair the old church instead of building a new one.  This was decided half way through the build of the new one)  Having just walked up a decent sized hill in the blazing heat to get here, we used it as a resting spot to sit for a minute and down some water.  I wanted to get a few photos in front of it, but a (American) family that was doing the same thing never got the hint that I was patiently waiting my turn for a photo in front of it without them in the background, and ten minutes later I finally gave up and went around to the side, where I feel like I got an even better background.

St. Peter's Church, St. George, Bermuda

St. Peter's Church, Bermuda

unfinished church, St. George, Bermuda

Jessica & unfinished church, Bermuda

 Further up the road we continued to follow the signs for Tabacco Bay Beach, the only real goal of the day, where we were sent through a narrow street shaded by tall trees with meadows off to our side.  Seriously, this place just keeps getting better.  And waiting for us at the end of the road was this view of Tabacco Bay.

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Definitely not what we had been expecting.  Pretty much running toward this oasis now we skirted through past all the tourist laying out on the beach and directly up to the rocks behind it.  The views here were amazing and we could have spent the rest of the day staring into the bay and the waters past it.  Families snorkeled through the shallow waters, while some of the parents waded through the bath like water with extremely expensive cocktails in their hand.  We heard one man tell his wife, who almost tripped while sifting through the water with a margarita in her hand, “Good thing you didn’t drop that, it could have been a $15 mistake”.  Now you can see why we packed our own lunch.

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Matt at Tabacco Bay

 After our time spent staring out at the ocean, as if we haven’t had enough of that already, it was time to check out a few forts.  Just around the corner from Tabacco Bay is probably one of the more famous ones of the area, Fort St. Catherine.  At the time we were already getting a little worn out and didn’t feel like paying for the guided tour through it, but here’s what I found out about it when I was able to get a little internet again.  Originally built in 1614 for the purpose of defending from Spanish attacks, it has now been renovated at least five times.  The fort is surrounded by a dry moat and accessed by a drawbridge.  Which we actually did get a chance to walk over while checking out the outskirts of the fort, pretty cool.  Right next to the fort is St. Catherine’s Beach, another popular spot for those who don’t want to be packed into the tight quarters at Tabacco Bay Beach.

Fort St. Catherine, Bermuda

Even though we were starting to get a little tired by this point, from not having this much exercise in almost three weeks now, we stopped at a few more smaller forts that littered the coastline on our way back.  I swear, these things are everywhere on the island.  How often was this place under attack?

One of the forts that held a few impressive guns and cannons was becoming overrun with a group of school kids that arrived at the same time we did, so after checking out a few things here and there, we let them have full run of the place.  It’s nice to see kids actually get excited about a piece of history, and we didn’t want to get in their way.

The next one on the list was Gates Fort, which we had viewed from the water yesterday upon entering the cut into the harbor.  It’s a small little place, two stories high, but only about 150 sq feet on each floor.  There’s a small paved area in front with a short wall coming up two cannons facing out to sea.  I don’t know what it was about this place, but Matt fell in love with it.  As a potential home.  We literally spent 30 minutes as he wandered around talking about how we could decorate, keeping all of the current walls as not to tear down a part of history, but then adding to the top floor, combining wood and stone for a modern feel.  There would be tall glass windows giving 360 degree views, and we already had a ‘patio’ built that would only need an awning or some kind of sun protection.  It would be more than enough space for the two of us to live in, as even just one floor would give us more than we currently have.

I think he might be on to something here.  Now we just need to get into talks with the Bermudian government and take some very large donations from you readers to make this happen.

Matt in Bermudian fort

Just a little to the left.

Bermudian fort, entrance St. George's Harbor

 Visibly exhausted after only three hours of walking around, and with blisters already beginning to form, we followed the road back toward town, ready to hop on the dinghy and pass out on Serendipity for the rest of the afternoon.  One last treat in store for us though was the view of the harbor as we were coming back down the hill.  All the sailboats dotting the water with the historic town as the backdrop was almost postcard perfect.  So I took a photo to hopefully turn into one.  You can even make out Serendipity in it, to the far left.

Serendipity in St. George's Harbor, Bermuda

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Throwback Thursday: Birthday Celebrations on the High Seas

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.

When we last left off on TT, just after leaving for our Atlantic crossing we had hit terrible storms just off the coast of Florida about an hour after the sun had gone down and weren’t even sure if we were up for that 3.000 mile journey anymore.  Deciding that it was most likely a freak incident that we would not experience again, we kept going.  It turns out that more storms were on their way for us, although luckily anything bad came during the day in full light and with lots of warning.

Getting as far north as Georgia, we turned our bow east and started making real miles offshore.  Or tried to at least.  Even though our nights were filled with thunderstorms which would always come a little too close for comfort without actually passing over us, our days were left with no wind and we were lucky to make 70 miles a day.  We tried to fill those days of bobbing around on glass calm seas by doing a little fishing, and did get a mahi on the line once.  It happened to outsmart us while bringing it onboard and escaped our grasp, but since we were only a week out I don’t think our fridge and freezer could have handled all that meat at the time.  There would be more chances.

Things out at sea were becoming a bit boring…until Matt’s birthday came upon us.  Just when I was looking forward to calm seas to throw the best at sea celebration I could….we were hit with another storm system.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday June 21, 2014

Some of you might be wondering how we’ve been getting our weather so far on this trip, probably actually feeling bad for us because we can’t seem to find winds to move us anywhere. The sad part is, we know exactly where they are. We just happen to not want to travel to those areas, mainly which are in the northern parts of the Atlantic, and you can refer back to my little freak out here to see why we’re so adamant about staying in the land of drifting versus following the route with more wind. As I said, we do know where the winds are, everyday, and that’s because we’ve been able to download forecast with Weather Fax, using our Single Sideband receiver. Similar to the single sideband radio, but we can only receive instead of transmit as well.

