Sunday, December 30, 2018

Atlantic Crossing: The Journey

Crossing started off beautifully!
We left Gomera around 1pm and set off for Barbados. These are the notes Stef kept along the way.
Every day around noon GMT time, we checked in via the sat phone with all the boats in our crossing group. We marked their positions on the chart plotter, as well as our own. It was nice to see the progress each day.

Crossing notes:
12/9: Left in the afternoon, around 1-1:30pm. Flew Parasailor for a bit and put it away at sunset. Ran with the main and jib overnight. Kids did school while dinner was cooking. Dinner was spaghetti bolognese, fresh baked bread, and salad. We are all excited to start this journey!

12/10: Sailing in light winds, flew wing on wing. Ran water maker, did laundry, showers, cleaned up the boat. Fast sailing. Had omelets for breakfast. Kids did school. Lunch was southwestern chicken tacos with fresh veggies. Started in on reading new books and playing board games. No fishing has started yet, as the fridges and freezers are stocked full! Dinner was burgers and potato salad. All calm throughout the day and into the night.  Bioluminescence!

12/11:  Stef created a scavenger hunt for the kids with clues hidden all around the boat. The prize was a small lego set.  Nice day sailing.

12/12: Fast sailing to start and then we slowed down as the seas began to build. Flew Parasailor (BIG RED) all day and doused around 1am, due to the winds picking up to 25 knots true wind speed (TWS). Breakfast: french toast Lunch: leftovers Dinner: meatloaf and mashed potatoes with salad.

12/13: Seas large and confused. Flying the main, speed 6-7 knots. So stoked as we hit 8-9 knots, depending upon the gusts and as we surfed down the waves. Wind about 16-17 tws.
3-4 meter waves behind us, some come from different directions. We cleaned out the white ice chest today and transferred everything over to the gray Dometic one. Everything else went into the freezer. White ice chest is now just for drinks storage and things that don't need to stay cold. Ran water maker, did a load of laundry, showers, etc. Breakfast was oatmeal with diced apples and cinnamon. Kids finished school early today, before I came on watch! Lunch: leftovers with salami and cheese, etc. We played a round of Monopoly. We will have pizza tonight and grill some chicken, as we need to start using up the meat. Pesto grilled chicken pizza, chorizo and cheese pizza, and plain cheese pizza. Flew Big Red until around 11pm, when the wind picked up. Our watch schedule for the night starts at 7pm and we do 3 hour shifts. Works well so far.

12/14: Overcast day, gray with a little bit of blue sky showing. We've had Big Red flying since around 8am this morning. Swell is all over the place, rocking the boat. Not getting any good sleep. Wind is between 11-13 knots, swell confused, speed 7-8 knots. Made cinnamon coffee cake for breakfast and a loaf of bread. Been up since 4am, because I just couldn't get to sleep. The sideways motion of the boat as we surf down the waves is not the most comfortable down in the cabin. Drinking a lot of coffee today!

12/15: Jared and I were asleep and Matt on watch, when we hear Matt call us up. Around midnight, the metal clip on the halyard failed, causing Big Red to fall into the sea and go under the boat. I quickly turned off windvane mode and set autopilot to standby. The props were already folded (which I think saved the sail from damage). After drifting for a bit and working out the problem, we let all the lines loose as Jared had grabbed a hold of part of the sail. Jared was clipped in near the sugar scoop and as he would pull up a handful of the sail, Matt and I would assist. Slowly and carefully, we got everything back on board. An hour later, we were sitting in the cockpit cleaning up the lines and setting the sail aside until daylight. I took over watch while the guys cleaned up. After I grabbed some sleep off shift, Jared and I set about inspecting the sail and wiping off the water. No damage!!! We stopped around lunchtime as Jared had to climb the mast to retrieve the halyard. This was not easy in the big swell and he came down with some nasty bruises. Fortunately, he is ok and we have our halyard back! He cut off the damaged clip and end of the line. Our son Matthew has this in his cabin as a keepsake now.
For the rest of the voyage, until we can get a new clip, we will tie a bowline to the sock.
We relaunched Big Red a few hours later and were back in business! Yay! Bright sunshine today and gorgeous blue water. The rays of the sun filter down into it and makes for a lovely scene. We are all still in amazement that Big Red is ok!
Lots of flying fish around the boat. Wind died around 5pm, so we doused Big Red and flew the jib and mainsail. Motored a little overnight as the wind died off. Lunch was Asian chicken salad with ramen noodles. Dinner was chicken stir-fry with noodles.

