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Saturday, May 14, 2016:  Off the coast of Florida, enroute Charleston

Once again it is 2am when I am writing this.  What better time to write the blog than on watch.  We completed our third day underway from Nassau and are about 1.5 days out from arriving in
Charleston. Of course, as always seems to happen to us, we either need to make 9.5 kts to arrive Saturday evening or 5.6 kts to arrive Sunday morning.  9.5 is not possible once we are out of the
Gulf Stream, so it will be Sunday morning. I just hate slowing down because otherwise we would be there in the middle of the night.  It is pretty crazy to see 10 +kts on the speed over ground
because the Gulf Stream is adding 3kts to the boat speed.

Thursday, May 12, 2016:  Enroute Charleston, South Carolina, USA!

As I write this it is midnight and we are underway in the Atlantic Ocean between the Bahamas and Florida, the penultimate leg of our year long journey.
After we successfully got the Chicago Robinson’s on their flight home, we still had a fun week ahead of us with Taylor and Wolfie. Bob’s sister and our 6 year old nephew had flown in from San
Francisco and would be spending the week in the Exumas with us and traveling up to New Providence (Nassau), where they would catch their return flight.  Georgetown to Nassau is a good distance,
about 150 nm, so we wanted to be sure to plan it out well with great sights to see along the way.  Bob really put a lot of thought into a route that would please everyone.  He has made this trip
so nice.  All seven of us sat down that evening with the chart, discussed the sights and what we wanted to do and eat for dinner.  We had a plan.

The next day we bit off a 40nm chunk of the trip, traveling to Rudder Cay.  Rudder Cay is several privately owned islands but there are caves to explore and reefs to snorkel. Unfortunately, Wolfie
had had an ear infection the week before so he was limited in how much swimming he could do.  He needed to wear wax plugs with a swim cap to keep out the salt water.  He did not like to wear them
(who can blame him?!) so he tended to want to just stay on the boat.  We had a nice sail to Rudder Cay and anchored in about 10 feet of water.  The current here was absolutely ripping.  As soon as
Bob had checked out the anchor to make sure it was well set, he came back and said “Nobody is swimming off the boat here, the current is about 3 kts right now.”  I just jumped in to check my
snorkel mask plus flippers and he was right.  Crazy current and it ran one way during the flood and flipped 180 deg for the ebb.  Anchorages like this is why they invented the Bahamian moor, but
we opted to trust that the anchor would reset each time the tide changed and it did.  After getting all set, I hopped in the dinghy with the kids to explore the caves and snorkel around the rocks.

 Fun times.  In the next cove south, in about 15 feet of water, is a life size stone piano and mermaid statue.  Our cruising guide mentioned this art was put down by David Copperfield (who owns
the island) to encourage the fish to live in/around the statues and make the snorkeling better.  It took a few minutes to find the statues but they were really cool. Oliver went down and touched
the keys as if he were playing the piano! 

The next morning we headed north to Big Majors Cay and the swimming pigs.  Yes, I did say PIGS!  Back when people were terrified of Y2K, a group of people decided to put some pigs on an
uninhabited island as a food source.  The pigs would live there, make pig families and after Y2K these people would still be able to eat bacon.  The pigs became a tourist attraction because they
will swim out to your dinghy, especially if they see a plastic bag and think they are getting some tasty veggies.   We were very excited to see the swimming pigs. I will confess I had images of
huge hogs trying to climb into our inflatable boat.  Baby pigs are cute but the adult pigs?  Not so much.
Happily, there were a few adult pigs and a couple of baby pigs, some chickens and goats as well.  They were very tame and allowed people to pet them and even rub their bellies.  Smart pigs.  This
anchorage was beautiful, very calm and protected.  It is next to Staniel Cay, a well-known island for its marina, resort and vacation homes.  I ran around most of it the next day and can certainly
attest to a more affluent, vibrant community than we have seen on other Bahamian islands.  The marina had huge nurse sharks just hanging out around the piers.  So cool!  Bob, Taylor and the kids
also snorkeled at Thunderball Grotto, where the James Bond movies were filmed. These were underwater caves only accessible by swimming.  Caleb said the snorkeling was incredible, Leslie and Oliver
thought swimming around the caves was the best part.  The current rips through here, too.  We went at slack tide, but even so, by the time they were leaving the swimming was getting tough to get
back out of the cave.