Every morning at 0800 UTC, Matt hooks up the SSB to my computer and fiddles with the dials until he can fine tune a station from Boston that transmits a fax audio signal to us for the next 24 and 48 hours*. The app on my computer deciphers the tone and turns it in into files that we can read, giving us a surface analysis of the entire Atlantic, as well as a separate wind and wave forecast. Each morning we read these forecast through the images, much the same way we’d look at the GRIB files through Passage Weather, to find out what the winds in our neck of the woods are going to be, and also tracking low pressure systems to make sure that we can stay out of their way. Here’s an example of both a surface analysis and a wind & wave forecast from our Weather Fax.** ***

Atlantic surface analysis

Atlantic wind & wave forecast

While keeping an eye on these images for the past few days we’ve noticed that a cold front is heading our way, which is going to bring us some stronger winds and unfortunately, probably some bigger waves with it too. We’re trying not to be near the center of it, but our file is telling us that we can expect 15-20 knot winds and waves at 2 meters. Treating it just like we always have our Passage Weather forecast, we’re interpreting that to mean the winds will actually be anywhere in the 20-30 knot range. To be fair to our Weather Fax though, it was showing data spread all the way across the Atlantic, and what we were experiencing was local weather which is very hard to pinpoint down to a few degrees of latitude and longitude when you’re looking at an entire ocean. But why is it that winds always seem to be higher than forecast when they’re stronger than we want them, but never when they’re forecast for 5-10?

We’ve started to see an increase a little bit tonight in both wind and waves, already reaching those predicted 15-20 knots, and seas going from less than 1 meter, up to the 1-2 range. The pressure is starting to drop on our electronic barometer, and although I am enjoying logging these miles while we finally push along at 4.5 knots, I have to wonder what the next day or two will bring. Hold on to your hats, it looks like it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

*There’s also a 96 hour forecast that we can receive and sometimes go through the trouble of getting later in the afternoon.

** If you’re interested in learning more about using Weather Fax, tips and tricks, or a schedule of broadcast frequencies and times, check out a great post that our friends Brian and Stephanie wrote while they were making their own Atlantic crossing last year, here.

*** We’re also very lucky to have my dad, who’s the best for helping us out with this, send us reports from Passage Weather via a text message on our Sat phone, so we have multiple sources to confirm forecasts.

 

Sunday June 22, 2014

I had one goal this morning when I woke up. Something that’s been in the works for weeks now, and that was supposed to be decorating the cabin with balloons and streamers for Matt’s 32nd birthday while he slept. All the necessary items were shipped to me weeks ago by Matt mom and all I had to do was display them. Waking up and looking around though, I realized it was going to be a lot easier said than done.

The low pressure system and cold front that we had been watching on our Weather Fax for the past few days and were beginning to feel the effects of last night, was now in full swing. When Matt woke me up at 8 am I stumbled out of bed and poked my head out the companionway to see gray skies and building seas. Winds were now steady at 25-30 knots and waves appeared to be in the 8-10 ft range. Carrying on at 3.5 knots under a triple reefed main alone, we were looking at a long and uncomfortable day ahead. Even though I was planning on spending most of my shift in the horizontal position on the open settee below, I was still strapped into my harness in case I had to run out into the cockpit for any reason. To make matters worse, I didn’t have a seasickness patch on. After doing two straight runs of them I was not willing to become cross-eyed and I was weary about putting another one on. That’s ok, this is now 10 days at sea, by body should be able to handle a little motion, right? Wrong.

This is how my four hour morning shift passed: Lay on the settee where I had a wrist-watch next to me, and after dreading each time the clock hit the quarter of the hour, I would roll myself off the settee and onto the floor. Slowly standing up I’d walk the few steps to the companionway and rest for a moment while my dizzy head gained itself and I could trust my body to walk again. I’d go up 2-3 steps while still keeping myself in the companionway, check the wind speed, check the sail, check for boats, and then rush back down the stairs and throw myself back on the settee for the next 12 minutes until I had to do it again. It looks like the balloons were going to have to wait another day.

The rest of the afternoon and evening followed the same suit. When Matt woke up I took a short nap. When I woke up we cuddled together on the settee and I kept apologizing about what a horrible birthday he must be having, as if I had any control over the situation. Matt, not being one to care about birthdays, laughed it off. His grand birthday dinner which was supposed to be meatloaf ended up being a can of Progresso soup that he had to heat up himself because I couldn’t be bothered to move. Happy birthday my love, I’m glad you were able to spend it taking care of me.

Matt on his birthday

 

Monday June 23, 2014

Today is day 13, and the madness is beginning to set in. Not because of our time at sea. Not because I have been almost two weeks from land. It is the damn sails and their consistent flapping. 10 knots of shifty wind behind us and they are flogging all over the place. Slamming in and slamming out. Every 5 damn seconds. I could even handle the snails pace of 2 knots we’re currently moving at if it weren’t for the racket going on above my head. It makes any kind of concentration impossible. Adding to the madness are the low but rolling swells that are passing through. Our limited speed is keeping us from riding on top of them, so we are left to bob between the crest and trough, constantly wallowing back and forth. My body can’t handle it. I can’t even take up the simple task of reading at the moment. You’d think that after 12 full days at sea it would be a non issue for me now. That any seasickness would be long gone due to the length of time we’ve already been out here. Granted though, the first 8-9 days were ‘at anchor’. How could my body grow accustomed to a bobbing sea that was never bobbing? Since the real motion hasn’t started until two or so days ago, I’m praying that I only have two more days left before we can be violently thrown about and I won’t even shrug a shoulder. I’m starting to miss being becalmed.

On a different note, a fun story that I forgot to mention yesterday on Matt’s birthday, and why we’re moving at just over 2 knots even though the wind hasn’t dwindled all the way out yet, is that we were hit with another surprise squall. Just when we were beginning to think that we were safe from them. It was late in the afternoon, and since it’s been cloudy for a few days now, we had to run the engine for an hour or so to charge the battery. Just as the winds were beginning to die down again and our speed was dropping, so it seemed like a win/win. I was hoping to be able to pencil in a 100 mile day, and the extra power from the engine was looking like it was going to get us there.

