Snap Back to Reality

Monday April 13, 2015

Old Bahama Bay Marina & Resort

Well, we’re back in Indiantown and back to the reality that we need to jump right into boat work in order to get ourselves moving along to see any hope of cruising again by the new year.

On how we got back here from the Bahamas though….  All four of us were up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to give ourselves as much time and as much daylight as possible for the 55 mile journey back to West Palm Beach and our familiar anchorage in Lake Worth.  We thought we might be the first ones out of the marina besides the fisherman that get out while the skies are still dark and a little hazy, but we found ourselves patiently waiting for three other sailboats to back themselves out and clear the channel before we could take our turn.

Out on the water we immediately raised our sails and finally caught those east trade winds at an angle that suited us perfectly.  Pointing on a southwest course to counteract the Gulf Stream, we were on a comfortable broad reach and serenely sailing along at 6.5 knots.  The day was sunny and perfect, and much of my time was spent behind the wheel.  The least I could do to earn my position on board, and honestly it felt kind of nice.  I might have to remind myself of that every now and then on our own boat when we’re always so quick to throw on the autopilot as soon as we exit a harbor.

Every few hours we’d check our position on the tablet to see how far was left and if we were staying on course.  It turned out that in my few hours behind the wheel I had actually been pointing us a little further south than we needed to be and we were actually coming in closer to Fort Lauderdale than West Palm Beach.  A few more alterations and we were heading in the right direction, although I may had inadvertently cost us an extra hour on the water.  Not normally a big deal, but it can be when you’re trying to beat the sunset. I guess we must have been fighting a much stronger current on the way over than coming back and our course was much closer to our heading this time around.

Realizing that we’d now be hitting the inlet around 9 pm wasn’t the worst thing in the world as we’d exited it in the dark and it would just mean a very sharp lookout for channel markers once more.  Knowing that we’d at least be at anchor that night though was a big relief.

Getting within about a half mile of the beginning of the channel we threw on  the now repaired engine and put the sails away.  Everything was looking good until we were only a quarter mile away and the engine shut down.  Not knowing what the issue was, Matt and Bob ran down below deck to diagnose it.  Joni and I stayed up on deck and since we still had a good bit of forward momentum, I kept us pointing at the channel in case the problem was fixed right away and we could continue our way in.  Looks like our slightly southern approach was paying off.

Another 20 minutes later though I was now upon the first buoy for the channel and there was still not a peep from the engine.  The guys still weren’t sure what the issue was but were going to bleed the fuel lines in case they had air in them.  It was the only thing that made sense to them.  This project was going to take at least another 20 minutes though and I didn’t have time to continue drifting NW before coming too close to shore and other unknowns.  Cranking the wheel another 40 degrees I turned us dead north and rode the Gulf Stream until the situation below was taken care of.

Under bare poles and through the current alone, Shamroga pushed forward at an amazing 3.5 knots.  When I did hear the roar of the engine again 20-25 minutes later we had already covered over a mile just by drifting and then had to fight the current south to get back to where we originally had been, traveling at 2 knots with the engine under almost full power.  Eventually we made it back to the original buoy and were able to point ourselves west and resume a normal pace.

Thanks to our powerful Ryobi flashlight and four sets of eyes on watch we navigated the ICW once more and finally dropped anchor just after 11 pm.  Too tired to worry about anything else or things that need to be put away, we cleaned up the essentials and pleasantly passed out in our cabins.  This morning Shamroga went into a marina in the North Palm area to look into it’s engine issues a litter further before continuing to motor up the ICW, and Matt and I were put in a taxi headed for Indiantown.

All in all it was a great learning experience on all ends.  I think Bob and Joni learned heaps about their new boat as well as a few techniques, and Matt and I learned what it was like to work on another boat and decided to tuck that knowledge away for any future events in which we might be called on for our services again.  Anyone looking for shakedown cruises with a couple of instructors this fall…just let us know.  If we can get away from boat work we might take you up on it.  Or it might be a good excuse to get away from boat work too.

And now here we find ourselves again, back in reality.  Too tired to get any work in today on cleaning Serendipity to get her in sell ready condition, but honestly, we didn’t quite leave her in the best living condition either.  Our last night here with the Sailing Conductors as well as an early morning the next day meant a few dishes in the sink and items strewn around the cabin as we hurried to pack.

We did meet a few new cruisers in the work yard though.  Funnily enough, the two new boats next to us happen to contain blog followers!  Dan, Simone, and Bobby are a group of three young Aussies that just finished up time working in Canada and decided that before they head back to Oz they needed a little adventure.  Originally planning to take a van on a road trip across the US they ditched that plan in favor of buying an inexpensive Irwin 32 to travel the Bahamas with for a few months instead.  The other boat is a Moody that was purchased by Scott and Ellen of The Cynical Sailor and his Salty Sidekick.  Ellen and I had actually been online chatting on and off for the past two years so the odds of them ending up two boats down from us was pretty crazy!

