Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Start Of A Family

The past few weeks have been quite a whirlwind.  Having left Makai in Portugal, Amanda and I flew to England and zipped around by train through rolling green hills, quaint villages, and the hustle-and-bustle of London.  We then crossed the English Channel by ferry, viewed Paris from the Eiffel Tower, and explored vineyards across the French countryside.

 Now in Germany, we've slowed the pace.  Autumn leaves pepper dense forest with vibrant yellows and reds.  Plump Apples weigh down tree limbs and horses roam pastures along flowing streams.  While every locale has its downsides, life here seems idyllic.

 It is the perfect place, in the company of wonderful friends, to learn that Amanda and I are starting a new journey--parenthood!

We're both very excited.  Our plans are to return to Hawaii (by plane) later this month.  While sailing is going on break, the adventure of life continues.  And so too shall the blog.

 As always, more to come!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Trans-Atlantic Voyage Complete!


That, my friends, is a sigh of relief. Amanda and I have just crossed the Atlantic. Four thousand miles of zig zagging from North Carolina and we're finally in Portugal. We've had many realizations along the way.

1: Weather predictions are NEVER right. Seriously, are people getting paid to do this? I think I'll get my weather from reading tea leaves instead. What were supposed to be consistent Portuguese trade winds turned into an ugly storm and then two weeks of calm. WTF!

2: Sailing is slooowwwww. A turtle passed us. With a walker. On dialysis.

3: Sailing can be white-knuckle frightening. The waves get big. The wind howls through your rigging. Your port holes go below the surface and their seals are tested. You wonder when it will end. I've developed a rationalization out here, which is "well, if the birds are still flying in this weather, it can't be that bad." Even the sea birds sought shelter that day.

4: The saying is true: sailing is the lowest of lows and the highest of highs. There's not a whole lot of In-between. Unless you pair "in-between" with purgatory, then there's a LOT of in-between.You can spend days, even weeks, seeing and doing the same things over and over. Haven't I seen that wave before? I think that cloud's been following me. Somethin' fishy is going on here...

I'm sure coastal cruising is undoubtedly more pleasant.

Regardless, now that we've made it to Europe, it's time to explore! We've caught word of new-fangled machinations like locomotives and automobiles. There's even one called an aero plane they say can fly.

Guess what happens in Germany this month. OKTOBERFEST!

So, the sailing trip. This time we saw whales. And not just any whales. Big whales. Blue whales. The largest animal on the planet whales. And it was totally awesome!!

They came right up to our boat. Then they swam under our boat and my chest started going thump, thump, thump. You know that Discovery Channel footage of a blue whale seen from a helicopter looking like he's a mile long? Put a tiny speck next to him, and that would be us.

Amanda caught our first fish of the journey, a Skipjack tuna, AKA "Bonito". We fried him up and had a lovely dinner.

Then Amanda started showing off.

As usual, we were bombarded by dolphins. They surfed our bow wave, performed aerial somersaults, we even got to see some of their babies, which made Amanda go "AAWWW! IDGAWEEDLEBITTYBABIESTHEYRESOCUUUUUUUUUTE!"

Ah, women.


Now, for the weird. Two hundred and fifty miles off the coast of Portugal, in completely open ocean in broad daylight with nothing around, an owl flew around the boat. He proceeded to circle twice more, his flat face and large round eyes fixated on me for the entire duration. He then flew straight back in the direction of land. Anyone ever hear of owls out at sea?

Time to get the boat prepped for storage on the hard, we're about to be land lubbers for a few months.

If you all have any recommendations for must-see's and do's in Europe, please let us know!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Ahhh...Rest and Relaxation

First, our apologies for the lack of blog activity. We've been moving at a non-stop pace since setting sail, and it is time to rest. Vacation can be stressful!

We're now on the island of Sao Miguel, hiking, body surfing, lounging.

Leaving Flores in pouring rain and 12 foot seas (no breaking waves this time) was less than comfortable, but necessary to keep moving. A high pressure system sits over the Azores in the summer, so any movement of the high results in big shifts in wind direction. Not taking advantage of a weather window means getting stuck until another wind shift.