Later that day, Sunday, we sailed a short jaunt up to Warderick Wells, a marine park in the Exumas.  Here was more snorkeling, a vanishing sand bar and some hiking.  We all snorkeled here and I
thought it was really good coral reefs.  Back in Puerto Rico we bought two new snorkel masks from Walmart (since we made an offering to Davy Jones with a good one in the BVIs) and they make all
the difference for me.  There is nothing worse than having water leaking in your mask.   
Leslie and I ran around the sandbar and she found some beautiful starfish. You can’t take anything from the marine park so we admired them and then she threw them back in the water.  I liked the
sandbar. It reminded us of the sandbar in the middle of Kaneohe Bay in Hawaii where we would rent a pontoon boat for the day and grill and play on the sandbar.  We were nervous about anchoring in
the Bahamas because of the current but we found that it was very simple.  Since it is so shallow and clear you can just drop the hook, watch it set. The key seems to be to set the anchor into the
current instead of into the wind.

Since Wolfie didn’t want to swim or snorkel, he, Oliver and Caleb played massive amounts of Pokemon and Magic games.  Both are card games played with special cards and I am not really sure they
were speaking English.  Lots of words like “playing my Darkcry against your Skizzelled Skink”.  There were some tears, some exultant victors but good times by all.  I feel like the Pokemon craze
in our house comes and goes.  Just when I think they won’t play it any more-out it comes!
Monday morning we left Warderick Wells and sailed to Highborne Cay, where the rich and famous party boats come.   This is a private island with a marina but we saw at least three or four
superyachts with their fancy crews and toys anchored alongside us.  In fact, in the evening, three of the superyachts rafted alongside each other, I can only assume to increase the party area.  
But why weren’t we invited?

We rigged the Open Bic and the kayak and Taylor showed us all her dinghy skills!  This was a quiet day.  Taylor and I did some open water swimming, the kids swam and played on the boat and Oliver
sold pizza in the evening.  We met one hippie naked boat and a German boat with three kids onboard.  I wish we had had more of a chance to get to know them (the German boat that is), they were
very nice.  

Tuesday was the final leg to get into Nassau.  We had about 40nm left to sail so we headed out early.  It was a beautiful, calm day of sailing.  We sailed inside the area protected by the Exuma
islands so even those of us prone to seasickness were fine.  We pulled easily alongside a dock at Palm Cay Marina and began to unwind.  Well, first was cleaning the boat, to the grumbling of the
short crowd.  This was a really nice marina with a beautiful pool and beach.  I went for a run and Taylor and the kids headed to the pool, some French fries and relaxation.  We met a French
cruising family with four boys (10,9,9,4) at the pool.  All the boys immediately began a To the Death Water Polo Match.  The greatest thing about cruising kids is that they can play with all ages
of kids easily.  They are incredibly flexible and adaptable. This family is beginning their sail back to France today so we wish them a safe passage.

Yesterday, Wednesday, Taylor and Wolfie headed back to the Bay Area.  I think they were very missed by Casey and Bodie, and we miss them too.  Thanks for coming out guys!  We didn’t stick around
much longer, just got the boat ready to get underway and headed out.  We had planned to sail 130 miles (less than 24 hours) to a marina on Grand Bahama Island. The predicted winds had no wind over
the weekend, picking back up Sunday evening.  We were planning to stay on Grand Bahama until Sunday or Monday.  When our weather came on this morning we revised our plans.  We thought we might
have enough wind yesterday and today to get into the Gulf Stream, which would shoot us north where more wind was expected.  We took the chance and sailed past Grand Bahama.  