Just like our first night out from Miami, Matt was in the cockpit and I was down below when it came. It took me about 2.5 seconds to realize that something seemed wrong, and then about 10 more seconds to put my harness on and race up to the cockpit to see what it was. Once again Matt had the sheet for the headsail in his hands, which he was desperately trying to release slight tension on while trying to roll it in at the same time. Unlike last time though, between the two of us, we were able to gain control of the situation before I was going to spend another week making repairs to our genoa. With daylight on our side this time it wasn’t hard to see how many degrees we needed to fall off to put ourselves downwind and take pressure off the sails. The sheet to the headsail was passed to me, and still having it wrapped around the winch, without the full pressure on it now I was able to ease it little bits at a time while Matt furled it in from the other side of the cockpit.

Phew, crisis averted. But now, just as we were starting to let our guard down about squalls and thunderstorms, we don’t trust that we won’t be hit with one out of nowhere and have gone back to keeping minimal sail up, even in these 8-12 knot winds we’re now getting after the front.

rainbow after storm

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Throwback Thursday: Never Leave for a Passage on Thursday the 12th

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.

It finally happened that our time in Miami was finished and we were ready to cross an ocean.  The boat had all of it’s needs addressed, we had provisioned, and the weather forecast had started to slide back into it’s normal patterns.  Our 7 day outlook was looking pretty good and there were no more excuses to keep ourselves stateside.

Hindsight is always 20/20 though, and if we knew then what we knew now….we probably would have hung tight in our spectacular little anchorage in Miami Beach.  We could have enjoyed a few more episodes of Sherlock on our hard drive, stocked up a little more at Publix, and just enjoyed sitting still.  But at the time we knew that any excuse to stay another day could turn into another week or two and we were ready to take any opening we could get.

And we learned…why you should never leave for a passage on Thursday the 12th.

You can find the original post here.

Thursday June 12, 2014

6.12.14 (1)

They say that you should never leave on passage on a Friday. Sailor’s supersition that it’s bad luck. We were almost caught leaving for our Atlantic crossing on Friday the 13th. Does that make it doubly worse? Or do the two negatives cancel each other out and make a positive? I wasn’t sure and made SURE that we busted our butts so that we wouldn’t have to find out, leaving one day earlier on Thursday the 12th instead. I think we would have been better off taking our chances with Friday the 13th

The morning should have started with relaxing, enjoying our last cup of coffee for the next month where we didn’t have to hold everything down on the counter to make sure it didn’t slide off, before completing last minute projects like stowing everything away and deflating the dinghy. It did not start like that. Just as we were going to bed last night we realized that the fitting on our bow water tank had broken, leaking all of it’s contents into our bilge. Since this was to be our back-up source of water for our crossing, only taking from and refilling our port water tank, this was an issue we needed to fix right away.

The new goal was to wake up first thing in the morning and walk to the local Ace Hardware to pick up the replacement part. Knowing that we were already going to get very little sleep as it was, since we had stayed up well past midnight since we had pushed off all that evening’s projects to enjoy a hot pizza and an episode of Sherlock, I was vexed, and truthfully, terrified, at the thunderstorm of epic proportions that rolled through our anchorage at 5 am, bringing with it 50 knot winds and leaving me wondering if something similar could roll through the next night while we were on passage. Letting ourselves sleep in just a little bit longer we ended up with a late start to our morning, but we were back to the boat with the issue fixed by 11 am. The other small projects took a little longer than we anticipated, as they always do, and the anchor wasn’t weighed until 1 pm. Spending another 45 minutes circling the anchorage as we calibrated our autopilot we were finally off, exiting the Government Cut at Miami just after 3 pm.

Even though the sun was shinning down on us on our way out it didn’t take long for the clouds to roll in, and we watched Miami become consumed by darkness and rain which we were soon swallowed up by as well. It wasn’t anything more than a nice rain shower though, and winds continued to stay around 10 knots and we glided up the Gulf Stream in glass waters at 5 knots under headsail alone. Based on sheer excitement about the journey ahead of us, we even frolicked out in the rain for a bit (or Matt doing whatever the manly term for that would be) while taking in a free shower during the downpour. Things cleared up a few hours later as we passed Ft. Lauderdale and we even managed to catch a decent sunset while enjoying left over pizza in the cockpit.

6.12.14 (2)

6.12.14 (3)

6.12.14 (4)

Before I even knew it my eight o’clock bedtime was before me and I was more than ready for it. I’ve learned that the key to a good first night on passage for myself is collecting no sleep the night before we leave so I am more than ready to conk out at such an early hour. Sliding in behind the lee cloth that we’d set up on the starboard bunk in the salon, I slid easily into sleep. Something that normally takes me three hours to do our first night out.

I had been lying in my bunk for just over an hour when I heard a loud ruckus on deck. I knew it was Matt messing with the headsail, and even though all sounds are amplified below deck, this seemed much louder and as if something were wrong. Jumping out of bed I raced over the companionway boards and into the cockpit. It was immediately evident to me that we were in trouble. I looked at the chartplotter to find winds nearing 60 knots and we were being pushed so far over that our rail was in the water. Matt was feverently working to get the headsail rolled in, but had enough good sense to yell at me to get back in the boat and get a harness on before I could topple out the boat and into the Gulf Stream.

Rushing back below deck I tore through the cabinet to search for our second harness. Usually we never have both out at the same time unless we know bad weather is coming, normally just trading off the one harness between ourselves, but this storm came upon us so suddenly that we barely had time to react.

Finding the second harness I raced once more into the companionway where the headsail was still being overpowered by winds that were now sustained in the upper 40′s. With the furling sheet in hand, Matt was still trying to save the sail by bringing it in, asking me to gently release the sheet for the headsail still wrapped around the winch. The strain on the line was so heavy that I couldn’t even loosen it from the teeth that hold it in place, all the while trying my best to work it free while we’re still heeled all the way over in Force 9-10 winds. Finally Matt realized this was not going to work and it was very likely we’d tear the sail in half while working to winch it in. Looking up through the dark and thinking that we’d already blown it out he slid over to my spot he released the sheet from the winch and let it flap in the wind while he quickly grabbed the furling sheet back to get it in. Eventually the sail was rolled in, though the lines were a knotted and tangled mess that would have to be saved for another day.