12/16: Caught a huge mahi-mahi and had a great dinner! Lovely day sailing, despite the bumpy seas. Tossed all plants (except aloe vera plant) as they were not doing well at sea and had developed a white mold. Plus we noticed little gnats in the soil. Can't have that when we check into Barbados, so it was a good cleaning up day. We changed our watch schedule to start at 8pm, as it is getting darker later. We alternate during the day between napping, being on watch, reading, playing games, checking the kids' schoolwork, etc. It is pretty relaxing. Relaunched Big Red as the wind came back.

12/17: Jared's birthday today! Great day with calm following seas and good wind. We caught two more mahi-mahi, but let them go as they were a bit small. Ran the water maker (we always keep one tank full and run it when the other gets close to empty, then we switch tanks. This ensures we always have a full tank of water in case the watermaker has issues). We do laundry when the water maker is running. Washed all the bedding and towels. Felt good to get all of that accomplished. They dry quick in this wind!
Breakfast: biscuits and gravy Lunch: salami, cheese, crackers, trail mix, and mixed snacky stuff. We were still sort of full from breakfast.
We had moussaka for dinner with cucumber and tomato salad drizzled with balsamic vinegar. Big birthday cake: 2 layer vanilla cake with raspberry filling; frosting was vanilla buttercream with shaved coconut and chocolate. We also brought out the ice cream we had hidden in the back of the freezer for reaching 1/2 way! We took out 3 of the containers: raspberry mango sherbert, strawberries and cream, vanilla caramel brownie. Yum!
The monohull group checked in as they left Cape Verde today.
Tonight we called family, in honor of reaching 1/2 way (well almost, it would officially be the following day, but with the time zone difference, we called today).

Breakfast: cereal and oatmeal. Lunch: rice mixed with quinoa and Korean Beef recipe. Caught a huge skipjack tuna and will have it for dinner (sushi and also cooked), with coconut lime rice and black beans. It was delicious! We also caught a mahi, but tossed it back because we already had the tuna. Today officially marks 1/2 way to Barbados! We are so very excited!!! HAven't seen a single ship since leaving Gomera. Noone on the radio either.
Ran the water maker again today, as I needed to finish washing the rugs and rest of the towels and linens.
Around 5pm, I noticed a small tear in Big Red, so we pulled in the sail and repaired it with sailtape. Relaunched within 10 minutes. Upon closer inspection, the area had a scratch mark, so I guess it scraped somewhere along the hull or saildrive and incurred that damage. Fortunately, it is made of ripstop material, so we are lucky it didn't get worse. We have had Big Red flying for over 24 hours now and making good speed. We have about 6 days left at sea, as long as we keep going fast. Average speed is between 6-9 knots, depending on the wind and swell. Sometimes we even get up to 10-11 knots! Once we got up to 14.2 sog (speed over ground)!! We keep seeing lots of flying fish and a few patches of sargassum weed.  No dolphins or whales yet.
We are trying to go as fast as possible and keep downloading weather reports to see where we can find more wind. We are hoping to arrive on Christmas, but we will see.
11pm, we put away Big Red as the wind picked up quite a bit. We are cautious as we don't want a blown sail. We are now flying the jib and making 5 knots speed. So slow! Sometimes we get up to 6 knots and I feel a little better about that speed. We have an ETA counter on our chart plotter, so I like to see that date change to sooner rather than later.
Sunny turned 4 years old today! She got spoiled with lots of treats. She also got bacon, chicken, and fish. Lucky pup!

12/19: I am on watch and it is still pitch black at 7:41am. The sun won't come up for another hour or so. I made coffee and am on my second cup. All is quiet. The waves have been a bit confused, so still bumpy, and the winds flukey (shifty). What ever happened to 'set it and forget it'? We still make sail changes. We have had a few days with leaving Big Red up and not touching a thing, but I wish we could just do that for the rest of the trip.
It is warmer now, so we aren't needing sweaters, hats, or blankets. I used to use a thick blanket on watch, but don't need it now. Right now our position is 17 degrees 59 minutes decimal 094N 40 degrees 32 minutes decimal 885W. Water temp is around 78 degrees. Time is 7:46am (ships clock). No idea what the actual time is in this zone. The sun gets pretty intense during the day.
Spent the day cleaning (with Sunny's fur, it is a constant battle) and I finally got a nap in. Matt (our son) noticed something on Big Red, so we took it down to inspect. Turns out, it was just stitching and a small piece of scrap sail tape. All good, so we relaunched.
The bananas (plantanos) finally ripened! Now it is a race to consume them all before they go bad! We will have bananas at every meal and snack time. They are small, sweet, and delicious! Jared put up the swing today (attached it to the clew of the jib, as Big Red is using the halyard), so we all took a turn swinging, being rocked by the sea. It was fun!
Lunch was leftovers and more snacky stuff. Dinner was grilled hot dogs, bratwurst sausages, baked beans, potato salad, etc. We brought out the rest of the ice cream for dessert (vanilla, cookies and cream, chocolate fondant). Had another beautiful sunset with pink and purple clouds. The stars show up as the sun sets below the horizon. So many stars!