So here we are, now it is 1:40 on Friday morning and we are heading for Charleston, South Carolina. This will be our first “real” stop in the US.  So unreal.  We are all very excited but we still
have a few days of sailing to do.

Monday, May 9, 2016:  Warderick Wells, Exumas, Bahamas.

Oh my goodness, where to start!?  It has been two weeks since I’ve written anything down in the blog, two
weeks of fun, family, noise, water and fun (I’ll say it twice!) We arrived in Great Inagua, Bahamas on
Saturday, April 23.  Matthew Town was quiet, the island is very flat and we were happy to have arrived and
began our normal check in process.  Except that there is really no “normal” check in process, it has been
different with every country.  Bob went in to town to check in and buy a sim card, but there was nobody to
be found or stores open.  Only news was the bugs!  Mosquitos and no-see-ums were horrible and would bite
you if you weren’t moving fast enough.  We loaded up with spray and Bob and I headed back into town. This
time there was a nice man in a pick up truck waiting to greet us.  Dressed casually in an old tee shirt and
shorts, I wouldn’t have known he was the town policeman.  He called the customs agent, who came and
picked us up in his truck to go to the office.  He had been here about six months. He said the customs agents
get posted all over the Bahamas, much as the military does.  We got officially checked in.

The only industry on Great Inagua was the Morton Salt Factory.  As I ran around the south coast the next day
I saw how the water is pumped from the sea into a small private river. This river feeds into the protected
inner marsh area where the water is separated into shallow, square flats.  Each flat may be as big as a football
field and I saw about a dozen flats.  Luckily I found that if I kept running the mosquitoes wouldn’t bite me.

A couple of days later we headed north to Crooked Island.  As I went on a run that morning I was shocked
and saddened.  What had looked like some nice vacation homes from the sea turned into ruins and
abandoned buildings from up close.  Last fall when Hurricane Joaquim hit the islands, some were hit harder
than others.  Crooked Island had been a community of about 300 residents, mostly a tight knit 7th Day
Adventist community.  Everybody just abandoned this island when the hurricane passed and leveled the
houses and buildings.  I saw perhaps 5 people.  Two were attempting to fix a hotel/bar, a couple were still
shoveling out debris.  Every store and restaurant had been shut down.  I did later find out that one restaurant
had reopened and would serve sandwiches upon advance request, but there was no market for any regular
customers or business hours.  I found it very sad.  The island was beautiful but very sad.  We mainly relaxed
on the boat, swam a little and did schoolwork.

On April 29th we sailed to Long Island.  As the name suggests, Long Island is about 80 miles long and 4
miles wide!  This island hadn’t been hit has hard as the southern islands so there were some resorts open and
a general feeling of more activity.  Here we finally met up with S/V Nordic Belle II, a Canadian cruising
family that our good friends on Delphinus had met back in Nevis.  Torstein and Michelle have an 11 year old
son Mats who quickly became a great friend.  There were water gun fights, Open Bic sailing and general
merriment ensued!  Bob went snorkeling with Torstein and another cruiser and came back with a lobster
which was immediately grilled and enjoyed.

The big news was that the next day, April 30th, Bob’s brother Dane, wife Anita and their kids Molly, Quinn
and Declan were coming!  Yay, cousins!  Our kids were counting down the hours until they arrived.  We
sailed down the coast about 10 miles and tied up at the Stella Maris Marina.  The marina itself had seen
better days and was pretty small and run down, but the great part was that staying at the marina gave you
access to the resort a couple of miles away. The resort had beaches, snorkeling, fresh water pools, ping pong,
pool tables, hot food, etc.  The resort was great and everyone was so friendly.  The kids played in the pools
and beaches for hours while the adults enjoyed catching up.  We used to live less than an hour from Dane
and Anita, which we absolutely loved.  When we moved back from Hawaii, they moved to Toronto and are
now in Chicago, so it had been way too long since we had seen them.  The kids were so happy to see each
other again. Leslie and Molly had fun while Oliver and Quinn hit it off right away.  As the oldest and
youngest, Caleb and Declan played when they wanted and did their own things when they wanted.