Now at hand we had to deal with winds that were still blowing in the 45-50 knot range and showed no signs of relenting. Not wanting to keep any of the sails up we turned ourselves downwind and began to ride the storm out with bare poles as we were pushed along at two knots of speed.  The winds were coming directly out of the north which meant that we were now moving south, working against the current of the Gulf Stream, had absolutely no sail up, no engine on, and were still making that kind of forward progress.  Bolts of white and pink lightning were crashing down on each side of us as buckets of rain began to pour down.  The whole experience was miserable and I think both of us began to start rethinking this whole ocean crossing.  As I stood behind the wheel to hand steer us, Matt sat clipped in under the dodger and confessed, “This just isn’t for me.  I can’t do this anymore.”  Can’t do an ocean crossing?  Or can’t do cruising?

Seeing that we were only 12 miles north of Ft. Lauderdale we tried to start setting a course there to ease our nerves and see what steps we wanted to take next.  As I tried to keep us ass to the waves, I was going just by feel for the wind direction and slipped up a few times where we took the building waves on at a bad angle and they’d crash over the stern and into the cockpit, soaking me in the process.  Yes, a break from cruising sounds pretty good right now.  Immediately my mind went to us leaving the boat in Ft. Lauderdale while we hopped a plane to Guatemala to backpack for a few weeks while visiting friends, and then returning to Michigan for the rest of summer to spend it with friends and family.  It all sounded so tantalizing that it was probably one of the only things keeping me from breaking down while we continued to fight this monstrous storm which was showing no signs of letting up.

For another hour I stood behind the wheel, knees growing weak and teeth chattering until the winds finally let up into the mid 30′s and the autopilot was able to go back into use.  Somehow I was still wired even though I’d only gathered about 5 hours of sleep in the last 30 hours, and sent Matt to bed while we pushed on toward Ft. Lauderdale with the engine on, still fighting the Gulf Stream and moving at 2 knots.  Two hours later, while he was resting his nerves and gaining a little perspective while I stood awake and continued to daydream of a life back on land, he came to relieve me and discuss our rash decision.  By this point I was beyond exhausted and finally started to break down.

I complained about how it seems like everything for the past six months has been working against us and maybe this is a sign that we should stop before something really awful happened.  He told me to grab a few hours of sleep, but for him, removing himself from the situation for a little bit made him realize that it was just frazzled nerves that made him want to quit before, but he thought that moving forward and continuing our crossing was still the right decision and what we really do want.  He made the comment that it was extremely unlikely that we’d go through anything like that again and the worst of it was probably out of the way.  We might hit the random storm here or there in the future, but none of it would likely be worse that what we’ve already seen in our cruising history.  Hmmm.  Guatemala, Lake Michigan, friends, family…….or 3,000 miles of open ocean and uncertainty ahead.  I think a few hours of sleep might be necessary to make that decision.

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Throwback Thursday: I am FREAKING Out Here People!

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.

Leaving the Bahamas for Florida, we had a swift overnight sail where I pondered my feelings about sailing at night, and we arrived in Miami just as the sun was coming up. From then on out, everything was all about getting ready for our Atlantic crossing and our upcoming sail from Miami to the Azores.  I didn’t have too much time to wonder what 30 nights of sea might do to my state of mind and we prepped the boat and I brushed up on my sailing skills by breaking out a few books and manuals again.

Even though we knew we still had a few weeks before departing, we’d been keeping a close eye on the weather out on the Atlantic just to see if we could find any patterns emerging.  Turns out there were, and it was nothing but front upon front, producing some nasty weather in the North Atlantic that wasn’t making us feel to good about our decision to soon sail across it.

Take a read as I let my fears get the best of me and I began to question our decision to go at all.

*The funny thing is, now that I take a look back on these weather reports, even the ones I thought were bad two years ago, I now think to myself..”Well that seems like a pretty decent forecast”.  How a few thousand miles and a number of storms will change your perspective.*

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday May 20, 2014

waves b&w

Do you know what I was doing this morning at 4 am? I was lying awake in bed, thinking off all the terrible things that could happen to us as we cross the Atlantic in a few weeks. Here’s another fun question for you. Do you know how many boats were abandoned just last week while taking the same route that we are? Two!! That’s right. Two boats with a larger number and more experienced crew than the two of us had to leave their boats behind while making the same trip we’re about to do. I am FREAKING out here people! Granted, both of those boats appeared to be passing through a very nasty low pressure system a few hundred miles east of the United States around the 40th degree latitude, but all I could think of through the whole night was ‘That could be us!’. One of the two crews was picked up by the USCG, but the other crew, as I currently write this, are still missing; their boat believed to be abandoned in the Northern Atlantic.* Pardon my French, but that is some scary shit!

For the weeks and month leading up to our departure from Miami and across the Atlantic to the Azores and then through Gibraltar, I’ve tried to mentally prepare myself as much as possible. Prepare for the monotony of being at sea for 30 straight days, and prepare for the onset of at least 2-3 fairly rough storms during our crossing. In my mind, and according to most of the books I’m reading, the worst part of these storms usually pass you in a few hours and all you’re left with after is maybe a day or two of overcast skies with some rain and the drudgery of waiting for the seas to settle back to their original state. The weather systems that we’ve been tracking for the past few weeks though to get a feel for what’s going on out on these waters, is showing a completely different story.

