Throwback Thursday: From Dock to Shining Dock

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.

This throwback doesn’t leave us very far from our last one, just enough time for us to finally get ourselves off Horta (Faial) and moving to the next island.  If I haven’t mentioned yet in throwbacks, because I know it will probably be the next big one to come, one of the reasons we had been sitting for so long in this area was because we were looking at purchasing a boat back in the States.  Not the one we did end up getting, but a 48 ft aluminum boat in Rhode Island.

As you’ll probably see in a future post, things didn’t work out with that particular boat, but it was enough to keep us by an internet connection (and an airport if need be), day and night.  So until we made the decision to move on, we sat in Horta and decided where our eventual destination would be: Europe, or the US.  Still debating, and with some bad weather in the not to distant forecast, we opted to move 150 miles east to Sao Miguel.  Here’s the post on our ride over, the first sailing we had done in a month, and since crossing 3,000 miles to arrive in the Azores.

You can find the original post here.

Saturday September 6, 2014

9.6.14 (3)

Just as planned, we left Horta on late Thursday after trying to time it just right that we wouldn’t arrive to Ponta Delgada before sunrise a day and a half later. All the laundry had gotten one final wash, last minute e-mails were sent out as if two days were going to be a terribly long time to be away from civilization, and all the last of the provisions that we had purchased for a two week crossing were shoved into every little nook and cranny of Serendipity. All morning I had been watching the barometer, my new favorite hobby, and became increasingly worried as the winds sounded like they were howling outside the marina in the early afternoon. Four weeks of sailing in winds rarely over ten knots still makes me queasy to think of going out in anything over fifteen now. Forget that we cruised the whole Caribbean in 25-30, apparently it’s still taking me awhile to build back up to that.

At 5:00 we tossed off the lines and headed back into open water. Both of us were hoping for a whale spotting out in the channel since we still see tour boats take tourists there every day for just this thing, but we were only left with a slight chop and dramatic views of Pico while nearing golden hour. The pharmacy brand Dramamine I had just purchased during our stay in Portugal seemed to be doing it’s job, and as we carried swiftly along at five knots under a reefed main and partial jib, I was able to reheat some pasta for dinner without getting sick from the motion down below.

All morning I had been worried that I’d slept in too late and wouldn’t be anywhere close to sleeping when 8 pm came along, but just like Matt says, something about being on a boat instantly wants to lull you to sleep. Just after the sun went down and I had finished cleaning the dishes I was happily falling asleep in my bunk. The rocking was fairly gentle and there was no trouble falling back into old habits.

9.6.12 (1)

9.6.14 (2)

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Sometime during my four hours of sleep I heard the wind pick up and Matt roll in the headsail. From what I could tell we were still moving along at a decent pace and since there was no cursing or frantic movements I assumed whatever storm might be coming up on us wasn’t too bad and I quickly drifted back off. When I got up for my shift at midnight I found out that what felt like moving swiftly along to me was us only powering along at 2.5 knots. Our old friend. After getting a rundown from Matt he told me that while we were in the lee of Pico the wind had been a little schizophrenic and was not only constantly changing direction, but changing speed as well. He had just gone from 15 to 30 down to ten all within an hour. When I came up they were hovering around 12 and the wind was coming from our beam.

Just as Matt was settled into bed and I was left on my own the winds decided to shift yet again to begin to come more on our nose and forcing me to point closer and closer to Pico. It was fine for awhile, but we wanted to stay at least five miles offshore, if just for the katabatic winds alone, and finally I had to point us directly south just so we could put some distance between us once more. During the rest of my shift the winds finally started to back more to our port side and I was able to put on on a course toward Sao Miguel. The winds had also picked up to the 25-30 range, with wild thunderstorms off in the distance, but as it looked like they were headed away from us and we were only working under a reefed main, I didn’t put too much worry into it. The constant drizzle of rain we did get though was a bit annoying and by 4 am I was more than happy to take my place back in my bunk.