12/20: 999nm left as of 7:38am. Drinking lots of coffee as we are tired today.
Not much sleep last night due to managing Big Red. The wind died off to hardly anything, so we had to adjust the sail. Then a squall came through around 6am and we watched it closely. Thankfully, we had increased wind and therefore increased our speed. Now at 9:49am, we are going slow as the wind went away. Making 5-6 knots. 981.9 nautical miles left to go, as of 9:52am. Winds are light and sea is calm. Gentle rollers go under us and on to other destinations. I miss the speed we get with squalls! And the rinsing of the boat! It sure needs it.
The elves got up to some mischief today, rainbow popcorn and now the kids are making garlands to hang on the tree.
Starting to see larger patches of sargassum weed. It also snags on our fishing line, so that is a constant chore, cleaning that off.
Breakfast was cereal--too tired for cooking. Made sugar cookie dough for Christmas cookies today. Jared made banana bread. Played Spoons (a card game we learned from Arakai). Dinner was creamy pasta carbonara with fresh baked bread and veggies.

12/21: Around 2am, we had a big squall come through. Max tws was 31.5 knots, so we took down Big Red. It was only down for a few minutes though, as the squall passed pretty quickly. We got a good rinsing. We hit 14.2 knots speed over ground with that storm! The squalls we experience at night are much smaller and we enjoy the burst of speed we get with them. ETA on the chart plotter says 26 or 27th now.
Around 4am, we came upon another large squall and put away Big Red again. The starboard sheet caught under the boat, but we let the line loose and pulled it back on board. We flew the jib and cruised along between 6-8 knots.
9am: debating on whether to relaunch Big Red, so we can go faster. The wind is gusting into the 20s, but consistently in the teens. Good wind for scooting right along and making 8-10 knots! We will wait for more daylight and reassess.  The sky is all overcast now and raining off and on.
The passage has started to take its toll on us, as we are not getting enough sleep (well, I am not, I think the guys are fine). I started sleeping in the saloon, with less noise. We are looking forward to anchoring and sleeping with no noise!
Launched Big Red around 9:30am and making 7-8 knots speed. Wind 16-17 tws, 9-10 aws. Seas a little bumpy. Rain clouds around but now we have blue sky over us. Thunderhead to starboard. Heading COG 260. 814 nm left to go as of 11:49am.
Breakfast: cereal, bananas, banana bread.
Luch: pasta salad with tuna, bread, cucumber and tomato salad. Need to use the last of the fresh veggies and apples.
Dinner: rotisserie chicken, pork loin, pasta salad, veggies.
Night is super calm with steady winds. Nice. Air temp warmer, so leaving hatches open for air circulation.

12/22: Just came on watch at 2:57am. Nice calm conditions. Wind 16-17 tws, 8-9 aws,. Seas calm and rollers behind us. Not bad. 716.9nm left to go. Water temp 26.5 C. Moon is bright as we have full moon, water sparkles with the moonlight. Can't see bioluminescence with the moonlight though. Today we will bake Christmas cookies and decorate them. Need to start wrapping gifts as well. Also the kids are doing a straw challenge today as part of their science/stem.
We had a real treat tonight! We had a couple of pilot whales visit us and played around the boat for about 30 minutes, just before sunset! What an awesome experience! They would turn over on their backs to show their bellies as they checked us out.

12/23: Getting closer! Kids excited for Christmas. Pizza for dinner. Been really busy doing stuff around the boat, so no time to take notes.

12/24: pancakes for breakfast. Wrapped gifts after kids went to bed and placed under the tree and on saloon table. Christmas lights are festive and cozy. Stockings stuffed. Santa even brought something for our friend Matt.
Christmas at sea!