So that’s where we’re at now.  My parents are coming to visit in two weeks and we hope to have a lot of Serendipity’s last major projects ticked off by then.  Things like painting the bottom and sanding and varnishing the sole.  I know there’s also a million minor things that one of these days I really need to write down so I can begin slowly ticking them off instead of laying around in the heat mumbling “I don’t even know what I can work on today”.  Progress needs to start NOW.  Ok, maybe tomorrow.

Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina, West End

Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina

Old Bahama Bay Resort & Marina, Grand Bahama Island

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Bahamas Baby!

Thursday April 9, 2015

Old Bahama Bay Marina

The rigging is finished, the sails are on, the boat is fully stocked, and the weather is as much in our favor as we’re going to get it in the next week.  We are ready for the Bahamas.

Joining back up with Joni and Bob, Matt and I drove ourselves out to Sunset Marina where Shamroga was sitting on a mooring ball and all ready for the five of us to leave.  The fifth member of this party being Georgie, whom as soon as she was placed on board, took up her favorite hiding spot of that little open area under the gunnel where winch handles and sail ties are normally stored.  I can only wait to see her get into the ones in Daze Off where there is no easy way to be able to retrieve her.

Setting off down the ICW we made our way toward Lake Worth while taking turns behind the wheel and letting Joni get comfortable on the VHF to call in bridge openings.  Lunch was prepared for us on the calm waters of the Intra Costal and Matt and I had some of the tastiest grilled cheese sandwiches we’d ever sampled.  Having the meals included on this trip was turning into a total bonus.  Not that I had cracked one open while underway, but I did notice that Joni had stocked the boat up with a supply of Leinenkugel’s summer variety pack after I had mentioned last week that I had been dying to get my hands on a Berry Weiss at some point.  Not that either of us were expecting this to be a tough job, but it was looking like it was turning into a very nice all inclusive vacation for us.

Since the day had a bit of a late start, I believe we pulled into the bay in Stuart around 2 pm, we were just sneaking into Lake Worth as the sun was about to go down on us.  The guys took care of a few last minute preparations such as getting the dinghy and outboard on deck, while Joni cooked a delicious meal in the galley.  Without much to do myself, and not with the physical ability to do any heavy lifting with the guys, I cracked open one of my Leinenkugels and watched as the sun set over Shamroga, preparing myself for an early night.  With a 2:30 am alarm coming, we were going to need all the rest we could beforehand.

After dinner the four of us went about tucking everything away to make sure that nothing could bounce around or fall down, and checked the weather and tides one more time before tucking in for the night.  I’d forgotten how exhausting a day of simply motoring a boat could be, and was more than ready for bed by the time 9 pm rolled around.

Lake Worth, Florida

Georgie on Shamroga

Matt & Bob raising the outboard

sunset on Lake Worth

It turns out that having a spacious v-berth where you have the room to move about without rolling over on your partner in the process does help one to fall into a quick and deep sleep.  By the time the alarm went off I felt like I had accumulated enough REM to face the next few hours of getting out the inlet before being sent back to bed.  With Joni and I behind the wheel and Matt and Bob raising the anchor, we left Lake Worth  and followed the green and red markers of the ICW toward the Palm Beach Inlet.

With the chart plotter on board giving some issues we were using Navionics between two tablets and one really good flashlight to keep ourselves on course.  It took about an hour to get from the anchorage to the mouth of the inlet, but we were finally on our way!  Engine still on and sails down because we were pointing directly into the wind, Joni and I went below for the first sleep shift while the guys navigated out into the Gulf Stream.  Since the east winds were also pushing waves directly at us that were building up on the shallow banks surrounding the channel it was also quite a bumpy ride for the first hour.  Even though we’d stowed everything away as best we could a few items still found their way out and I even had a book or two crash down on me while sleeping. I felt bad for not getting up right away to put them back, but with it being such an issue with my rib to get from a flat position to a sitting one, I just pushed them to the side to be dealt with later.

When it was time to wake up and go on watch we found that we weren’t making as good of progress as we’d been hoping, only moving at about 3.5 knots.  With the last bits of the Florida shoreline still in sight it didn’t look like we’d be making it to West End by the early afternoon.  More calculations determined that we may not even get there before sunset.  But we did the best we could and just kept plugging along through the rest of the morning and into the afternoon.

Then in the early afternoon, a mini disaster struck.  There were issues with the engine and it had to be shut off asap.  As Matt and Bob went down to inspect the issues they could tell the alternator bracket had broke and something else was causing oil to spew out left and right.  This didn’t look like it was going to be a quick and easy fix.  When it was resolved that we couldn’t use the engine to get ourselves any further, possibly just for getting in  a channel but that’s it, we hoisted the sails to see if the Bahamas were still an option.