By morning the skies had cleared of storm clouds and we were just left with puffy cumulus balls and winds hanging around 20-25 knots. Our pace was pathetic, holding at just over 3 knots, and I began to wonder if instead of getting to Ponta Delgada by sunrise the next day, if we’d even get there before sunset. If there’s one thing I can not stand (ok, there’s actually a lot, but this is a major one), it’s getting within just a few miles of port when the sun sets and having to wait it out until the next morning to get in. Nope. That was not going to fly with me this time. When Matt woke up from his shift I let him know that winds had died down to 20-22 knots, and I know we’d been super cautious since our storms off Florida, but maybe we could think about putting out the headsail to gain ourselves some speed. We used to sail in this kind of weather all the time, right?

When I asked I thought we’d just be putting it partially out, I still felt like being a little cautious, but Matt was fine with letting the whole thing out. He didn’t see any more storm on the horizon and since it was day we should see any new ones coming from far away. As soon as the sail was let out and trimmed in we set off like a rocket. Our speed jumped from 3.2 knots up to 6.5 as the ‘Dip heeled over at a nice 10-15°. For a moment I sucked in my breath. We hadn’t seen speeds like this in a long time and I don’t even remember the last time we had a nice heel. But then I realized…we’re fine. This is what the ‘Dip is meant to do. This is what she used to do all the time before we became too scared to let her get into her groove after one too many squalls on our crossing.

For the rest of the day she stayed in her groove, speeding along at 6.5-7 knots, and even though we’d definitely made up the lost time we wondered if we might still get to our destination a little too early. When the sun was going down we rolled the headsail back in and went to cover the last 50 miles at a steady 4 knots. With the nights getting colder I spent my 12am-4am shift comfortably settled into the settee below while running up for checks every 15 minutes. Being less than 40 miles from the island at the time I spent my shift using my MP3 player to scan for decent radio stations, delighted when I found them although each station seemed to have quite an eclectic mix ranging from brand new Coldplay to 90’s Mariah Carey to turn of the millenium techno.

It was me who was in the cockpit once again as we approached the island just after sunrise. The last 10 miles seemed to take forever, not bringing us to the harbor until 11 am, but the sights as I watched us come in were well worth the wait. The SW side of the island is edged with sheer cliffs while rolling green hills followed, turning into the white buildings with coral colored roofs that we’ve come to know so well. For the last hour into the harbor I was treated to one of the best and longest dolphin shows I think I’ve ever had in my life. Plus this was a completely new species that we hadn’t come across before! Pods and pods of saddle back dolphins swam alongside the boat and tried to get views of it’s newest visitors. The whole thing actually went on for so long that I went from excited jumping, to snapping about a hundred photos, to peeking my head over the side while I enjoyed my coffee, to completely ignoring them. They just would not go away.

Once we were about two miles away from the entrance to the inner harbor I finally woke Matt up and we tried to find this elusive entrance in the massive bay. Eventually locating the itty bitty red marker that stood on the breakwater we fired up the engine and began to head in. It was strange when we pulled up to the fuel dock that there was no one working it, but we just tied up and headed inside the building. After talking to the local authorities that have an office inside we found out that we’d just crossed into low season and the marina is not open on Saturdays and Sundays. They told us just to grab any open slip and come back Monday morning to check in. Parking Serendipity in the new part of the marina (anchoring is banned here too, argh!!), we took a slip that’s probably meant for a 60 ft boat, but as they’re currently at about 20% capacity, we didn’t think it would matter.

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Throwback Thursday: The Leibster Award

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.

After our absolutely amazing scooter tour of Faial, we fell back into a pattern for a little while of just hanging around Serendipity, the marina, and the little park that sits across from it.  There was the morning we went to the lookout over Porto Pim, which gave spectacular views to the little town we’d been calling home for the past few weeks; and I also put together a compilation of photos of all the beautiful sights we’ve been coming across here.  During more time sitting around on the boat, taking in the views of the volcanic Pico across from us, and sipping on Super Bock, I went back and did a few posts about our Atlantic Crossing, one answering a few questions from readers, and another putting together a video of our time at sea.