I will admit to you now that we have never once listened to a Chris Parker forecast. We have taken his information while cruising with friends that do get up at the ungodly hour of 6 am to listen, but personally we’ve always been fans of Passage Weather and have used that to prepare for any passage we’ve taken. This does require internet, of which we will not have once we leave on our crossing, but at that point we’ll be relying on downloading forecasts from our SSB twice daily, something that should give us a four day outlook that will be very similar to what we’ve always viewed on Passage Weather. While keeping an eye on it at the moment though, these are the kind of images that we keep seeing pop up.

front over Bermuda

front over Azores

You can see where I’ve labeled Bermuda and the Azores, and our approximate intended route (terrible job with the paint brush, I know). You can also see all that yellow and orange showing up in areas close to where we’ll be, and that’s very, very bad. If you follow the wind indicator at the bottom, you’ll see that yellow represents winds of 30-35 knots, and orange represents 35-40 knots. That would be bad enough on it’s own, but I may have mentioned to you before of our learning of reading Passage Weather, and have pretty much found it to be true. Always expect 5-10 knots higher than it shows. If it’s reading 30-35 knots, expect 35-45. If it’s reading 35-40, well, you’re S.O.L. It’s why we never go anywhere when a forecast is reading over 20 knots. Even though we always travel in weather that shows 15-20, we experience at least 30 knots sometime during the trip. Every.Single.Time.

So you can imagine why these images are getting under my skin. They never end. There might be two days of calm in those areas before another front develops. This is not normal, not for this late in the season, and it has me terrified that nothing will change before our intended June 1st departure date.

So as I laid there wide awake, waiting for the sun to come up, my mind was filled with alternative routes. I was thinking to myself, ‘You know, since we were about to take on a 30 day passage anyway, we could make it to Panama in 10-12. And you know who’s in Panama? Brian and Stephanie on Rode Trip. That would be so fun!!’. I actually lulled myself to sleep with false promises that we would stick to the Caribbean where we would never be more than 200 miles from some form of land.

Reality did set in this morning though as I realized the light of a few very important things. 1. We don’t have to go if everything is showing the same in a week and a half. Have those fronts not showed any sign of leaving, we will wait for them to do so. Or, hightail it to Panama. 2. Based on years and years of data, they should be changing any day now. The Bermuda/Azores high should be settling in, and things should start to look much calmer on those waters. And 3. Downloading a 96 hour forecast twice a day should keep us on top of any fronts that could arise. If we see anything that looks like it’s coming up, we have no problem backtracking or adding extra miles to avoid it. We are going to be very cautious cruisers on this trip, and that is fine by me. I would much rather arrive even a week later than anticipated if it means we’re not surfing down 20 ft waves in 40 knot winds. Ever.

preferred weather

Now this is the kind of weather I’m looking for!

 

* On Friday May 23rd, the USCG found the hull of this second boat, the Cheeki Rafiki, but with no sign of the crew.  The life raft was still on board and never inflated.

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Throwback Thursday: La-Ho!

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.

We knew we would be leaving Fort Lauderdale shortly and most likely not visiting again for a very long time.  This meant a night of sad good byes with the good friends we had made during our time there.  One part of cruising that I never enjoy.

When we thought we were ready to up anchor and become Bahamas bound, we found out that we’d be stuck at anchor for at least one more day when our running lights wouldn’t come on and we came to the realization this would be a much easier fix in the US than in the islands.  Plus, we didn’t want to be out in the dark until that fix could be made. The next night though, the anchor was properly up and we were on our way out of the US. It was a long and hard fight this time across the Gulf Stream, which was running very wide and a good speed, which drastically diminished our pointing and speed.

After a much longer passage than we’d anticipated, we pulled into Bimini with enough time to still check ourselves in and make our way to the beach for a little relaxing.  Plus an extra bonus for us, we had new friends, Kim and Jereme of Lahowind, that had arrived the same day we did!

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Radio Beach, Bimini, Bahamas

As if it wasn’t enough for our engine to die on us yesterday just as we were entering the channel to Bimini, air in the fuel line we think, we were trouble shooting the engine after dropping anchor and found out that the alternator bracket we’d just had made in Guatemala in December had a crack in it. Which meant Serendipity was not moving an inch until we had that fixed. We assumed that with Bimini being the third largest settlement in the Bahamas that there would be a welder around, and the number one goal was to find them and see what they could do for us. Heading to the beautiful Radio Beach that I scouted yesterday after getting us checked in was a close second.

Just like when I had gone to check us in yesterday, the dinghy ride to town was about 20 minutes. Still, I will say, the free wifi we’re picking up from Resort World Bimini which we’re anchored in front of, well worth the extra time. It took just a little bit of asking around once we were in town, but one name kept popping up for welders, and that was Rudy. The only problem was, finding him. Everyone knew someone to ask about where he might be, but no one actually knew where he resided. After asking every other person on the road, we were about to just give up and hit the beach but decided to ask one last group of people that were enjoying a cold drink outside of CJ’s Deli. It turns out that one of the guys not only knew where to find Rudy, but was a cab driver that would take us there! Finally it seemed that a little bit of luck was on our side. Until we realized that we’d left all our cash back on the boat. Apologizing to the man, we told him that we’d be back in about an hour if he was still around, after running to the boat to get money and coming back.

A friendly Bahamian gave us a ride to the dinghy dock on the back of his golf cart, and when we mentioned that we had been looking for Rudy, told us that he was just up the street a little bit further from where he was dropping us off. Hmmmm, if we knew where to find him, we wouldn’t need to spend the money on a taxi anymore. Then while grabbing money back at the ‘Dip we had another ah-ha moment. Instead of driving the dinghy all the way back toward town and wasting fuel, why not just tie up at the docks at Resort World Bimini and walk the rest of the way in? Getting permission to land there, as well as a description of Rudy’s place from the Harbor Master, we were off on foot. Only to find out, 20 minutes later, that what we should have realized that if the dingy ride was long, walking that distance was going to feel much longer.