12/25: Christmas pancakes (red and green), sausages, fruit, hot cocoa with marshmallows made for a nice breakfast. The kids loved their presents and played all day. Dinner: Goose with sweet potatoes topped with marshmallows, couscous. Called family from sat phone. We took a crew photo in Santa hats, and also it was our last night at sea on this passage! So very excited!!! We will reach land tomorrow! Lunch: pesto pasta with grilled chicken and fresh bread

12/26: Land ho! We had a nice night last night. Breakfast today was biscuits and gravy. Lunch: canned duck (long story about why we have this), gravy, peas, carrots, corn, white beans, beets. Yum!
Dinner: Pesto pasta and chicken
We sailed right into the anchorage, dousing Big Red, just before we dropped anchor. We anchored in Carlisle Bay at 2:45pm Took a crew photo around 3pm. Saw our friends on Dragonfly anchored by us, and they brought us cookies. We met No Worries, a dutch family, who brought over treats for Sunny. What a nice welcome!
Kids jumped right in to swim around, Sunny swam as well. This anchorage is next to a cruise ship port, where we will have to go check in to customs. First task was finding a flight home for Big Matt (we had to call our friend Big Matt and our son Little Matt during the trip to avoid confusion).
The customs office closed before we could get there (had to have Matt's flight info in order to remove him from the crew list).
We crashed into bed after a late dinner of couscous and chicken. Beers to celebrate the crossing.
Just a few minutes after we dropped the hook off of Bridgetown, Barbados!

12/27: Early this morning, Stef and Big Matt went to check into the country and remove Matt from our crew list.  Jared dropped us off and we walked the 20 minutes to the port. After checking through security and receiving our wristbands, we proceeded towards the A-framed mall. We visited health first and filled out one form, and gave our crew list. We chatted about the island, her family, and she gave us some info about the island. Then we received a slip of paper and instructions to visit the customs office. We filled out two more forms, twice, as they don't make copies, and then we had to visit immigration last. It took in total about an hour (with an extra hour wait for the customs lady to return from her visit to a cruise ship that arrived).  We will have to pay a fee of $50 upon checkout, and visit customs and then immigration again to receive our clearance paper. Noonsite says the process is difficult, but I think that is because they give priority to the cruise ships. Port Charles is also probably only one office, and they don't have to deal with cruise ships, so its easier.
The anchorage here at Carlisle Bay is ok. Holding in sand, but there are lots of small rocks, which means the anchor may take awhile to bite in. The beach is lovely. The noise at night is awful. Large party boats blasting music from about 7pm to 7am (seriously, it is all night long) make for poor sleeping conditions. We are moving away from here as soon as we meet up with the other kid boats and have our New Year's party. Heading to Martinique after this.
I'll add photos to this post after I get better wifi. The anchorage signal is not the greatest and won't let me upload anything at the moment.

Atlantic Crossing: Picking up crew, Party, and Provisioning

Pre-departure party! 
We picked up Matt, our friend who would help crew around noon on 12/6.  You may recognize him from the Around N' Circles sailing blog. A few hours later, all the other boats in our crossing group came over for a pre-departure party! What a great send-off! The kids even put on a play for us all!

Early on 12/7, I went to the local market to pick up our produce order and confirm the meat order delivery at 1pm later on that day.  This was made easier by Zoe driving her rental car, so we could bring everything back to our boats. A few other boat mamas met us there and we set off to business.

The local Mercado is a fantastic place to shop for provisions. Besides the many produce vendors, deli and coffee merchants, there are also meat vendors. We chose to use  JP Rosser, who will vacuum pack and then deep freeze the meat for you. This is a huge benefit, as there just wasn't any way we could have frozen it all ourselves.
We estimated the trip would take between 14-16 days and so we bought the following to ensure we had plenty of food (we had plenty and we are still going through it, a week after making landfall).

For 6 crew (3 adults and 3 children): we made a menu plan in excel, which calculated all the ingredients to make shopping easier. If you'd like a copy, send us an email--happy to share it. =)

150 eggs (we had about 15 left when we arrived to Barbados)
50 carrots
25 onions (yellow), 4 red  (we have 1 red left and about 10 yellow)
3 kilo potatoes
6 sweet potatoes
7 kilos apples (green granny smith and fuji sweet)
20 green tomatoes, 10 almost ripe tomatoes
4 kilo oranges
10 bulbs garlic (still have about 3 left)
10 cucumbers (amazed at how long these lasted--fresh the entire way)
14 zucchini
.5 kilo limes
1 kilo lemons
.25 kilo beets
2 heads green cabbage
5 heads lettuce
16 red and green bell peppers
2 mangoes, handful of chilis, mandarins, and bananas (gift from the vendor)
huge banana tree with over 100 small bananas (gift from Luiz, our port authority friend)
*these didn't ripen until week 2, and then we were eating a lot of bananas!