Angling ourselves on a SW heading we were able to go close hauled enough to set a course toward West End.  We still weren’t going fast by any means, about four knots once you took out the current working against us, but it was unanimous that we’d still rather make it there slowly than not at all.  It also meant either a night time arrival or slowing ourselves down to arrive at daybreak.  Checking over every single chart we had, Matt and I found an area that looked like it would be safe to anchor for a few hours, just outside the entrance to the Old Bahama Bay Marina where we’d made our reservation.

With some pretty smooth sailing for the rest of the journey and seas dying down to 1-2 ft it was quite an enjoyable ride and we all enjoyed lounging in the large cockpit until it was time for shifts again.  We ended up pulling into the anchorage around 5 am and got ourselves set with no issues.  Stating that we’d be up again in two hours to motor into the marina, that plan went out the window as we all allowed ourselves to catch up on a bit more sleep and enjoy a coffee and breakfast with the beautiful beach in front of us.  But alas, it was eventually time to get ourselves inside the marina and checked in to the country.

As Shamroga was directed in through the channel and into a slip, we found ourselves in hands down the most gorgeous marina I have ever seen.  It was idyllic.  It was picturesque.  It was everything you expect the Bahamas to be from movies and postcards and ads.  Every building was well kept for and painted a bright color, there were white sand beaches with hammocks hanging from palm trees; and the famous clear Bahamian water.  It may have been a lot of work to finally get here, but man was it worth it. A few hours later once all of us and the boat were legally inside, we raised the flag and popped the champagne.  Welcome to the Bahamas baby!!

Shamroga outside of West End

Bob opening champagne

Matt & Jessica, checked into Bahamas

Joni & Bob, checking into Bahamas

Bahamian flag & champagne

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Virgin Islands to Florida Passage: Serendipity’s Last Sail

Thursday March 5, 2015

sunrise on Atlantic

Day 1 – February 24, 2015

  • Winds South 20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 
  • Storms started to come up just as we left the Charlotte Amalie harbor.  About 5 miles out, while Matt was sleeping, the winds shifted and picked up to 35-40 knots, also causing an accidental jibe.  It took me forever to tighten the genoa back in, surprised Matt didn’t come up to see what all the racket was.  Once we rounded St. Thomas the skies cleared and we enjoyed the hills of Puerto Rico in the distance until they eventually faded away.

Day 2 – February 25, 2015

  • Winds South 20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 119 nm
  • We crossed the Mona Passage today!  Except, we were about 100 miles east of it, so I don’t think that really counts.  Glad I pre-made a few meals in Charlotte Amale since I am in no mood to cook.

Day 3 – February 26, 2015

  • Winds South 15-20 knots; Seas 1 meter; 113 nm
  • Matt woke me up 30 minutes early this morning for the best.thing.ever.  Whales!!  Yes!  Right next to our boat was a pod of 3 or so Minke whales!!  They were just checking us out and swimming next to, under, and in front of the boat as if they were dolphins.  A few of them even came so close that if we reached our hand over the side and into the water we could have touched them.  They swam with us for about 30 minutes before leaving, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen.

rainbow over St. Thomas

Minke whale in North Atlantic

Minke whale next to our boat

Minke whale next to our boat

Minke whale

minke whale next to sailboat

Day 4 – February 27, 2015

  • Winds SE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 121 nm
  • How is it that one can sail an ocean in constant 3-4 meter steep seas while cooking meals and de-boning fish, but running with 1-2 meters of spaced out seas, for 4 days now!, is making me feel like I constantly want to puke.  What has happened to my body?!
  • P.S.  We just found out through a satellite phone message that we are now a first time aunt and uncle!  Congratulations to Matt’s brother Travis and girlfriend Jen on their baby girl, Olivia.

Day 5 – February 28, 2015

  • Winds SE 20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 111 nm
  • This is probably one of the best weather we’ve ever had on passage.  Every day the conditions are identical and beautiful.  Sunny skies, moderate winds, and following seas.  We just passed the Turks & Caicos last night, I can’t believe how fast we’re making this passage!

Day 6 – March 1, 2015

  • Winds SSE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-1.5 meters; 115 nm
  • We should be half way done now.  Currently traveling up along the east side of the outer Bahamas, coming up on San Salvador.  To keep time from dragging I told myself that this is the point where I can let myself finally begin counting down the miles to West Palm Beach.

sunrise on the Atlantic

sunrise on the Atlantic

Day 7 – March 2, 2015

  • Winds SE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-1.5 meters; 116 nm
  • And now I’ve begun the constant movie watching on my tablet because there isn’t anything else to do.  You know, the kind you would never normally watch unless there’s no other option?  I’m treating those like there’s no other option.  I kind of forgot how funny Jack Nicholson was back in the late 90’s.
  • P.S.  I also have been reading.  Just introduced myself to Paulo Coelho and read a few of his books, but they can be pretty deep and I’m ready to give my brain a break.