When my birthday rolled around and we were still in Horta (I expected us to be back to sea at that point), I took advantage of the situation and we had a nice dinner overlooking Porto Pim.  At least, the view was nice. The food itself was another story.  With our departure date still up in the air I took to wandering around new parts of Horta each day, and finally getting myself up early enough one day for a sunrise walk around the town.

Another great thing about our indecisive plans at this point is I was still around when we received our Leibster Award, something passed around from blogger to blogger.  A great chance for people to answer questions from bloggers and pass on the award with new questions of their own.

You can find the original post here.

MJ Sailing's Leibster Award

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Matt & Jessica at Nazca LInes

Can you roll your tongue or wiggle the end?

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

 

What is your favorite restaurant in the whole world?

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

Serendipity in Port Antionio

 

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

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

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

 

What are you favorite meals to cook while sailing?

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

 

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

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

West Harbor, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Our buddy boat armada in Port Antonio, Jamaica

 

Where is your dream destination?

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

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

 

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

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

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

Vesper sailing

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

 

Would you please describe your best sailing day ever?

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

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

Read our full post on it here.

Comer Channel Bahamas

Cruising clear Bahamian waters with s/v Rode Trip.

 

I would like to nominate:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

My questions for you:

Explain yourselves. Take that to mean however you wish.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Opt out questions for our non sailing friends:

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

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

 

Throwback Thursday: Land Ho!

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post  here.

Wednesday August 6, 2014

Faial, Azores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Faial, Azores, Portugal

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

Matt & Georgie coming in to Horta

Horta, Faial, Azores

Monte da Guia, Faial, Azores

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Horta Harbor, Azores

Horta fuel dock, Azores

Horta insignia

Horta harbor at dusk, Azores

 

Throwback Thursday: Alien Encounters

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.

Since the last TT, there has been a lot that’s happened, yet at the same time, nothing.  All of these days were spent at sea, sometimes getting a little monotonous, but somehow I managed to find something special in each one.  One of the most important to mention is I found out, I actually like sailing!  When conditions are right and I’m the only one awake and tending to sails, figuring it all out on my own.

We also found ourselves in the middle of a front, which did increase our speeds for awhile, bought also brought some very uncomfortable conditions with it.  12 ft seas that would constantly crash against the side of our hull as it rained and misted outside, us miserable down below deck.  Not only were we dealing with that, but we also found out there was a stationary gale with 40 knot winds sitting between us and Horta.  Rather than going for one crazy ride that we didn’t know how well we’d make it out of, we opted to change course and make miles south and out of harms way.

Lastly, is that we had our first winged visitor on board.  A little song bird that landed on our lifelines to rest for awhile, which I’m sure it needed since we over 500 miles from any land.  We were enjoying it’s company and beauty…until Georgie decided it needed to leave.  She attacked the poor bird before we even knew what was happening.  Prying it from her mouth, we thought it would recover, although sitting in a makeshift hospital bed we made for it, it did not survive through the night.

Which leads us to tonight’s post.  Strange lights out on the water in the middle of nowhere.  What were they and where did they come from?  We’ll never know…

You can find the original post here.

Thursday July 31, 2014

I’m not going to lie, it’s starting to get really hard (and boring, probably for all of us) for me to come up with something to put for every single day of this crossing.  So until we make landfall, I’m only going to put down things that are worth putting down.  And then hopefully, just hopefully, I can start getting pictures and stories up of what I’m assuming is amazingly beautiful Horta.