14 kilo chicken breasts
7 kilo minced beef
4 kilo minced pork sausage
2 kilo sausage links
1 kilo beef strips
bacon: 30 packages (yeah, I may have over provisioned on bacon just a bit--we have a lot left over)/
pork roasts: 3
goose breast: 1
rotisserie chicken asado: 3
chicken roast/loaf: 3

20 kilo butter (we do a lot of baking)
30 liters UHT milk
20 liters soya (plain and vanilla)
3 kilo variety of sliced and unsliced cheeses (gouda, parmesan, brie, etc)

Snack items: chips, crackers, granola bars, treats, etc were stashed all over the boat.

We filled our freezer, turned our fridge into a 2nd freezer, and then bought 2 large ice chests to act as fridges. Everything was stuffed full! We ran our ice machine every day to replenish the ice and keep the ice chests cold. It worked pretty well!

We left Las Palmas after getting fuel around 3pm on the 7th of December. We anchored a bit south off the coast to clean the hulls. After spending the night there, we set off for Gomera island as we had reports of bad weather and sought shelter there. It was an overnight sail, with great speed. The katabatic winds from the islands helped push us along. We had a bumpy ride with the confused swell.

Approaching Puerto de Vueltas at Gomera                                                                      Gomera anchorage

Going to get fuel with jerry cans (no dock here).

We arrived to Gomera around 11am, dropped the hook, and sent the guys into town to top up on fuel.
We now had a good weather window to depart to Barbados! After a quick swim, detailing the hulls one last time, we set off around 1pm with our friends on Tatsu waving us on. We were on our way to cross the Atlantic!

On our way! Barbados, here we come! 

Welcome to the Caribbean!

We did it! Anchored off the coast of Barbados.

We made it! After 16 days at sea, we sailed into the anchorage off of Barbados and dropped the hook around 3pm on December 27th. We are so happy to be in the warm and beautiful waters of the Caribbean! We are resting up and I am working on getting lots of photos and a post on the crossing up soon. We had a great passage, caught delicious fish, and overall enjoyed the journey. Once I find some decent wifi, the blog will get updated! =)

Monday, December 3, 2018

Passage from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands

The passage from Gibraltar to the Canary Islands was our longest to date. We left on the evening of November 9th and arrived on the afternoon of the 13th.

The first part of the voyage, transiting the Gibraltar Strait was interesting. We aimed to leave with the least amount of current. After checking the tide app, charts, and PredictWind, we thought we had a good departure time. It wasn't awful, but not our best speed. Thankfully, we avoided any traffic or fishing gear obstacles, as we went through in the dark (again, not our desire, but that's how the timing worked out).

First couple of days were motor-sailing, as we just didn't have the greatest wind. The wind gods must have heard our complaints and decided to teach us a lesson. The third day we sailed more and then the wind and swell increased so that we were running bare poles and contemplating launching the drogue. It wasn't the 12+ foot waves behind us that were the issue, as Roundabout surfed down them just fine. It was the random westerly swell slamming into us and rocking us 90 degrees HARD that was the worst part.

However, we learned a lot and our confidence in our tank of a boat soared sky high. She is amazing and we love her.

With Graciosa island in sight, our crew danced a big happy dance. As if on cue, the fishing pole whizzed to life and we brought in a nice skipjack.

We dropped the hook off Graciosa island around 3pm, had a nice fish dinner, and had a well-deserved early night. *Some people commented that skipjack is not good to eat. We marinated it in soy sauce and it was nice. Some friends of ours marinated it in soy sauce, ginger, and honey and said it worked a treat.

The next morning, we set off for Marina Rubicon on the neighboring island of Lanzarote. We wanted to avoid some bad weather and reunite with friends. A week later, after getting some boat supplies and taking a whirlwind trip around the island to explore, we set off for Fuenteventura island. A short stop for a few hours and we continued on to Gran Canaria.

The anchorage outside of Las Palma marina was packed, as the ARC boats filled the marina to bursting! We found a spot and settled in to watch the chaos of the ARC preparations. The anchorage cost us about 7 euro per day, which included access to marina services. It was not ideal, but better protected than any other anchorage on the island. It is also closest to all the shops and hub of the city. Due to the ARC's presence, the chandlery is very well stocked, as are the grocery stores.
If you need to get your passports stamped, you need to either walk the hour to the commercial port authority/customs building or take a 10 minute car ride. The building is located near the Cepsa fuel station. While we were there, we befriended one of the officials. He was so kind to help us as we wandered around looking for the correct building. Then he took us to their large Christmas tree and took our family photo, and drove us back home. All along the way we chatted about sights to see and learned a lot about the island. We are having lunch with him tomorrow, in fact. We love how this cruising life leads you to meeting all sorts of nice people.