Day 8 – March 3, 2015

  • Winds SE 15-20 knots, Seas 1 meter; 114 nm
  • Today we are finally turning ourselves west into the Northwest Providence Channel of the Bahamas, but we’re having a heck of a time getting in there.  We must be fighting a terrible current because we’ve now fallen to 2.8 knots while under power.  Seriously jealous of those tankers whizzing by us at 18 knots.

Day 9 – March 4, 2015

  • Winds SE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-1.5 meters; 102 nm
  • 24 hours and we will be back in Florida.  I can’t believe our cruising life on Serendipity is just about at an end.  I love her, I honestly do.  And even though I’m not a sentimental person I find myself giving her little hugs here and there.

Day 10 – March 5, 2014

  • Winds SE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 108 nm
  • AM: Wow, things really get crazy on the water the closer you get to land!  Last night we passed by Freeport in the dark but there must have been 10 tankers anchored outside waiting for light to make their entrance.  It was kind of scary passing within a mile or two of them while they were so close and brightly lit up, even though we knew they weren’t moving.  Also had to call another tanker overtaking us this morning to alter course so we wouldn’t come within 200 ft of each other any more.
  • PM: We’re here, we’re here!  Just over 9 full days on the water and we are now anchored in Lake Worth.  It feels so good to be sitting still again and to have a Publix right around the corner to stock up on all the foods I’ve been missing for the past 9 months.  Like Ranch dressing and ground beef.  Mmmm, we’re going to be eating so well again soon.

getting passed by a tanker

West Palm Beach from the water

sunset over Lake Worth

sunset over Lake Worth

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Champange Celebration

Thursday January 15, 2015

champagne celebration at Sint Maarten

After 28 consecutive days on the open ocean, we finally made landfall in St. Maarten this afternoon. Luckily today was the kind of day that we knew we didn’t have to beat the clock and there was no worry if we’d be pulling in after dark and therefore waiting just outside the harbor and staring longingly in while we wait at sea for just one more night. Not only did we have that exciting news to look forward to, but the conditions had finally turned favorable and it was a perfect day for sailing.

Still on a downwind tack, we had winds of 17 knots behind us and swells that had died down to about 5 feet or under. The sun was shinning and there was barley a cloud in the sky. As Matt woke me for my first morning watch at 8 am, we scrutinized our position on the chart plotter and our intended course to Simpson Bay on the Dutch side of Sint Maarten. Coming below St. Barths we would stay in deep water for a longer period and have a better transition into waters going from 10,000 ft to only 150 feet. Realizing that St. Barths was less than 10 miles from us I looked up at Matt and asked if he’d been able to make it out yet on the horizon. Telling me that he hadn’t, I did quick glance around thinking that there would be nothing out there…until I saw this huge peak sticking out of the water on our starboard side. St. Barths….it was the most beautiful thing anyone could see after two fortnights on the water.

In very high spirits now that there was A.) Sunshine for the first time in two weeks, B.) Some of the best sailing conditions we’d ever seen, and C.) A big hunk of paradise in front of my eyes, I went into full tropical preparation mode. At the top of my agenda was making my first cup of non instant coffee in a month. Lana Del Rey blasted out of the speakers and I daydreamed of what the next few weeks will have in store for us.

As St. Barths grew larger and I could make out details of the land I switched to some upbeat Enrique Inglesias and mixed a fruit juice spritzer as I planned land and beach based activities in my head and texted friends via our satellite phone to let them know I had been able to scream ‘Land Ho!’. I was also able to tell them of the mega yachts I’d already been spotting anchored outside of Gustavia Harbor, including Eclipse, the current largest yacht on the market at over 600 ft. I honestly thought it was a cruise ship when I first spotted it until I looked up it’s information through our AIS. Oh yes, we’re playing with the big kids now.

St. Barths from sea

Eclipse at St. Barths

Jessica sailing

When Matt woke up we took our showers in what again had been the first time in about six days. Be very thankful you were nowhere near us on this passages. Showers were so few and far between that our clothes could basically stand up on their own by the time they came off. But today was completely different. The sun was shining, I could keep my balance while using the foot pump in the head, and I even got a shave in. Operation ‘Caribbean-girly’ was in full swing. As I combed out my hair and put on my last bits of eyeliner and mascara I came out into the cockpit to find we were soon approaching St. Maarten.

Coming up from the SE side we were greeted with small cliffs followed by the harbor of Phillipsburg (filled with cruise ships, no thanks), we sailed on in the mid afternoon sun to Simpson Bay. There’s an option to anchor out in the big bay for a small charge or pay to go through the draw bridge and into the lagoon. This seems to be a popular thing to do but held no interest for us. I know I just spent 28 day straight staring at nothing but the big blue ocean, but I still want to keep it close. I miss it’s view if I’m away from it for too long.