On that note though, something happened that I thought was kind of cool and noteworthy.  Today we crossed a spot on the globe where we had the exact same coordinates for latitude and longitude.  I wonder how often that happens for people?  I obviously haven’t done a lot of research on the subject, but it seems like a lot of areas covered by land (or at least the United States) are higher than 80 degrees West, meaning there is no matching latitude.  So to find numbers close enough to match pretty much means you’re going to be over water.  Maybe something random I can add to my bucket list?  Seems like a cool enough accomplishment.

matching latitude and longitude

Oh, and if you can tell from the photo, we’ve now passed the stationary gale (which has all dissipated now) and we can begin heading north and directly toward Horta again!

 

Friday August 1, 2014

There’s just something about me and night shifts and strange lights. Don’t get me wrong, that fireball I spied just a few days outside of Bermuda was probably a once in a lifetime sight that I’ll never forget and may be worth crossing the Atlantic for itself (mayb-be), but the past few nights seem to be surprising me with questionable lights amidst the dark. Yesterday morning around 2 am I was popping my head up on deck between relaxing with my podcast on the comfortable settee below to see what looked like a flashlight beam oh so briefly shine on our American flag flapping at the stern. There is nothing on the boat that could have illuminated it at that angle so brightly unless Matt decided to sneak up behind me with an actual flashlight, unnoticed by me, while I still stood on the steps. Very unlikely. As my heart quickly jumped into my throat I thought it was another boat trying to identify us, but after frantically searching the horizon and then turning to the radar, we were the only thing out there. Alien encounter? Apparently once they realized we were American it was enough to make them leave us alone.

Which brings me to this morning’s odd light. More astrological than extraterrestrial, but still startling nonetheless. It was moments into my 12-4 am shift when I was just climbing up the steps to do a cursory glance before my more in depth check that would be coming up in ten minutes (what can I say?, I like to stick to my schedule), the sky directly in front of us suddenly lit up as if the deck light had been thrown on. In the split second it took my mind to register that this shouldn’t be happening I saw a very bright greenish-white sphere fall from the sky leaving a bright trail behind it. My first thought was ‘Oh my god, it’s a flare!!’. Although from what I’ve been told, flares are red or orange and nothing else. But this was close! As in, someone must be lighting off fireworks next to our boat close. Surely it couldn’t be a meteor?

Quite startled and still not fully registering what had just happened in the two seconds it took to happen I let out an audible and nervous “Ummm….” as Matt was still settling himself into bed. Asking what was the matter I told him that I’d just seen a very bright light that looked flare-like just ahead of us, and as he raced to untangle himself from the sheets he had just slipped under, I added “But it was greenish-white”, knowing that his first thought would be that someone in a life raft was trying to alert us to their existence. By now my head was finally wrapping itself around the fact that it probably was a meteor. Just a very, very close meteor, and that there was no need to worry. Not taking any chances though, he dove into full rescue mode, not wanting to risk the possibility of missing someone out there trying to signal us. Asking me question after question of exactly where I’d seen the light, how close it was, and what kind of shape it took, he set about trying to figure out our drift and trajectory while trying to find out when and how close we’d come to the source of the light After ten minutes of more horizon scans, scrutinizing the radar, and follow up questions such as ‘If it were you, how long would you wait to set off a second flare?’, I assured him that, as amazing and unlikely as it was, I think we were just incredibly close to a meteor that happen to be falling in this vast ocean that we’re traveling. He finally relented and went back to bed as I promised to stay up there for a while longer, keeping an eye out for any more lights or loud signaling noises.

In non-astrological news, we’re continuing our path directly north as we ride the east winds before they shift east in the next day or two and force us to turn directly east instead. So close and yet so far away. I keep focusing on the miles remaining as the crow flies, wishing we could take that same direct path, trying to count down our arrival based on those numbers, but instead preparing myself for yet another day or possibly two at sea on top of my predictions because we’re forced to travel at 90 degree angles instead. The pressure is still steadily rising, now at 1022, 10 mb higher than we were 48 hours ago, and I guess I should just be grateful for having any wind at all as we make our way into yet another high pressure system.