More swimming at the Stella Maris Resort

The worst thing about the marina was the bugs. They were truly awful. Poor Molly, Declan and Anita
seemed to have the sweetest blood because they really got bitten badly all over their bodies.  We tried to
combat it with bug spray and closed hatches but I think the damage was done by then. Poor things.  We joked
that the airport officials wouldn’t let them back in the US because they looked like some horrible tropical
disease victims. I hope it has all passed now.

One day we rented cars and drove to the southern part of Long Island.  The main destination was Dean’s
Blue Hole, the deepest natural hole in the world at 660 feet deep.  The Free Diving World Championships
was underway so we were hoping to get down there early enough to watch some of the competition.   It’s
funny how 80 miles doesn’t seem like a huge distance by mainland US standards but is quite a long ways on
island roads.  By the time we got to the Blue Hole the competition was over but it turned out ok, probably
better, because now everyone could swim.  It was pretty crazy and a little creepy, swimming out from a
shallow sandy beach and then all of a sudden, Drop off!  With a snorkel mask you see the edge of the drop
off very clearly and it made me nervous that the kids were swimming right over it.  Of course, it’s not really
different than swimming anywhere else, but there is just something about swimming over the deepest hole in
the world!  We also discovered you can jump off the cliffs there.  This was immediately the best attraction
with all the kids (even Declan) jumping off the cliffs.  We got some pretty good simultaneous jumping
photos and the kids couldn’t stop talking about how much they loved the Blue Hole.

That evening the resort was having a Rum Punch Party with a live band, rum punch, conch fritter
appetizers and a buffet dinner.  Not cheap, but enjoyable and with marinated steaks cooked to order over
the open fire, we got our money’s worth.  I think the chefs were stunned at the amount of steaks
consumed that night!

After a few days at the resort we left the marina and went back to the same anchorage near the north
point of Long Island.  That was fun because we could sail the Bic and jump off the bow.  Good times had
by all.  It’s really nice to get the ocean breezes and no bugs at anchorage.

The next day we sailed across the water to Georgetown, Grand Exuma Island.  It was about a six hour
sail, uneventful, thank goodness!  Nobody got seasick.  Georgetown was a nice town with tons of boats
anchored. Our guidebook says many people sail to Georgetown and never get any farther south. It sure
seemed like that to us too.  I am still amazed that there are people who will sail for years only in the
Bahamas or only in the Caribbean.  Honestly, after a while the islands are all so similar that after about 5
months here we appreciate the beauty but there are only a few islands we would return to.  At least, that
is my opinion.  We are eagerly awaiting our landfall in the US.  It is so hard to believe it may be within a

We stayed in Georgetown for about three days, swimming, playing and sailing.  A big storm was coming
through and everyone in Georgetown was getting ready for it. Flights had been cancelled, boats were
putting out second anchors and hunkering down.  We had ten people on board and were expecting two
more since Bob’s sister Taylor and her son Wolfie were arriving.  That is crowded, but possible, if people
sleep outside.  Since the storm was expected to involve lots of rain, we were debating where everyone
would sleep inside the boat.  The end result was that we would get a hotel room and Leslie, Anita, Molly
and I would sleep ashore.  For me, this was a wonderful treat!  Hot showers, air conditioning and an early
morning run were such an unusual luxury.  Don’t misunderstand, I know the boat isn’t exactly roughing
it, but still!

All our toys are out to play!

As it turned out, the storm hit the following morning.  Everyone except Bob had come to the hotel and the
kids were playing in the pool and the adults were drinking coffee.  All of a sudden the skies opened up and
the rain and wind poured down.  For an hour or so we hunkered down in the hotel with the kids playing
checkers and the adults talking and watching the water.  There was a man we were speaking with who was
getting married the next day and wasn’t sure if his wedding guests would be able to land!  