I had been a little wary of what we’d find there since the photos in our guidebook were taken with a terrible camera, but we were in love as soon as our anchor hit the sandy bottom. Under our keel was 15 ft of beautiful turquoise water, to our starboard side was open water featuring a golden afternoon sun, and off our port were lush green hills with sandy beaches and resorts lining their foreground.

After breezing through customs and immigration (and having McDonald’s for dinner…I mean, come on. It was right there), we were back at the boat in need of a little R&R. Not before we could celebrate our crossing though. Ever since we left Michigan we’ve been carrying around a bottle of champagne that Matt’s sister had given us, waiting for the perfect occasion to open it. First it was supposed to be our friend Jackie’s 30th birthday in the Bahamas..but that didn’t happen. Then it was supposed to be when we passed the rock of Gibraltar….but that didn’t happen. So, covering 3,100 miles in one go? I think that deserves a toast.

Having picked out what I can only describe as the absolute perfect champagne for us, a Moscato since Matt likes things super sweet, we popped the cork and enjoyed our first hours of stillness in four weeks. Caribbean music floated through our speakers and Georgie delightedly wandered the decks again. Paradise, we have finally arrived.

Sint Maarten from the sea

kissing Georgie in Simpson Bay

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Atlantic Re-Crossing Part II

Wednesday January 14, 2014

Atlantic Crossing January 1

Day 15 – January 1, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 118 nm – 1,447 total
  • Matt was supposed to wake me for a midnight countdown into the new year. He forgot. At the moment he still doesn’t realize it’s New Years. Waves outside are steep and choppy. I wouldn’t call this miserable, but it’s not ideal.

 

Day 16 – January 2, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 114 nm – 1,561 total
  • Nothing much different happening. Didn’t bring much soda on this passage with us we didn’t think it would sound good once we were sailing, but now we’re fighting over the last Pepsi.

 

Day 17 – January 3, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 110 nm – 1,671 total
  • Put on a seasickness patch but I still feel dizzy & sick when I stand up. Tonight we’ll set the clocks back, the first time since we’ve left, since the sun is now rising at 8:30 am.

 

Day 18 – January 4, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 122 nm – 1,793 total
  • Almost broke my foot when I slid off the settee and it wedged itself under the table as I rotated around it. Luckily it’s fine. We saw a big cargo ship this morning visually that never showed up on AIS.

 

Day 19 – January 5, 2015

  • Winds NE 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 124 nm – 1,917 total
  • We haven’t seen the sun in days now. Today there was a squall with winds in the 40’s, but it passed fairly quickly.

 

Day 20 – January 6, 2015

  • Winds E 20-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 126 nm – 2,043 total
  • Showers off and on all day. A few more squalls just like yesterday, but they always leave no wind in their wake for awhile and we bob around with the sail flogging and making a terrible racket.

 

Day 21 – January 7, 2015

  • Winds 30-40 knots; Seas 3-4 meters; 135 nm – 2,178 total
  • Today we had a pressure drop of 4 bars in 2 hours. 3 bars in 3 hours is BAD news. This was REALLY BAD. For a 4 hour period we had winds over 50 knots and seas of over 5 meters (16 ft). Kept rounding up into the wind. Prepared ditch bag and waited to be tossed over. Matt trailed lines and fenders to steady us. One wave we didn’t ride down fast enough and it pooped our cockpit. With quite a force, the wave crashed right into our cockpit. Luckily we were down below with all our boards in, but a fair amount of water still forced itself through the cracks. Winds finally died down into the 30’s.

 

Day 22 – January 8, 2015

  • Wind E 25-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 112 nm – 2,290 total
  • Our days have consisted of nothing but sleeping lately. Between our sleep shifts and naps we’re lucky to spend 2 hours awake together each day.

 

Day 23 – January 9, 2015

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 98 nm – 2,388 total
  • Now is the time that I’m really looking forward to land. I want to sleep through a whole night and I want to be able to take a shower without getting sick. Is that to much to ask for? Less than one week now, hopefully

 

Day 24 – January 10, 2015

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 115 nm – 2,503 total
  • I told myself before that I was done making meals for this passage, now I mean it. I almost cut myself so many times while chopping veggies for pasta salad tonight while a rogue wave would toss us on our side and I’d have to use both hands to hold onto the counter while a knife was dangling out of one.

 

Day 25 – January 11, 2015

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 120 nm – 2,623 total
  • Forecast is looking rough for the next few days. Winds over 25 and seas at 12-25 feet. Aren’t we there yet? Only 400 more miles….

 

Day 26 – January 12, 2015

  • Winds NE 25-30 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 127 nm – 2,750 total
  • Storm didn’t turn out to be as bad as I thought it would be. I wish I would have downloaded more movies on our tablet, I’m getting tired of reading and I’m always left with a bit of a headache.