In more exciting news, I saw another sailboat today. What??!! I honestly didn’t think that would happen until we were within 20 miles of Faial. For some reason this sight makes me extremely giddy. We’re not alone out here, the only thing under 400 ft and carrying cargo. Part of me wants to call them up on the VHF just to say hi and find out where they’re going. Possibly get a little encouragement from someone out here that’s just as crazy as us. Another voice to say, ‘Yup, we’re right there with you’. Except, knowing our luck, they’d come back with, ‘You’ve been out how long??!! We just left the states two weeks ago. You must be traveling extremely slow’. Yup, that’s a much more likely scenario. Maybe they won’t get a call after all.

Atlantic sunset

Throwback Thursday: Fish On!

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.

This week we happen to be on the road, or on the water doing a delivery actually, so the backstory will have to wait until I can get back to my computer with internet access.

You can find the original post here.

Monday July 14, 2014

I hate to admit to myself, but mostly you, how very easy it is to become incredibly lazy on a passage. The sad part is that it has nothing to do with fear of seasickness or of moving around the boat too much. It’s just your everyday garden variety of ‘It is so much easier to sit here and do absolutely nothing than to put effort into anything at all’. Which is probably why we’ve let ourselves drift along at this sad pace, achieving an average of 2.5 knots of speed. Today though, that had to change. It was time to bring out the spinny. I have to confess, it probably would have come out sooner had it not been for our dinghy blocking the forward hatch where we’d normally feed it out of the v-berth, but now we have to drag it back an extra five feet to feed it out of the other hatch. Either way, we finally got up the motivation today to give it a try.

It wasn’t even until late afternoon that we were able to give it a shot because of our sleep schedules. That’s the real kicker of these passages. By the time both of us are finally awake it’s normally two in the afternoon, and once we have the energy to actually do anything it’s already creeping past four or five. Which gives me a good two hours to be productive before it’s time to make dinner and then go to bed. So just like any other mostly lazy day, the spinnaker was not brought out until five in the afternoon.

*I should quickly mention that even though we’ve passed through about two time zones now, we have yet to change our clocks. Part of it is to do with keeping a schedule that allows Matt to be awake at the right times to download our weather, and the other part is, well, laziness. Whichever way you look at it though, it’s been leaving us with 4:30 am sunrises and 6:30 pm sunsets.

Just as the sun was starting to make it’s evening decent into the sky we were finally running the lines to the cockpit, hoping to get a good 2-3 hours of flying it before it was time for me to go to bed and it would need to be taken down. There is just no way that thing is worth messing around with in the dark.  Winds were currently holding at 6-8 knots, and although raising the spinnaker would not send us flying along, we thought it would be enough to hopefully kick us up to 3.5 knots. Something has to be better than nothing, right? I won’t call what happened next Murphy’s Law, but I’ll just call it Our Luck. We had just gotten the spinny raised and flying perfectly when the wind took a dip. Our 6-8 knots turned to 5-6, and then eventually 3-5. We kept it up for about 30 minutes, hoping a nice breeze would come by to fill it in, but it never did. So back down it came. It looks like we really will be completing this leg of the crossing at 2.5 knots.

 

Oh, I also had the shock of my life when I was on my shift last night and I heard a loud and expected clunk just feet from where I was sitting. I checked all the lines with a flashlight to make sure nothing had snapped, but I couldn’t see anything wrong. It wasn’t until I came back out during daylight that I was able to see fish scales sitting on the vinyl of the dodger. That must have been a pretty good jump! There was no body left on deck though, or trust me, Georgie would have found it.

fish scales on dodger

 

Tuesday July 15, 2014

Did this day actually exist in history? Because I don’t remember anything happening.

fish swimming next to boat

fish swimming next to boat

 

Wednesday July 16, 2014

Today was shaping up to be yet another forgettable day on Serendipity with only 550 miles under our keel since leaving Bermuda just over a week ago. I had my morning coffee, Matt was realizing a few things he messed up while working on boat projects yesterday (look, I did remember something!), and we were just settling into the cockpit and preparing to open our gift de jour. Having set it aside for a quick shower though, I went on deck to dry myself in the early afternoon sun when I noticed a familiar electric blue light passing through the water. “Matt”, I yelled to the back of the boat, “Our mahi is back”. Not the same one that escaped us before I’m sure, but one worth trying to catch nonetheless. Untying our hand reel from it’s normal stationary position at the stern, Matt brought it to the front of the boat as I tried to keep an eye on the large fish that was doing laps around our boat.