Thanksgiving was spent with several other families with lots of laughs and good times. The night before the ARC left, we were treated to a mega fireworks show! The next morning, we took some friends out on Roundabout to have a front row seat for the ARC's departure, wave farewell to friends, and just have an excuse to get moving for a little while. We anchored near the start buoy and enjoyed the sight of over 200 boats sailing for the Caribbean.

A few days later, we left Las Palmas with the expectation of exploring,but our mainsail tore at the leech, so we anchored for the night to avoid bashing upwind. Jared dove in to clean off the worst of the growth but we will need to anchor out again to clean the rest of the hull before we cross.
5am the following morning found us heading back to Las Palmas, where we got a spot inside the marina.

The cruising community here is amazing. Everyone is helping other cruisers with various tasks and the energy level is high. We all are ready to just get off the dock and start this journey already!

Our mainsail is getting a full service, along with the leech repair. We are also finishing off our to-do lists of boat jobs, buying more spares, and provisioning! A car rental has allowed us to explore the island a bit more and run errands a lot faster. We feel as if time is slipping by and we are trying to get so much work done (not just boat jobs, but our regular jobs). Stef had a book published recently, getting ready to launch a second one, and is working on an outline of a third. This, in addition to teaching the kids and managing all her usual boat tasks.

We leave as soon as our friend arrives to help with the crossing (he arrives on Thursday 12/6). That is the quick and photo-less update. I will go back and add photos as I find the time, but right now we are prepping to cross the Atlantic, so time to blog is low on the list of priorities. Thanks for staying with us and we are excited to get to the Caribbean. If all goes well, it can take us anywhere from 14-18 days (good sailing) or as long as 21 days if we don't have good wind. We will have about 7 other boats crossing along with us. Our goal is to get to Barbados or Martinique before Christmas, but of course it all depends on the weather.

Cartagena to Gibraltar

We spent a lovely few days in Cartagena, working on boat jobs and exploring the town. We toured the ancient amphitheater and museum, artifacts, underwater history museum, and marveled at the architecture in every aspect of the town. From metallic inlays amongst the cobblestoned streets to the statues sprinkled every few meters, there is always something to admire.

The sail from Cartagena to Gibraltar was about 2 nights. Escorted by dolphins in the bioluminescence for several hours, was the highlight of the voyage! It was simply magical watching the glittering trails in the water.

We dropped anchor in the Bay of Gibraltar, next to La Linea (Alcaidesa Marina) around 4am. A few small fishing boats were setting up lines in the anchorage, so after dodging those, speaking with one in Spanish (he was worried we would mess up his nets), we settled in and got some much needed rest.

Following morning found us at the fuel dock to check in to Marina Alcaidesa and secure our spot for the next month or so. We met some new friends and reunited with old. At one point, we had 35 kids running around the place! We organized some Halloween games and trick-or-treating and had lots of fun. There is a skate park next to the marina, so the kids were there pretty much every day. We managed to find 15 days to rent a motor home and go on a road trip into inland Spain, France, Luxembourg, and Germany! More on that trip in another post.

The border of Gibraltar is about a 5-10 minute walk from the marina, and it is a super easy crossing. You basically hold up your passport and maybe the official will glance up at you. We were anticipating a long line as they looked over each passport, but in our 5 weeks there, they never did. So many people cross back and forth each day, it just isn't feasible. Sometimes they will stop people to look inside a backpack, which they have good reason to. If you glance inside the bus stop shelters, you will see people frantically plastic wrapping and taping cigarettes and alcohol to their bodies, shoving stuff inside strollers, diaper bags, under hair extensions, hats, and all sorts of creative ways to smuggle in the duty free goods.

We spent a lot of time touring around the tiny country, exploring Gibraltar Rock and its secrets. Definitely take the time tour the tunnels (there are 2 sets), walk around the top with the apes, and immerse yourself in the history.  On one of our hikes, an ape grabbed Jared's backpack and would not let go! It was quite the struggle until the ape finally managed to pull the mini chocolate bar Zach had stuck inside the pocket.

La Linea, back on the Spanish side is the best for provisioning and sourcing boat parts. While Gibraltar is VAT free, the prices are quite expensive, so you don't really save much money. We did most of our shopping in Spain and only went into Gibraltar for a few hard to source English food items. The grocery stores in La Linea deliver directly to the boat, which is fantastic and saves having to rent a car. The local bus system is great.