 

Day 27 – January 13, 2015

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 134 nm – 2,884 total
  • We’ve decided on St. Martin for landfall and only have two days left until we get there. Researching everything we can on the place now. So excited!

 

Day 28 – January 14, 2015

  • Wind E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 107 nm – 2,991 total
  • Getting a little worried about having such high seas and then transitioning to the shallow waters of the Caribbean. But…the weather should actually be dying down for our arrival tomorrow. Here’s to hoping!

Atlantic Crossing January 2

Atlantic Crossing January 3

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December 31, 2014

Atlantic Crossing December 1

Unlike our first Atlantic Crossing, I am not going to break up the posts into 2-3 day sections and regale you with what happened on a daily basis.  I can’t, or every post would go something like this:  ‘Woke up.  Winds were heavy but steady.  Waves were heavy but steady.  I can’t go outside without getting wet.  Prepared meals, napped, and waited for the next day to come‘.

I can do that for you every day if you’d like, but the truth is I’d still like you to come back to our blog every few days and I know that’s not the best way to hook or even keep you.  So instead I will be breaking our crossing into two posts where I’ll get a little technical and give conditions plus milage, and then a little snippet of something that happened that day, just to keep your interest if even just a little bit.

 

Day 1 – December 18, 2014

  • Winds ESE 10-15 knots; Seas 1-2 meters
  • Before leaving, Matt cut his thumb with a drill. No stitches this time; We finally found the sun outside of Las Palmas; Accidentally woke up Matt with the air horn while tacking; Cuddled in the cockpit listening to UB40 while watching the sunset and watched Gran Canaria light up.

 

Day 2 – December 19, 2014

  • Winds NE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 120 nm
  • Still quite cold out, our gauge is showing the water is only 57. That can’t be right. Stayed below deck for most of the day.

 

Day 3 – December 20, 2014

  • Winds ENE 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 125 nm – 245 total
  • Saw a flash in the sky, maybe a supernova? Had to hand feed Georgie her dry food. She wanted the cheese I was eating and kept nudging me, timing her nudges with the rocking of the boat.

 

Day 4 – December 21, 2014

  • Winds ENE 15-20 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 124 nm – 369 total
  • Found a buddy boat. Well, on AIS at least. The first boat we’ve seen outside of Gran Canaria. They’re 36 ft and sailing in the same direction, only 4 nm from us.

 

Day 5 – December 22, 2014

  • Winds NE 12-17 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 115 nm – 484 total
  • Read books and made pasta salad. Without being able to fill our propane in Gran Canaria we have about 1 week’s worth of propane left and have to portion it out.

 

Day 6 – December 23, 2014

  • Winds E 5-10 knots; Seas 0.5-1 meters; 92 nm – 576 total
  • Had a hard time getting a satellite phone signal. With the light winds, tried to lay out on deck and catch a tan. Speeds dropped down to 2 knots.

 

Day 7 – December 24, 2014

  • Winds E 2-6 knots; Seas 0-1 meters; 41 nm – 617 total
  • Drifted in the morning with no autopilot; Made guacamole and enjoyed in the cockpit with a beer; Trimmed my split ends. Not good according to sailing superstitions. I should have known better. Got a text from my dad that storms were on their way.

 

Day 8 – December 25, 2014

  • Winds E 5-10 building to 10-15; Seas 1-2 meters; 60 nm – 676 total
  • Merry Christmas! Warm and productive day. Enjoyed 2 cups of coffee, did a little laundry, and had my first shower since leaving. (Ick, I know). Made a nice chicken and potato dinner. Watched the forecast, we have a depression and front on the way.

 

Day 9 – December 26, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 89 nm – 765 total
  • Day started with lots of wind and growing waves, but it died down by the afternoon. Debated stopping at the Cape Verdes but the weather looks ok for us to continue.

 

Day 10 – December 27, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 1-2 meters; 93 nm – 858 total
  • Went into the night with the spinnaker pole up. At 3 am the winds jumped from 15 knots to 30 and stayed strong until the early afternoon when they died down to 10-15 knots.

 

Day 11 – December 28, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 121 nm – 979 total
  • Changed our course from S to WSW. Matt caught a tuna but lost it before getting it on board. Got seasick and spent the rest of the day in a foul mood, made Matt cook dinner.

 

Day 12 – December 29, 2014

  • Winds E 15-20 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 114 nm – 1,093 total
  • Sick again. Matt left the dishes overnight for me to clean. Thanks Matt. Caught 2.5 ft mahi. Cleaned and filleted it even though I felt like I was going to throw up in the sink.

 

Day 13 – December 30, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 115 nm – 1,208 total
  • Still overcast, still feeling blah. Finally washed my hair for the first time in 5 days. Made a nice chicken, potato, carrot stew for dinner.