Conditions were once again incredibly calm as we drifted along on glass calm waters. As soon as I spotted the mahi was making it’s round from the back of the boat and toward us again, Matt threw the multi-colored lure in the water just in front of it. That fish didn’t even have time to think about what was happening, it just saw something land an inch from it’s face and went to nibble on it. We’d just caught our mahi! The question now was, could we keep it this time?

Without any time to prepare for actually catching a fish since I’d literally spotted it about 90 seconds earlier, we were in no way ready when we landed it. Matt began pulling it in toward the boat while I quickly ran to the back to grab the gaff. Food was beginning to get low and there was no way I was going to let this meal get away. Approaching Matt again with the sharp hook in my hand, he explained that he was going to hand the line over to me while he gaffed the fish and brought it on deck. Hearing about exhausting fights that other fishers have put up with while trying to bring in these powerful fish, I braced myself against the gunnel to keep myself from ending up in the water and getting dragged half way to Horta. Surprisingly though, there was no struggle.

At least, not until we got it on deck. Suddenly it began flexing it’s powerful muscles as it’s massive body started flipping all over the place. I had not been prepared for this and had no idea what to do next. I guess I assumed the gaff would kill it. Matt wasn’t quite sure what to do either and things were not handled well on either side. He began barking orders at me as I’m running around screaming ‘I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know!’. What makes matters even worse is that he can tend to get flustered in these kind of situations where he’s all anxious but can’t tell me what he wants. “Get me the…uh…you know…the…the thing!!”. “What effing thing?! I don’t know what you need!”. “It’s the…uh..just get me a hammer..quick!!”.

So I fly down the steps and into the aft cabin where we now have two bags full of Matt’s tools, and I can not find the hammer in either one. I am now beyond anxious and pissed myself. Stomping (quickly) back up the stairs I yell at him “Your effing hammer is not in the effing tool bag, you need to start putting your s&%t away!”*, as the mahi is partially listening to our heated conversation and partially fighting for it’s life. “Just get me the damn winch handle”, he called back, ready to end this in any way possible. Snatching a spare one out of our combing I ran it up to him, a few hard smacks to the head later, this fish was definitely not going anywhere.

Pulling out our fillet knife and the Cruiser’s Handbook of Fishing, all the while trying to keep Georgie confined to the cockpit, we cleaned our first fish caught by anything other than a pole spear. I’m not counting those barracuda we threw back in the Bahamas, or, tear, that mackerel we mistook for one.  Most of it was bagged and frozen, but I can tell you one thing.  I am having fresh fish for dinner tonight.

*This conversation is actually kind of hilarious because a.) We normally never yell or swear at each other and b.) if we do, it’s Matt yelling at me to put my things away because I never do.

Matt with mahi

filleting mahi

fresh mahi fillets

 

Throwback Thursday: This Could be Paradise

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post here.

Sunday June 30, 2014

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

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

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

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

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

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

Water Street, St. George, Bermuda

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

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

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

St. Peter's Church, Bermuda

unfinished church, St. George, Bermuda

Jessica & unfinished church, Bermuda

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

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

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

Tabacco Bay, Bermuda

Matt at Tabacco Bay

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

Fort St. Catherine, Bermuda

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

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

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

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

Matt in Bermudian fort

Just a little to the left.

Bermudian fort, entrance St. George's Harbor

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

Serendipity in St. George's Harbor, Bermuda

Throwback Thursday: Birthday Celebrations on the High Seas

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

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post here.