Dane and Anita’s flight was getting nearer and they still had some bags on the boat.  Dane and I tried to take
the dinghy out to the boat to get the bags but (wisely, I think!) decided that the winds and waves were too
strong and we would really be stupid to try.  We waited another half hour or so and there was a lull in the
storm.  Soaked through and cold (what, cold in the Bahamas!), we managed to get their bags off the boat and
back to the hotel.  They headed to the airport and, luckily, their flight made it out on time and they got back
to Chicago.  

It was so much fun having them on the boat. It had been way too long since we had seen the kids and I really
enjoyed seeing the joyous full of life Declan, the gangsta’ Quinn and sweet Molly with her great smile.

Great buddies!

These one, too!

Thursday, April 21, 2016: At sea, enroute Matthew Town, Great Inagua, Bahams.
We’ve been underway about 24 hours now.  We left Marina Puerto del Ray about 8am, refueled
and headed west.  This is about a three day passage.  Earlier I was trying to remember the
last time we did an overnight or multiday passage.  It’s been since we sailed from Barbados
to St Lucia back in January!  Such a long time ago, it seems.  
We’ve had pretty good wind so far, about 15 kts relative on the beam.  Making about 8 kts
average.  The kids have been relaxing, doing schoolwork and reading.  It’s sunny and warm so
we are in good spirits! (Except for Oliver because he had a math test…)
Friday, April 22, 2016:  at sea
It’s Friday morning and we’ve been at sea two days now with one more day to go.  Yesterday
was very quiet and we flew the spinnaker for half the day.  Only item to report is that
Oliver is learning to make yeast breads from scratch.  We haven’t been able to find pita
breads that he uses for his pizza business.  So we found a recipe for naan that I thought
would work.  I had fun teaching Oliver to make naan.  (Note written May 9: He can make it
completely by himself now. Sometimes I have to help him with the rolling out, but he has the
rest of it down.)

New paragraph

Puerto Rico, you lovely island….always the pineapple growing…

10 points if you can name the musical those lyrics are from!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016, Marina Puerto del Ray, Fajardo, Puerto Rico

Here we are in the largest marina in the Caribbean, with something like 1000 deep water slips. Perhaps more
importantly, today I learned that the scene in Captain Ron where Kurt Russell magnificently docks Martin
Short’s sailboat at full speed, turning on a dime and placing the boat right next to a raging party-was filmed
right here!  I know you all like that movie as well as we do.  It’s practically a prerequisite for sailing with us!

We left St Thomas last Wednesday morning and headed directly to Culebra. Not everyone may know this,
but Puerto Rico is actually an archipelago of islands, often referred to as the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Culebra
is about 20 miles west of St Thomas.  We had almost no wind so we motored the whole way.  Not as fun as
sailing but at least we weren’t fighting big waves.  We anchored in Ensenada Honda, a very protected bay
very close to the town of Dewey.  We had a quiet evening there.

I like this statue in Dewey of this man throwing rocks at the boats coming in to the ferry dock!

The next day, Thursday, we started to explore the island.  About half the people drive golf carts
everywhere and the other half drive cars.  There is a ferry running from Fajardo to Culebra so many
tourists come in by ferry boat.  We decided to walk the 2.5 miles to Flamenco Beach, generally
considered one of the most beautiful beaches in the Spanish Virgins.  It was a very pretty, curving stretch
of beach with very white, soft sand.  There was an area for snorkeling but we didn’t snorkel, mainly we
just body surfed the waves and relaxed.  Culebra seemed very down to earth, the people were friendly
and it was touristy but not overwhelmingly so.  I hadn’t been feeling well the day before so I took it easy.