 

Day 14 – December 31, 2014

  • Winds E 20-25 knots; Seas 2-3 meters; 121 nm – 1,329 total
  • More of the same. Clouds, strong winds, feeling gross. Read the book Slaughterhouse V. It was…interesting.

Atlantic Crossing December 3

Atlantic Crossing Decdember 2

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Madeira to Canaries

Saturday October 25, 2014

sailing into Canary Islands It feels like we’ve been trying to get out of Maderia forever. Not that we actually want to leave this place, although peaceful anchorages are calling our names and we will be happy to leave the marina life behind once and for all. At least, until we get to Florida next spring and spend quite a bit of time in a marina fixing up our new boat. But as it stands we haven’t felt the gentle sway of being at anchor since our quick stop in Bermuda, and feeling like we’ve been on display to all the tourists and cruise ship passengers that wander past the ‘Dip is starting to get a little old. We haven’t even been sitting in the cockpit because it literally feels like we’re behind the wall in a zoo. Some people have even tried to feed Georgie, as we’ve come out and found bread crumbs on the deck more than once. Yes, it is time to leave, and the weather gods have finally smiled on us and given us a three day window of favorable winds to the Canaries.

Although the swells were confused and coming from every direction as we left the harbor, once we were a few miles out from shore they chose one angle and our ride became much smoother. Having filled the aft cabin with as much Pepsi it could hold and got our hands on the closest thing we could find to Nacho Cheese Doritos (I have to say, ‘queso’ has a broad definition of what kind of cheese is acceptable to pair up with tortilla chips), it was an enjoyable afternoon as we glided out into the great beyond with the sun beating down on us and music floating through the air as we enjoyed our spoils of what we think might be our last modern supermarket for awhile.

While Matt took a late afternoon nap below to prepare himself for the first night watch I was watching the sun get lower in the sky and throw beautiful red hues on the Islas Desertas off to our port side. The sailing was beautiful and it was such a treat after our last passage where nothing was going our way. A huge weight lifted from my shoulders as I had been dreading this trip ever since we docked in Maderia and was ready to tell Matt to find crew to get Serendipity back to Florida while I took a smoother ride back at 35,000 ft. Not actually an option, but this sail was beginning to prove that I could take on the ocean again.

Through the next few days we experienced light winds to none, which meant a bit more motoring than we normally like. Personally I was ok with it though as it meant calm seas and a smooth ride. Exactly what I needed at this point in my life. Even when the winds were lightly floating through at 10-15 knots we had a nice although somewhat slow ride across the water. After having transited the Atlantic at an average speed of 3 knots though, the 4 we were now holding felt like good progress and neither of us minded that the trip would take 3 days instead of 2.5. One more night at sea, but that was fine with us.

The only thing that did get on our nerves was the amount of chatter on the radio. All on channel 16 too, it was ridiculous. None of it was in English, a mix of French, Portuguese, and a bit of Spanish instead, so we never knew exactly what was being said, but it was pretty apparent they were all using it in the way one would chat to friends on a cell phone. Lots of laughing and even the occasional drunk just making random noises. All hours of the day. It became so bad that we eventually had to change the channel just to rid ourselves of it.

Overall the trip passed very quickly with sunny skies and calm nights filled with brilliant stars. On our last night out I was also treated with something I’ve been wanting to see for a few years before we even left for this trip. I have to say that the stretch between Madeira and the Canaries have given us the best phosphorus we’ve seen so far on our travels, which in itself could be mesmerizing for hours as you’d stare at the wake thrown out by the boat. I was doing just this in the middle of my night shift when I heard the familiar sounds of dolphins surfacing and blowing air behind me. Quickly jumping up on the combing I scanned the water to see if I could make them out. For a few minutes they stayed behind the boat, but then I could make out bright blue marks in the water next to me as they caught up and shot forward to the bow, outlining their shapes as they glided by. It was only for a moment, and I’m sad they didn’t stay longer to light up the water next to me for longer, but now I can check one more thing off my bucket list.

The sighting put me into a happy slumber when my shift ended just a little bit later, and before I knew it I was being woken up by Matt as we approached Isla Graciosa and Lanzarote. The sun was just raising in the sky and highlighting all the sharp cones and small volcanoes that the islands are made of. Once more, a stunning welcome back to land. Just a little bit later we pulled into the anchorage of Playa Francesa and nestled ourselves between the fifteen or so other boats already there. Immediately all the hatches and ports were opened up as we let fresh air roll into the boat and and we took up spots in the cockpit enjoying our surroundings. There’s not much civilization around here, but I think a few days of seclusion is just what the doctor ordered. Prescription: filled.

Funchal from the water

Islas Desertas, Madeira

Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Isla Graciosa, Canary Islands

Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa, Canaires

Besteaver in Canary Islands

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La Bella Isla Madeira

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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Longest.Passage.Ever.