Saturday June 21, 2014

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

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

Atlantic surface analysis

Atlantic wind & wave forecast

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday June 22, 2014

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

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

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

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

Matt on his birthday

 

Monday June 23, 2014

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

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

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

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

rainbow after storm

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post here.

Thursday June 12, 2014

6.12.14 (1)

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

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

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

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

6.12.14 (2)

6.12.14 (3)

6.12.14 (4)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Throwback Thursday: A Letter to my Family

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

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

Our time in Miami while we were prepping ourselves for our Atlantic crossing was extending itself a little further into the future than we had wanted, but during that time we had plenty to keep us busy, including boat projects that kept piling up one after another.  As soon as we finished one of them we found at least one or two new ones that needed addressing.

When we did have a little free time on our hands while waiting for parts and other things to be shipped to us, we managed to catch a bus and make the two hour ride out to Key Biscayne to visit our good friends Ana Bianca and Alfredo that we became very close with during our time in Guatemala.  With both of them currently residing in Miami, there was no way we could pass up the chance to see them while we were all so close.

Then my little Freak Out post came back to haunt me.  It turns out we had never let our family in on the poor weather conditions at the time or that we were having hesitations about departing.  As far as they knew, we were still honky dory and about to head out into open waters.  They had their reservations about us going, and what parent wouldn’t be a little worried?  But to hear that we were freaking out as well?  And to find it out from a blog post?  Well, I had to send a little letter out to remedy that.

You can find the original post here.

Friday May 30, 2014

Matt & Jessica 2

 Don’t worry about us, we’re all smiles now.

(Photo courtesy of Lahowind)

 

Ha, what was I thinking posting something on the blog last week about having a major meltdown about our Atlantic crossing without sharing any of my hesitations with my parents first?  Here they are sitting at home, thinking everything is fine and we’ll still be leaving in just a few days time, and then BAM, they see something online with me basically running in circles yelling ‘Oh my god, We’re going to die!!’.  Yeah, not one of my smarter moves.

The good thing about getting that blog post up though was so any future ocean crossing cruisers know they’re not alone when that ‘Oh s%*t, what the hell are we doing?!’ moment comes up.  If you stop and think twice about your actions and if you’re doing the right thing, then you can know you’re not alone.

The other reason, and I think I knew this before I published it, is that by publishing it, it would help bring me a little perspective.  In all honesty, I know we’ll be ok, whatever we decide to do.  If it’s to wait for the perfect weather window and cross the Atlantic, try for that but find ourselves running down to Grenada instead, or deciding that the Atlantic just isn’t in the plans for us this year.  I needed to actually hear other people telling us that we’d be ok.  And the support and positive energy you’ve all sent our way has been amazing.   I feel a new vigor like we can actually handle this, and any nerves I had before have now given way to excitement.

With that being said though, it still doesn’t make up for freaking out my family like I did.  I’m sorry family.  Don’t worry about us.  We’ll be smart in our planning and always trust our gut.  And just to smooth out any wrinkles and ease any worry that my previous post might have caused, here’s a follow up on the subject.  A response I sent to my dad after getting a ‘Why didn’t you tell us what’s been going on?!’ email from him that will also let all of you know our most up to date plans:

 

Hi dad.  Sorry to freak the rest of the family out with my ‘Freaking out’ blog post.  I did want to contact you and mom about our most recent plans, but we’ve still been trying to figure out what they are.  Our departure date of June 1st is totally out the window now, so we’ll be around here a few more days.  (Don’t ever think I’d leave without letting you know!).  There’s actually a number of things keeping us here for about a week longer than expected.