It was just as we came up to Rudy’s that we vowed never to do that one again. We were able to get right in to see our new welding friend since the cab driver back at CJ’s had phoned him to let him know we were all to be on our way shortly. Taking the bracket out of our hands, he scruntinized it for a few moments before saying that he could help us out and hopefully make it stronger than it was in the first place. The whole thing only took about 15 minutes while we waited, off to the side of course so that we weren’t blinded by the welding. It’s kind of funny because Matt made sure to drill into my head not to look anywhere in that vicinity while the welding was happening unless I would like to blind myself. So I settled on a group of kids playing in a nearby field while the work was being done just off to my side. But I could still catch just a little bit of it out of my periferals. Suddenly my eye began burning and I silently cursed to myself thinking I’d just done permanent damage, and how am I going to explain this to Matt after he’d just explicitly told me not to look anywhere near there? Turns out it was only a beat of sweat that had rolled down my brow and into my eye, but for a minute there I thought I was going to have to explain the biggest let down ever.

Back on the streets we had a (hopefully) stronger than new bracket and were ready to spend a few hours relaxing at one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. Sprawling out a blanket in the shade of one of the few trees there, I could barley keep myself still for 90 seconds before I was up and running around, sprinting into the waves like a little kid. There were some big breakers rolling in and I wouldn’t let myself get fully submerged in them, lest I be swept away, so I just played in the tide and let the waves crash over my legs.

Having one more goal in mind for the day, I set off down the beach alone. It turns out that we happened to arrive to Bimini the same time as another young cruising couple, and the two of us have been trying to meet up for months now. Kim and Jereme of s/v Laho and Lahowind are brand spanking new to cruising, but Kim and I have been conversing through Facebook ever since last summer. Back when we were in Mexico and waiting for a weather window, I kept hoping that we’d make it to Key West right when they were heading that way from Naples, and even though I thought we were going to be the ones held up by bad weather, it turns out they were held up by a never ending list of boat projects and didn’t make it to the keys until after we got to Ft. Lauderdale. I thought we’d missed our chance to ever meet up and possibly do some buddy boating, but the fates smiled on us and led both of us to the Bahamas right at the same time.

I had mentioned to Kim this morning that after some errand running around town, Matt and I would be hitting the beach and we hoped to meet up with them there. Every time I saw a new face arrive I’d quickly sprint down the beach hoping it was our new friends, but each time I’d find out that whomever had just wandered onto the beach, did not even come close to fitting the description of a young cruiser. We hung around for a little bit longer and enjoyed the turf, but since we’d had such a late start due to fixing our engine issues, it was already late afternoon. Taking the long way out (while making sure to avoid the cab driver that never did end up getting our fare), I showed Matt this cool shipwreck on the beach that, from the front, reminded me of a beached whale. This path took us right out to the entrance of the channel, and we watched the current rip through there, shuddering at what might have happened yesterday had we not been able to start the engine again.

beach at Bimini

beach blanket

walking through surf

strolling on beach

rocks on Bimini beach

shipwreck on Bimini

shipwreck on Bimini

 Wandering back through town and towards the dingy dock we came across Brown’s marina where I knew Laho was staying. Luckily they were the closest boat to the road, and as I peeked my head through the chain link fence, I saw movement in the cockpit. “La-ho!!!” I yelled out, hoping to get their attention since this marina has a locked gate and we couldn’t just stroll right in. It was Jereme that heard my call and just a moment later Kim poked her head out too, while the two of us frantically waved at each other as if to say “We finally caught up with each other!!”. Moments later they were at the gate to let us in and walk us over to Laho.

Once on their boat we had the chance to meet their cute little poodle, Oliver, and instantly went into boat talk, poking around at the different electronics, and Matt instantly falling into a spiel about his latest research on all the gadgets they owned.  Even though all four of us were sitting in the cockpit, the boys kept talking shop while Kim and I would try to interject little bits about actually traveling over their comments on radios and antennas.  Unfortunately we didn’t get in as much fun girly talk as we hoped while the boys were prattling on since a storm looked like it was coming our way and Matt and I still had a long walk back to Serendipity.  It sounds like we’ll all be here a few more days, so we’ll have to make sure we get together again, this time where Kim and I can run off and talk travel and photography.  Hopefully over a glass of wine.

s/v Laho

Kim & Jerme

Matt & Oliver

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Throwback Thursday: Speed, Squalls, Officers, and Ocluars – Our Crossing from Mexico to Florida

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.

Our time on Isla Mujeres was winding down, but we still tried to enjoy ourselves as much as possible while weather fronts were keeping us there.  Luckily the weather we were getting was still warm and sunny so we kept our outdoor activities up as much as possible.  Which one Sunday afternoon, on the way to the grocery store for regular provisions, led us to a local Mexican baseball game.  We couldn’t understand what was happening over the speakers, but it was still a fun game to watch, and it must have been an important one as the stadium ended up packed, everyone sitting elbow to elbow.

A few days later while we were doing our morning scan of Passage Weather to see if there would ever be a long enough window for our 375 mile passage, something popped up.  It wasn’t great, and even though I genuinely was enjoying our time in Isla, I knew we had a lot of traveling left to do for the year and we needed to get a move on.  Finding this possible forecast at 10 am, it meant leaving that afternoon and we still had to go through the process of checking out, provisioning, and all the good stuff that goes along with leaving a place you’ve settled in to. It was a little hairy, and definitely rushed, but late that afternoon we found ourselves sailing out away from Mexico and back to the US.

You can find the original post here.

Friday February 14, 2014

2.14.14

If you asked us about this passage within the first 22 hours of leaving, and if it was a good idea to have gone with the forecast we did, I would have patted myself on the back while saying in a singsong voice “I am so smart. This is the best passage, Matt is silly for thinking we could have waited for a better one”. Because really, the first 20 or so hours truly were bliss. After eeking out of the harbor in Isla Mujeres at 4:30 in the afternoon, we rounded a few shoals and rocks on the north side before hoisting the sails and killing the engine. Straight away we were pushing forward at 6.5 knots on a close reach without much rocking under the hull. Matt took his spot under the dodger and I settled in to the leeward side behind the wheel, eyes fixed to the north where all the sport fishing boats were returning with their day’s catch. So far we had been able to start out the passage with neither of us feeling sick immediately upon departure, which I attribute to a well timed scopolamine patch on my neck earlier in the day, and suffering through many weeks in a less than calm harbor which made these small waves feel kind of like being at anchor.