We left La Linea for the Gibraltar marina (Marina Bay) on Friday the 9th for a fuel top-up (duty free) and spent the remainder of the afternoon retrieving our new jib sail and lazy-bag from customs, as well as visiting with friends before we set off for the Canaries.

The quick and dirty story on getting our new sail and sail bag VAT free:

**We ordered our new sail and lazy bag from Greece in August with a promised delivery date of October 24th. All well and good, as we had booked the marina for all of October. Well, due to several delays (the shop didn't fill out the customs paperwork correctly, TNT had other delays and lost the parcel several times... not a fun experience to say the least), we didn't get our parcel until November 9th. This was all due to Stef calling every day and finally going to the Spanish customs office at Fed-Ex/TNT. She took a chair and waited for the guys to locate the parcel for her before leaving their office. Tenacity pays off! Speaking Spanish also helps a lot.
Then, she had to go into Gibraltar and locate the warehouse--no one seemed to know where it was exactly. An hour walk later, she found it and fortunately, as it was a Friday and the guys wanted to close early for the day, they found the parcel, loaded it into a truck and delivered Stef and the parcel directly to the boat. Whew! We were finally able to get on our way to the Canary Islands!!

***Apologies for lack of photos, but I am desperately working to update the blog before we cross the Atlantic in a few days!***

Pompeii, Rome, Corsica, and Baleric Islands (Folding Prop Install)

Amazed at how well preserved the frescoes are in Pompeii!

After watching the volcano erupt for one last time, we set sail for an overnight passage to Pompeii, near the Bay of Naples. We would have loved to been able to stop and explore Capri, but the conditions were not right. We pulled into the marina, with Mt. Vesuvius in the background, hooked up to a/c for Sunny (we hate leaving her behind, but dogs are not allowed in Pompeii), and caught a cab to the dig site.

Pompeii was not the only city to be demolished by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79AD. While Pompeii is the most famous, there are several other exhibits of town also wiped out by the clouds of ash and gas.

Math in the sand: calculating how many years have passed since the eruption.

The site of Pompeii is quite large and one really needs an entire day to devote to exploring it all. An estimated 20,000 people resided here in this prosperous city.
Wandering the streets of Pompeii. The water from the baths on the hill would flow down into the city streets, washing away all of the refuse. The large stepping stones allowed residents to cross without getting wet.
View over part of the city, beautiful artwork, artifacts awaiting categorization.
Food found around the site.

One of the games they played.

The archeologists are still uncovering many parts of the city still  buried under centuries of soil. As we walked around, we happened upon a live dig where they had just uncovered a tomb. They took photos and then turned to show us through the fence. They told the kids 'you are the first people to see this newly discovered artifact'!

Observing the archeologists at work. We were the first to view the photos of the newly discovered tomb!

Viewing the photos just after they were taken!
We spent the entire day exploring and did not get to see everything. We had to leave to pick up a guest in Rome, so after a quick stop for provisions, we left for an overnight passage to Porto Romano, just up the Tiber river.
The artwork is amazing. I look at these tiny tiles and think about how much work it must have been!

That passage was awful. No matter which way we turned the boat, we got hit with swell. It was severely confused seas and not much wind, but we motored through and were very thankful when we entered the Tiber river and escaped the swell. We topped up on fuel and settled in to our dock, which happened to be right next to the swimming pool.

Michelle getting introduced to boat life. 

The next day, we picked up Michelle, who was very much a part of our family when the kids were little. She was their nanny and we sure did miss her when she went off to college! We loved getting to spend some time with her and show her the sailing life.

We had only a single day to spend in Rome and made the most of it. We got an early start and explored a lot of the area, including the massive colosseum! The guided tour was enlightening and our guide was kind enough to point out some of his own local favorite spots, such as an ice cream shop with over 150 flavors!
Boca de Veritas (mouth of truth). Put your hand in and answer someone's question or make a statement. Tell a lie and you might just lose your hand! 

Gladiator training area.

Taking in the size of the colosseum. 
Another view of the colosseum and Trevi fountain on the right. 

There are fountains with fresh water all over the place!
With another good night's rest, we set off early the next morning for Corsica. We met up with our friends on Abaco in a calm anchorage, where Jared ended up installing our new folding props. Thanks Abaco, for letting us borrow your dive gear!
Corsica sea caves

The folding props were pretty easy to install, thanks to using dive gear! 
Parts ready to be installed. We kept them in separate bags and when Jared asked for a part, I could easily find it.
Cadence shows Michelle how its done! #boatlife #boatkids #Corsica

With the clock ticking and more friends to meet, we left Corsica and sailed on to Menorca. We are pretty even matched with Abaco and sailed together the entire way, dropping the hook in Mahon bay around 1am.
Roundabout at anchor in Mahon bay.