Bob really wanted to go to the small island of Culebrita, just off the northeast corner of Culebra.  There is
an old lighthouse there, supposedly the oldest in the Caribbean. It was a short sail to Culebrita and we
hooked up to a mooring ball on the beach. The island is completely uninhabited, the only structure on it is
the lighthouse.  We brought our dinghy ashore to walk around the northern corner to a large pool called
“the Jacuzzi”.  My goodness, the mosquitos here were AWFUL!  They were so bad we almost turned
around and left.  I think I got bitten probably 20 or 30 times, and Leslie had 18 bites on her left leg upper
thigh alone!  We did persevere to get to the Jacuzzi and it was really fun. Only the biggest waves break
over the top of the rock and into the pool, so for the most part the water is very calm. When the waves
break over the rocks you get an instant waterfall effect.  The nice part is that the water coming in keeps
the pool from becoming stagnant but doesn’t make it too rough.  We didn’t hike to the lighthouse because
the mosquitoes were too irritating.  

We had made arrangements to stay in the marina in Fajardo, Puerto Rico.  We needed water, fuel, laundry
machines and grocery stores.  After Culebrita we sailed over to the marina, another pleasant couple of
hours and tied up.  After being at anchor or on a mooring ball for the majority of the past four months it
felt strange to be in a marina.  Being able to just hop off the boat onto the dock for my morning run and
take a long hot shower afterwards feels like heaven!  One downside is that it is hotter here without the
open breeze.

So, about two weeks ago we had some great friends visiting, Rodney and Isabelle Yerger and their two
daughters.  Isabelle’s mother is Puerto Rican and happened to be on the island!  She came over shortly
after we tied up and welcomed us to her home.  It was wonderful to sit and chat with her; she had so
much good advice about Puerto Rico and information to share.  We rented a car for the next four days
and planned our adventures.

Saturday was our day to go hiking and exploring in El Yunque, the National Park which is the only
permanent rainforest in the United States.  We loaded up in the car with food, water, bathing suits and books
for the car.  We began at the visitor’s center which I think was a remarkable piece of architecture itself. It
was reminiscent of a giant treehouse set high above the forest below.  There was a roof but the sides were so
open and airy that I felt like I was outside.  They had some interesting display about the flora, fauna and
history of El Yunque as well as trail maps.

We decided to visit La Coca Falls first, hike to La Mina falls where we could swim and eat lunch, and finish
off with a hike up to Mt Britton.  One downside of being there on a weekend was that the falls and hikes
were PACKED!  There were so many people, local and tourists alike.  Can you see Oliver on the top of the rock?

We only stayed briefly at La Coca falls, we really wanted to get to La Mina Falls so the kids could go
swimming.  They had such a good time swimming at the falls!  The main waterfall when you come down the
trail was so crowded and much more interesting for people watching, in my opinion.  When we climbed
down the rocks to the falls below the water was cold, clear and almost no one was there.   This was really
nice and the kids were in heaven swimming in the falls.

Blog entry from Oliver

 Hi guys. How are you? I’m great. But I felt better when I was at La Mina falls. It’s a 30 minute hike to get
there and when you get there it doesn’t look that impressive (to me) but if you climb down two waterfalls
you get to an awesome natural swimming hole with even ledges to jump off of. Sadly it wasn’t deep enough
or safe enough to jump off the 16 foot ledge but it was still fun. The water there was so fresh I drank like a
half a gallon of it (exaggerating). If you go to Puerto Rico (you know what’s funny Puerto Rico means rich
port and a lot are not rich) I recommend La Mina falls.

We drove a couple of miles up the road to the Mt Britton tower trail.  None of the hikes are very long by US
standards but they can be fairly steep.  All the trails we saw were actually concrete paths, not dirt trails. I
understand this was done both to help the hikers and to prevent the erosion and mud but I really prefer a
typical dirt trail. The concrete paths felt really artificial to me.  At the top of the tower we had a great view
all the way to St Croix and St Thomas.  It’s fun to be able to look out there and identify all the islands.

After hiking we were all starving so we headed to Punta Latina, a local restaurant recommended by Rodney
and Isabelle Yerger as having the best Mofungo on the island.  Mofongo is mashed plantains that are stuffed
with meats, veggies and gravy.  We all had different things to eat as this restaurant also had Chinese food (!)
but everything was tasty and filling.  We were stuffed!