We ate separate dinners of sticky buns and stale Oreos, and the only moment of panic for the day was when I literally jumped out of my seat yelling “Oh my god!!”, which made Matt assume that the boat must be falling apart, but in reality, was only due to the fact that I’d just seen two dolphins surface not more than ten feet off our aft quarter, seemingly out of nowhere. Unfortunately they did not make a repeat appearance. Georgie had taken up a spot on Matt’s lap, the only time now that she’ll willingly try and force herself as close to us as possible. During passage she’s like velcro on one of the two of us, not daring to get out of the protection of our arms, but as soon as that anchor is down, you can be assured that she can’t even remember who we are.

2.14.14 (1)

 Protect me!!

2.14.14 (2)

 Goodbye Isla!

2.14.14 (3)

2.14.14 (4)

As night came upon us we fell into the Gulf Stream and began riding that baby to average speeds of 8 knots, all the while feeling the calmness as if we were motoring through a glass calm bay. I’m sure I’m overexagerating a little, but I don’t remember it feeling much worse than our slightly rocky harbor we’d just left.

To add to the smoothness in this first 22 hours, it didn’t even take me 5 minutes to fall asleep when I went below the first time, a feat that normally only takes place 20 minutes before Matt comes to wake me for my turn to go back out on watch. This time I was able to get up somewhat rested and happily occupied my time on shift by flipping through various albums we had finally set up to play through our stereo, and counting all the miles already ticking away behind us. Throughout my whole shift we kept that comfortable 8-8.5 knots, along with just the slightest rocking motion under our hull. Calculating that if we kept this pace up we’d actually get in by Thursday evening, which is a dangerous thing to do, getting one’s hopes up early in a passage that their time will be cut down, since it rarely ever works out that way.

At the time though, it seemed almost foolproof. It was 350 miles through the rhumb line, which due to wind direction, we wouldn’t be able to follow exactly but I assumed we’d only add an extra 20 miles max. 370 miles at 8 knots would put us there in 46.5 hours, add in the extra speed since we were really going closer to 9 knots now, add add a little cushion for when we probably slowed down to 7 at some point. But it sounds completely feasible, right? I mean, we’re riding the Gulf Stream, one of the most powerful currents in the world! Getting up for my second watch at 6 am I did the numbers again and found out that we’d already covered just under 100 miles in 13 hours. We were well on our way there.

I woke up to a light drizzle that went away just as quickly as it came, and left the sky with puffy clouds that lit up in bright pinks and oranges and even a partial rainbow between two of the clouds. What I didn’t quite catch on to at the time is that this was a red sky in morning; sailors take warning. And I should have. But the sky soon cleared into a brilliant blue and all I had to do was sit back and relax while enjoying my breakfast of 16 oz of Mexican Danone yogurt (best $1 purchase ever, by the way).

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Even though we were starting out with a passage that was much more comfortable than 80% of the ones that we’re normally on, we quickly fell back into the routine of sleep or waiting for sleep. I always think that on a calm passage I might start doing something like scrubbing the floors out of boredom, but apparently I was not quite that bored yet. Sneaking in one quick nap when Matt got up for breakfast, I settled into the cockpit with a book to read, something I hadn’t been able to do on many previous passages so I still consider that progress, while Matt went back to bed. Which at this time in the afternoon could probably be considered a nap. I wasn’t kidding when I said all we do is sleep or wait for the next opportunity to sleep.

This is where the pleasurable 20 hours of our passage ends. While getting into my book once more I noticed the skies were growing dark but didn’t pay it too much mind since we’d had the light drizzle in the morning and I expected more of the same this afternoon. Off in the distance there were some very dark clouds, and out of the distance a few rumbles of thunder were reaching me, but since all of this was downwind of us I still continued not to pay it much mind. At least it wasn’t heading at us. Or so I thought. The further I got into my book the closer the rumbles came, and as I scanned the horizon I only saw clear skies ahead, all of the nasty stuff supposedly passing behind us according to the current wind direction. I buried my nose back in my book, not ready to wake Matt just yet since that would mean a reef in the headsail and a reduction in speed. I still had my sights set on a Thursday evening arrival in Key West.

As the thunder, and now lightning, started closing in on us, I knew it was time to finally take action. I woke Matt up to let him know we were surrounded by thunderstorms while simultaneously taking our small electronics and sticking them inside the microwave and oven to protect them against a lightning strike should one happen. Our handheld GPS, sat phone, and e-readers were placed in the microwave; computers, wrapped in padding, were slid into the oven. Watching the wind speed jump up from the high teens to the mid to high 20′s, we kept going back and forth on if we should roll in the headsail. These speeds it could definitely handle, but should they get worse… Finally when we saw rain on the horizon we decided to roll it in ‘Just until this blows over’. Throwing the bow into the wind I tried with all my might to pull in the line while Matt controlled the jib line from smacking around. My arms were no match for this wind and we ended up switching places and getting it rolled in just before the blinding sheets of rain hit us.

Taking cover under the dodger we watched the rain pelt us from what seemed like every direction, and then out of nowhere, a huge gust of wind came along and almost knocked us on our side but did not seem to be letting up. Scrambling into the companionway with Matt, we watched the wind speed jump into the 40′s and keep rising. 48..53..62. Yes, we topped out at winds of over 60 knots, by far the highest we’ve ever seen on a passage. We were getting pounded by a squall, but the funny part was, there was no sense of urgency for our safety. We’d had a double reefed main up ever since we left Isla, we usually do if we’re ever on an overnight passage, and the waves were only 1-3 feet, so we were by no means getting tossed around in high seas. If fact, the wind was so strong that it was basically blowing the caps of the waves into their troughs, almost smoothing out the seas. Serendipity was handling this like a champ, and the only issue we had was when the wind caught the piece of fabric that connects our dodger to our bimini and began ripping it apart at the zipper. We were able to catch one end and hang on to it before it could completely come apart and blow away.