  •   Georgie.  Nope, everything did not go according to plan there. Getting her into the EU seems like one of the hardest projects we’ll ever have to tackle. There was never specific information online about exactly what we needed (or maybe there was too much and I couldn’t make sense of it) and the vets we had talked to before seemed clueless about what was actually needed, only giving us small tidbits of information here and there, so that when we showed up at the USDA yesterday it turns out we did not have all the papers that were required.  Everything we found before (and what the vet in Fort Lauderdale told us) is that we just had to show up to the USDA with an up to date health certificate.  Which we got from the vet in Guatemala, and then added the record of Georgie’s rabies titer test.  It turns out that we needed to visit a certified vet one more time within 10 days of our departure for them to say that she’s healthy, has all of her shots, and THAT’S what we bring to the USDA.  So now we have another vet appt for Georgie on Monday, can drop the paperwork off to the USDA right after, and pick up the signed and notarized copy the next day.

 

  •   We’re missing a few shipments.  Last Thursday we ordered a lot of things from this online boating store, things that we needed in order to complete projects on the boat before we could leave, like caulk to make sure we fix whatever leaks we’ve been finding.  Ones that we’ve been able to semi-ignore in the past but shouldn’t for an ocean crossing.  We even paid extra for 2 day shipping so that we’d have it by the weekend and get right to work.  Well, that package hasn’t gotten to us yet and is now actually missing.  We put in a claim with the USPS, but we think we’ll just have to get reimbursed for the money of what was inside.  It looks like on Monday when we rent a car to take Georgie to the vet we’ll also have to swing by West Marine and buy all the stuff that was in the box just so we have it in our hands.  Then, we need about 3-4  rain-free days to complete those projects.

 

  •  The weather.  That was what my worry in the freak-out blog post was mostly about.  Not so much the two other boats that were lost and thinking for sure it would happen to us.  As everyone is telling me, hundreds of boats successfully make the crossing each season, it’s just the ones with problems that make the news.  One of the boats that was abandoned actually had issues last summer and lost their rudder, the same exact boat that made us go through and put an emergency rudder in after hearing what happened to them.  I won’t go too far into it, but it may be questionable if that boat was sound enough to handle that kind of crossing.

So..more with the weather…this past winter seems to have screwed up global weather patterns and things seem to be settling in later than normal.  The kind of weather we’re seeing out there right now is typical in that area for March or April, but not for late May.  We’d never leave unless we were 100% confident about ourselves and the passage, which is also part of what that post was about.  A prelude in case we end up in Panama or the Eastern Carribean.  Not too likely, but we need to have backup plans and I thought I’d introduce the possibility of them now so no one is thrown a curve ball in case we one day show up a few thousand miles from where we originally thought we’d be.  ‘Hey, guess what we just decided today on a whim….we’re going to Panama!!’.

Something I’ve been keeping my eye on, and Matt has actually come around to the idea in the past day or two as well, is to go much further south than we originally planned.  The only thing that had us hesitating to still make the Atlantic crossing is the bad weather that’s been starting off the NE coast of the US, near NY and CT, and then making it’s way east out into the Atlantic.  Most of it dissipates about 500-600 miles off shore though.  The original plan was to ride the Gulf Stream north of Bermuda and then start cutting NE where the North Atlantic current runs, a route normally followed due to trade winds and currents.  What we’re now looking at doing is waiting for a window of 4-5 days of south wind off Miami and then get just north of the Bahamas and cut east.  We’d follow that for the 500 miles or so that all the bad weather has been happening above us, and then turn NE toward the Azores.  Normally people don’t do this because there are constant east winds in that area making it almost impossible to head in that direction, but with a few good days we should be able to do it and it should help us avoid all the depressions off the east coast that have been causing us to worry.

So, that’s all that we’ve been up to lately.  Sorry to freak anyone into thinking we’re certainly going to perish out there.  We’ll constantly have weather updates at our fingertips and are hoping to be able to send short texts from our satellite phone every couple of days giving our location and letting you know we’re ok.

 I don’t know when our new departure date is, but I’ll make sure to call you before we go.

 Love, Jessica 

 

 

Throwback Thursday: I am FREAKING Out Here People!

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

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

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

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

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

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

You can find the original post here.

Tuesday May 20, 2014

waves b&w

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

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

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

front over Bermuda

front over Azores

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

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

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

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

preferred weather

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

 

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