For example, here are wind maps for this week Thursday and Friday, exactly 24 hours apart. Notice the wacky shift in direction; these aren't a sailor's best friend.

Still, sailing in the Azores has its merits. You can't go an hour without dolphins playing alongside you like excited children chasing a parade float.

In the middle of the night, a pair of whales surfaced feet from our boat, black silhouettes on a moonlit sea. Hypnotized by the rolling of waves, I was suddenly jolted alert by what sounded like pressure release valves bursting open. Luckily I was upwind and did not get covered in smelly whale breath.


Each island in the Azores is known for its unique festivals each year. On Flores, we experienced the Festa do Emigrante, celebrating the immigration of early Portuguese settlers to the uninhabited islands in the 1400's. Bread, cheese, wine and milk, the staples of production here, were given out in abundance to hundreds of people while a community orchestra played traditional Portuguese music.

In Horta, we took part in the Festival of the Sea. The Mayor himself came down to the Marina and gave the crew of each boat a gift of flowers, one pound of local cheese, and an invitation to dinner held in honor of the sailors who visit each year. The dinner was fantastic; fresh fish, cheese, bread, wine, beer, live music, oh my! During the day, locals raced in their traditional whaling boats while kids zig-zagged the harbor in sailing dinghies.

Amanda and I took a ferry to Pico Island and climbed the tallest peak in Portugal, a dormant volcano rising 7,713 feet above sea level. Why the classy hiking clothes? We hitchhike to the trailhead on all our hikes, and it's easier to get a ride when you look decent.

On Sao Miguel, tourism promotes a healthy mix of well-maintained beaches, hiking trails and nightlife. A cheap, efficient bus system provides transportation to most places on the island. Amanda and I hiked to Lagoa do Fogo, a turquoise-blue lake hidden in a volcanic crater. Rugged mountains give way to calm beaches along the lake shore.

Tonight we'll camp at hot springs that both locals and tourists rave about. With a name like "Furnas", it's gotta be nice and steamy.

Next week: 900 miles to Portugal!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

We've made it to Portugal!

We have made it to Portugal and we are safe! A new blog post with details is coming soon!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Next Stop: Horta

We intended to spend a couple of days on Flores. That turned into two weeks. One local said if we've seen Flores, we've seen the Azores. Perhaps he's biased, but it's easy to believe.

This is by far the most beautiful place I've seen in my life. The island is COVERED with flowers. Dramatic sea cliffs plunge into the ocean. Cows roam rolling green hills separated by vibrant blue hydrangeas. Sleepy towns hide streets of cobblestone cut from lava rock. Whitewashed homes are topped with red clay roofs. Instead of grass lawns, locals have burgeoning gardens of corn, potatoes, squash, cabbage, tomatoes and cucumber.

Beautiful landscapes aren't the islands only treasure--the people of Flores create the friendliest, most generous community I've ever experienced. And this is as an outsider. You know how people in cities suddenly find the ground really interesting when you walk by? Here, every person greets you as a friend.

We traveled Flores by hitchhiking (the customs official even recommended it). Rarely did more than three cars pass before someone pulled over. What's more, they would stop at scenic spots along the way, turn off the engine, and patiently wait for us to take pictures before continuing. After the second person tried stopping to let us take pictures, we insisted they keep driving, feeling guilty we were taking advantage of their overwhelming generosity.

Amanda and I sat on the dock next to some locals one night and fished for dinner. We eventually packed up empty-handed. But before we could leave, the fisherman beside us reached into his catch and filled a recycled grocery bag with enough fish to feed a family of ten. Us not speaking Portuguese, he not speaking English, we understood each other perfectly; Amanda and I couldn't leave without accepting the fish.

Over the weekend, we ran out of Euros and the local banks were closed. An annual festival was taking place and the locals set up large tent restaurants for the occasion.

We befriended the chef of one restaurant, a Finnish immigrant named Tino, who happened to be taking a break on the street. Amongst casual conversation, we mentioned our dilemma.