The 50-60 knot winds only lasted about 30 seconds before subsiding back down into the 30′s. During this ‘lull’ I jumped back into the cockpit to secure lines that hadn’t been properly tied off, and finished unzipping the fabric connector so we could quickly stow it away. We had to wait out a few more somewhat strong blows into the 40′s along with driving sheets of rain….and then it was gone. Just like in the movies, the clouds disappeared, the sun came out, and all wind seemed to have left with the storm. We were literally left there scratching our heads as we watched the windex spin in circles, clueless of which direction to now point our bow. It was a good 20 minutes before we had any semblance of wind come our way again, in which time we watched the boom slide from one side of the boat to the other, trying to catch the wind each time it clocked around the boat.

Our speed had regrettably cut down to just over five knots and I had to set my sights for a Friday morning arrival now. Tracking our progress, I marked our position at 24 hours from our departure and found that we’d still managed to make about 180 miles in one day. Had we kept the same speed we were getting before the storm there would have been no question on if we’d hit the 200 mile mark, something Matt’s been aiming for ever since we started cruising and will keep striving for until the day he dies. That may require a different boat… We’d still put ourselves in a good position for one day out though, and I have a feeling that Serendipity will be hard pressed to get to those numbers again. The remaining hours of the day and into the wee morning hours of the next were spent dodging the thunderstorms that still had us boxed in, never coming closer, but always visible on the horizon.

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Marking our progress once more at the 48 hour mark I’d found out that we’d done just about 120 miles, having kept true to the 5 knots, and sometimes under, that we had slowed down to the previous afternoon. When the sun had gone down and the full moon lit a trail behind us, it was quite visible that not only had we fallen out of the Gulf Stream, but we were probably now trying to fight it’s counter current. 3.5 knots was a struggle to keep, and when even three knots wasn’t happening any more, I begged and pleaded with Matt to let us put the engine on and motor until we were out of the counter current…if that ever happened. Remember those numbers I kept running through my head? Anything under 3-3.5 knots would mean certain nighttime arrival, which neither of us wanted, and I’ll be damned if I was about to spend another night out at sea if we could avoid it with a solution as simple as turning on the engine. Matt decided to go with the ‘wait and see’ option, but an hour later while I was snuggling into bed, I heard the engine roar to life and smiled as I fell asleep.

The last day of our crossing today, we were struggling to keep those 3.5 knots under power. During the last hour of my morning sleep shift I could hear Matt on the radio, and then shortly later, rustling through cabinets for paperwork. I tried to ignore him the best I could until 10 minutes later he came shaking my shoulder, telling me to get up because the Coast Guard had just radioed him and they were sending a launch to come board us. The boat was a mess and we probably stunk to high hell, but at this point we were so tired and worn out that we didn’t even care. They wanted to board us during a passage, this is what they were going to get. Another 15 minutes later, after we had both found clean clothes to put on along with a healthy dose of deodorant, we were watching the well outfitted tender pull alongside our boat while depositing two officers on it.

Having already been through this procedure while traveling down the ICW we already knew everything they were going to ask for and better yet, this time I actually knew where all of it was. While Matt kept one of the officers busy while filling out paperwork, I took the other one below where I produced life vests, flares, access to the bilge (no Cubans hiding in there, I promise!), and even the sticker about trash that we had been written up for the last time. There was only a slight snafu when Matt refused to give out his SSN, not finding necessary after showing both a drivers license and a passport and was about to ‘take it up with the captain’ when the second officer told the paperwork guy to let it go. The only thing we did have an issue with was that our boat documentation was now two weeks expired, it’s replacement supposedly waiting for us in Key West along with all of our other goodies. Getting let off with a written warning, I think they wanted us to show the new one when we did arrive at our destination (to whom, I have no idea), and then they were gone just as quickly as they had come.

A few hours after they left we realized we probably should try and clean ourselves up a little, lest any new officials in Key West have to put up with our stench. The only problem was, it was freezing out! I’m not kidding, somewhere along the way we picked up some cold water under our hull, and the breeze running across it was enough to have kept us in our foulies for half the trip just to stay warm. So taking a cockpit shower in that? I wanted to search for alternative methods. Matt braved the cold and forced himself under the hose for 90 seconds while he quickly lathered and rinsed. I was not so brave. Or maybe I was just smarter. I decided for a sink shower instead. Sticking my head under the faucet I was able to give my hair the three washes it now needed after not having cleaned it since Isla, all without soaking my body or having chilly winds blow over me. The rest of the body was done with a washcloth and soon I was back under my layers, feeling warm and clean and glad that I didn’t have to suffer through the brutal cold outside. That was until my left eye started getting a little blurry.

It’s not uncommon to get a Georgie hair stuck in there or have one of my contacts be placed inside out and irritate my eye. But wait a second…I wasn’t wearing my contacts. After 15 minutes of not being able to figure out what was in my eye, I finally went down to a mirror to inspect. If you had looked at me at this point it must have appeared that I was licking toads or on some other kind of drug because my pupil was dilated to full size. And immediately I knew exactly what had happened. While sticking my head under the faucet, the water had run over my scopolamine patch and brought the medication right into my eye. Having experienced a case similar to this once before in Manhattan where I had touched the patch and then touched my eye, I knew I was in for 24 hours of blindness in that eye and an adversity to bright lights. Oh joy, they perfect way to end what started out as the best passage ever. I will now be singing to myself “I am not so smart, this passage kind of sucks, I’m glad it’s almost over”.

scopolamine in eye

Ice cold winds continued to blow across the water as we slowly puttered in to the southernmost point in the United States, and back in to the land of plenty with only two hours of daylight left. The ride was a little rougher on us than we expected, but if I had to look back on it I’d say it’s not even necessarily due to boxed in thunderstorms or squalls along the way, but the snails pace we had to suffer through after they were all finished. I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty sure that nothing kills a sailor’s mood more than cutting his pace in half. From envisioned Thursday evening arrivals, pushed back to a Friday morning arrival, now coming in late Friday afternoon, this 72 hours was a very necessary passage for us, but I’m so happy to be back in the land of day hopping.

Key West Harbor

cruise ship in Key West

lats 2

 

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