Throwback Thursday: Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa

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

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post here.

Monday October 27, 2014

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canaries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Matt at bow

Matt at beach

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands

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champagne dinner

sunset over Lanzarote

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Throwback Thursday: Hiking Pico Ruivo and Settling for Sao Vicente

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

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post here.

Thursday October 16, 2014

São Vicente, Madeira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pico Ruivo

Encumeada, Madeira

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

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

overlooking Sao Vicente, Madeira

hiking Pico Ruivo, Madeira

Matt hiking Pico Ruivo

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

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

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

stairs hiking Pico Ruivo

hiking Pico Ruivo

Jessica on stairs of Pico Ruivo hike, Madeira

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

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

outskirts of Sao Vicente

church at São Vicente, Madeira

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

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

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

São Vicente, Madeira

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Jessica in São Vicente, Madeira

 

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

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Q&A Revisited

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

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

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

You can find the original post and answers here.

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

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

Minke whale in North Atlantic

saddle back dolphins

 

How long do you imagine you’ll cruise?

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

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

Charlotte Amalie harbor

 

What’s your favorite island?

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

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

cliffs of Madeira

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old town Funchal Madeira

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

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

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

cleaning galley matt behind wheel

 

What is your favorite thing about sailing?

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

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

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

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

calm waters on Atlantic

 

 

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

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

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

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

approaching golfete

Horta's breakwater and Pico in the distance

sunset in Madeira

dunes at Maspalomas, Gran Canaria

The Baths Virgin Gorda

 

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

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

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

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

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

Sabre 34 Targa galley

Sabre 34 Targa v-berth hanging locker

 

How often are you at anchor vs in a marina?

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

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

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

storm over Marina Rubicon

boats at anchor in Simpson Bay

Serendipity in Bahamas

How’s Georgie doing?

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

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

Georgie & rainbow

Georgie Daze Off

 

 

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Throwback Thursday: La Bella Isla Madeira

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post here.

Friday October 3, 2014

Madeira

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cliffs of Madeira

cliffs of west Maderia

dolphins in front of Madeira

dolphin jumping at bow

cliffs of Madeira

Funchal, Madeira

M

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Throwback Thursday: Open Air Orchestra

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post here.

Saturday September 20, 2014

Orchestra of Ponta Delgaga, Sao Miguel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ponta Delgada Orchestra

outdoor orchestra

Ponta Delgada Orchestra, Azores

shadow puppets

Ponta Delgada orchestra

little girl watching orchestra

view of crowd at orchestra

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

 

 

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Our $70/week grocery cart

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Milk: $3.50/gallon

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

Great Value brand coffee: $6.50 for 32 oz

Loaf of bread: $0.98

Lunch meat: $3.50 for one pound

Sliced cheese: $2.25/8 oz

Potato chips: $1.85 a bag

Boneless skinless chicken breasts:1.99/lb

Ground beef: $3.50/lb

Pork tenderloin:  $2.99/lb

Flour tortillas:  $2.00 for 20

Ice cream: 3.00/gallon

Oak Leaf wine: 3.50/bottle

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

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

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

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

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

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