"No worries!" he said. "Come eat at my restaurant and pay whenever you can."

The thing is, the festival ended that night and the restaurant would be dismantled and staff disbanded.

"How can we pay if you won't be here tomorrow?" I asked.

"I live on the other side of the island, just ask around for the crazy Finnish guy!" Tino Replied.

With that, we were treated as guests of honor.

Three days later we sought out Tino's house to pay our dinner bill. It only took two tries to find someone who knew him.

"Go up the street. You'll see a big yellow house--that's not his house. Go past it and turn right. Walk down the alley and look for a stone wall between two white houses with a barking dog. Follow the grass trail until you see the wooden house with a grass roof." Explained a woman named Rafaela.

We should've expected that simply paying for our meal and continuing on was out of the question. Tino invited us into his home and introduced us to his family. We spent the afternoon picking vegetables in his organic garden, preparing a feast for dinner, sharing stories, and of course, eating said feast.

While we could easily spend months here, the Flores experience simply reinforces the need to sail on. How many other Flores' await with beautiful vistas and warm people waiting to share a meal and a story?

A small weather window opens tonight amongst 12 foot seas and 30 knot winds...Horta, here we come!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

In the News!

Hello Everyone! Today is a beautiful day in Lajes das Flores, Azores :) We recently were featured in an article in the Northwest Florida Daily News. You can find the article at this location

Soon we will head east to explore a few more islands in the Azorean archipelago. More to come soon!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Crossing the Pond: Bermuda to the Azores

With ample time to think, I've come up with a good way to visualize what our trip is like. However, we're roughing it compared to most sailors we've met, so this may not be the average Trans-Atlantic experience.

Imagine locking yourself in an empty room. You can bring with you two pictures: One of stormy seas, the other depicting a flat, motionless ocean. Also bring a few granola bars into the room.  Now stare at one picture for several hours. When you get tired of it, switch to the other picture. Tired of it? Switch back to the first. Eat a granola bar, then spin in circles 20 times until you're dizzy.  Now stagger around the room, shoulder pressed to wall, leaning at a 45 degree angle so you don't fall over. Now splash yourself in the face with cold water. Let the water soak into the carpet, and take a nap in it. Yay, sailing!

 We averaged 100 mile days for the first 1,200 miles of our voyage. Once again, despite a perfect weather forecast, high winds and rough seas were the norm. We're starting to question the weather man's credentials...this whole "sunny with a chance of clouds" prediction isn't cutting it.

As we pushed further east, we expected to receive calmer weather due to the Azores High, but conditions continued to worsen. Come to find out, we were feeling the distant effects of Hurricane Arthur! While clear of the danger zone, winds still pushed above 30 knots. Never mind Six Flags, we've got our own roller coaster ride.  Amanda nearly drowned by drinking water while the ride was in operation; rookie mistake. 

We encountered several interesting color shifts in the water from electric blue to dark teal for a few hundred miles in the middle of the Atlantic, then back to electric blue near the Azores. Dolphins are EVERYWHERE out here. We even dodged a few turtles!

Two hundred miles from the Azores, the ocean turned to glass.  Hot, static air brewed thunderstorms that towered overhead like a parthenon of the gods, majestic and forbidding.  By evening, columns of rain, black with density, poured from the sky.  Bolts of lightning struck the ocean.  Flashes in the clouds illuminated the colossus as it billowed higher.  Never in my life have I felt so small and helpless.

On day 20, we could make out the faint outline of land covered in a salty haze.  As we approached the island of Flores, the wind and swell increased. And increased. And increased.  Once again, we were in the middle of terrible weather, and once again, it was the exact opposite of predicted patterns. Winds around Flores normally blow from the Southwest, so we approached the island from that direction. After 1,700 miles, we were now within 15 miles of the island.  Fifteen miles!  And that's when the wind picked up.  From the Northeast.  For 2 days we hove to and drifted.  For 3 days we fought to make windward progress, only to get pushed back again. Five days and an extra 200 miles of zig-zagging later, we were again within 15 miles of the island. You can bet that we weren't letting it slip away a second time.