Thursday October 2, 2014

calm water on Atlantic

Getting ready to leave Ponta Delgada, and extremely happy for a weather window to get ourselves someplace new, we turned on all the instruments and found the wind to be 14 kts at the docks. Perfect. We could put all sail up and have a nice comfortable ride. Getting into the harbor though, the winds had picked up dramatically, hovering around 25. We still decided to go for a full mainsail, and once that was up, we raised the staysail as well. Shutting off the engine we rocketed out of the harbor at 6 knots. It looked as if the wind strength was in our favor, but the direction however, was not. Coming straight out of the east, almost directly where we needed to go. Now forcing ourselves on a course of 160°, when we had been hoping for 100° or 110°, we moved along SSE, hoping the winds would change in the next few days. Even joking that we should move south to the Canaries and skip the Madeira group all together, we realized we were about 20° too far west of those as well.

For the beginning of this trip and when we were still close to land, I made sure to position myself behind the wheel so I could see any small fishing vessels in the wide harbor as we exited. Sitting in that position I had no protection from the wind, and sat shivering and wearing Matt’s oversized fleece, while keeping my foot positioned on the binnacle so I wouldn’t slide away in these rounds of waves and 15 degree heel. Once we were about ten miles offshore and I was safe in assuming we wouldn’t be passing any more small boats, I finally moved to the protection of the dodger and watched the island of Sao Miguel fade out behind me.

Through the night and into the next morning the winds began dying down a little which made the ride just a bit more comfortable. Then they died out completely. We were off to a less than aspicious beginning. So far we had gone just close enough in the right direction for it not to be considered the wrong direction, and now we weren’t going anywhere. We wanted to try and find out where the wind was hiding at so we could catch it, but the signal we were picking up from our weather fax gave us an image equivalent to an ink blot test and we were left scratching our heads on what it all meant. Luckily we had both my dad and our friend Jason sending us weather reports on our satellite phone, but we didn’t always know when they were coming and wanted to try to get some information from someone who was in the exact same spot as us. Although we’d never done it before we’ve heard that boaters will sometimes hail passing cargo and cruise ships to get weather reports. I was now willing to be one of those boats and spent a full day waiting for one to pass within range.

On Friday, two days out, I saw my first tanker and excitedly hailed them on the radio. Over and over and over I called an no one responded. A few hours later another cargo ship popped up on our AIS. I hailed the very Russian sounding name and was delighted to hear a response…until I asked them if they could give us a weather report and was met with a big fiat ‘Niet’. So we drifted aimlessly along in hopes that the winds would eventually fill in. Sunday they began to pick up a bit more, but of course still on our nose. During the night I was able to call a cargo ship that was kind enough to acquiesce my request for weather, but it was not looking good. Matching the latest update from my dad, taking from Passage Weather, we were in for some heavy wind and waves and not in a direction that was going to be any help for us.

I’ll just give you the short hand over the next few days. Suffice to say that even though we have actually been on passages longer than this, it will still go down in my memory as the longest one we’ve ever encountered. The trip itself was supposed to be about 560 miles, or in anyone’s average traveling, about 5 days. This trip ended up taking us 9!! That’s almost double. During all these days at sea we were barley able to point toward our end target of Porto Santo, Portugal, of the Madeira Island Group. Originally planning on keeping a course of 130° the whole way from Ponta Delgada, we were never once able to come close to it. On good days we were 30-35° off, and most days it was closer to 50 or 60.  There were a few hours, the ones that almost brought me to tears, that we were actually heading either NE or SW, more than 90 degrees off course, because the wind seemed to be coming from every direction we turned. To add insult to injury, the waves were beginning to build and any speed we had been maintaining took a dramatic drop. Punching into the waves, we were left with speeds at or just over 2 knots. This trip was turning into a nightmare.

At the beginning of the trip we had considered just turning ourselves around and waiting for a better weather window, but watching the storm that would undoubtedly pass through every few days, we knew that staying that far north might guarantee us a permanent spot there through the winter. No matter how long or tough it would be, we had to keep pushing south towards fairer weather.

The only part that worried us was the forecast that kept coming in from my dad telling us that things were going to get worse before they got any better. Both wind and waves were going to continue to build, and if we could help it, we should get ourselves into a harbor by Thursday or Friday. Around that time winds would finally begin shifting further east and then north, but they were also going to bring confused seas with them, ambushing us from every direction. Not only that, but going from Thursday into Friday they were going to build up to 4m, or just over 12 feet.

Let me just tell you that things did get worse before they got better. In fact, there was a time for me when things were pretty damn bad. Then… they got pretty damn good. And then they got a little worse again. But that’s a story for tomorrow.

Georgie on passage

 I don’t know how she can even find that comfortable.

sunset while sailing

storm over calm waters

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Atlantic Crossing Part II Day 48: Land Ho!!

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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