We woke up to our friends on No Plans Just Options waving hello. The kids were happy to play in the water and run around on the beach. Later on that afternoon, we explored the old fort and nice museum.
Walking into the fort.
Isn't this like a scene from Indiana Jones?

The following day we dinghied up the bay into the town of Mahon. This town is beautiful with lush gardens, cobblestone walkways, and shops galore. We were most charmed by the handmade shoes on display in just about every window.

Seriously, there is one in every color, even glitter and animal prints!

We love it when dolphins come to visit!

Boats in the bay at Calla de Porter. Photo credit: Amber Utting.

Our next anchorage was around the corner at Cala en Porter, between two steep cliffs in bright blue water. There was a festival de los caballos (festival of horses) in full swing, so after a quick swim, cave explorations, and dinner, we dinghied over to the town. This was quite the experience. Horses with their riders were decked out in full gear and they danced to special music.

The tradition is to surround the horse and rider and then inside that circle, a group of adults and children run at and chase the horse around, patting its rump. The horses seemed used to this, although our kids did not think it was right. I asked one of the audience members to tell us the story behind this ritual. They explained that back in times of war, they wanted to desensitize the horses and so this was how it was done. This contradicts my internet search which mentions Saint Joan and how it was about the brotherhood between humans and horses. Only the children of the farming community were allowed to be inside the circle with the horses. The true version? Maybe it's both, more to research...

We led the kids back to playing on the beach and ate from the food stalls set up along the pathway. There was a special local drink (for adults) which tasted sort of like limoncello. Lots of energy surrounded us as we shouted over the music and chatter from all of those around us. After the kids came to us one by one with tired faces, we finally retired to our boats for some sleep. It didn't last too long though, as the swell had clocked around and was coming into the tiny narrow bay. We heard NPJO haul anchor around 1am and head out for Mallorca. After 30 minutes of being rolled around and not sleeping anyway, we also left the anchorage for Mallorca. Abaco followed suit an hour later.

Not one is the same...

Around midnight on the following night, we dropped the hook in the large bay of Palma and finally had a good night's sleep. 9am the next morning found us moving to a different spot over by Cala Major, as the spot we were in had sea grass, which you are not allowed to anchor in (let alone have any part of your anchor or chain touching it). We settled into a lovely anchorage with a nice sandy beach near Calla Major. We spent most of the day swimming in the lovely blue water, enjoying more aquatic life than we'd seen in a long time. There were also quite a few of those funky fried-egg jellies floating about.

We enjoyed some time exploring the town, dinner, and sangrias (oh, the sangrias were soooo good), and tried three times to check the boat in with customs. Finally, on the third day, we found the correct official who knew what he was doing. Basically, since our boat is our residence, we don't need to stamp in. If we decided to stay on land, that would be different.

We moved over closer to Puerto de Palma for the big boat kid combination birthday bash. Met some new sailing families and had a blast! The kids slept hard that night after such a long day partying. We had a bit of trouble with our anchor windlass motor (we've had issues with it, ---as you can read about by clicking that link---even after Jared serviced it and installed new brushes), which finally gave up the ghost.
Palma Cathedral in the background.

In 20 knot winds, Jared pulled up anchor by hand and we moved back over to Cala Major (the coast guard would not allow us to remain at anchor near the big port).
Installing the new anchor windlass motor.

On the way, our rudder sensor also died. Fortunately, while walking around the town, I was able to purchase a new rudder sensor off the shelf and ordered the new windlass motor for delivery the following day. With both of these installed, we were back in business!

After a 'see you in the Caribbean' send off dinner, Michelle was back on an airplane returning to land life. We also said 'see you later' to Abaco. They were hanging around there for family to visit and we needed to move on. We left Cala Major for the island of Formentera (near Ibiza). It was another motor-sail. We rode out the big wind storm on Mallorca and there just wasn't much wind left to send us west. Definitely looking forward to the better sailing in the Caribbean!

Formentera anchorage. Look at that water!!

Formentera is gorgeous! Stunning turquoise water and white soft sandy beaches! Our kids dived right in and enjoyed lots of beach time. We stayed the day and ended up leaving around 8pm for Cartagena. We needed to continue on, as we had our new sail and lazy-bag to pick up in Gibraltar.