On Sunday we were planning on going to Old San Juan but decided to change our plans and drive to the
western coast.  Many of the sites we wanted see were closed on Monday but open on Sunday.  We figured
San Juan wouldn’t close on Monday so we would be safe swapping dates.  Puerto Rico is bigger than it
seems; it took us almost two hours driving to get to the Arecibo Observatory, the largest radio telescope in
the world.  Unfortunately the visitor’s center was closed for renovation so we hiked around the outside of the
campus, up the hill and got a great view of the huge telescope from the side.  It’s always an adventure with
the Robinsons!

This picture gives an idea of how huge the telescope really is.

After the Observatory we drove to the Rio Camuy Caves.  These are natural underground caves that have a
river flowing through the bottom of the sinkhole and are home to some unusual spiders, bats and crickets. 
The only way to see the caves is to take an organized tour where we were given audio headset guides and
driven down to the caves on a tram.  The caves was impressive because of its enormous size.  A 17 story
building would fit inside the largest cavern!  I thought the prettiest part was where shafts of light got into the
cave.  Green plants started to grow and the filtered light was beautiful.  The kids (and I) felt like we would
rather have just explored on our own than take a guided tour on the concrete footpath.  I think we are
somewhat spoiled for spelunking having had such an amazing private tour in the St Michael’s caves of
Gibraltar.   There was no guided path there, we had hard hats and flashlights and felt very intrepid as we
explored those caves.  Anyway, I did enjoy these as well.

Really gorgeous.

The ancient Taino Indians used to play a ball game similar to basketball and soccer combined.  They
played outside on a rectangular field and had to throw a ball through small hoops on the perimeter of the
field.  I believe some of them would play with hoops around their hips to make it harder.  We tried to go
to the Indigenous Ceremonial Center in Utuado because they have replicas of the fields and exhibits
about the native Puerto Ricans.  I was hoping we would make it there because I am always fascinated by
anthropological centers such as this one.  Unfortunately, driving through the mountains is slow going and
we arrived 15 minutes after the center closed.  Oh well, something to see for next time!  Sometimes Bob
and I leave a place feeling that we have seen all we want to see and don’t need to return. Not so for
Puerto Rico.  We feel like there are SO MANY more interesting places to go and hikes to explore.  We
certainly want to come back.

We faced a 2.5 hour drive back to the marina from the mountains so we decided to detour to Ponce for
dinner. Ponce is a town on the south of the island, the second biggest town after San Juan.  We wanted to
see the Parque de Bombas, a firestation built in 1882 and famous for the bold red and black stripes on the
exterior.  We got to the firehouse, parked the car, and wondered where everyone was!  The streets were
almost empty and the windows were all shuttered, restaurants closed. It was Sunday, certainly, but it was
still surprising to me.  We wandered around the plaza and some movement a few blocks away caught my
eye. Oliver and I went to explore and found a huge street fair!  Tons of people crowding around a plaza
where live music was playing surrounded by dozens of food trucks.  I quickly called Bob, he, Leslie and
Caleb came to us and we had great fun picking out our dinner from the food trucks.  The people were
really friendly, the music was fun to listen to and my empanadas were delicious. Bob had local arepas
filled with shredded pork.  For full disclosure I must add that Leslie and Oliver had pizza and Caleb had a
cheeseburger.  At least they will try lots of different foods, even if they don’t order them in a restaurant!

The old fire truck

Monday was our last day sightseeing and we drove up to Old San Juan.  Monday was overcast and very
rainy so thankfully we were able to be inside for much of the afternoon.  San Juan has free hop on hop off
shuttles that circle the old city on planned routes.  We really planned our days well because there were no
cruise ships in town on Monday!  We actually got seats on the bus and were able to move around in the forts.

We spent our day at two sites, the Castillo San Cristobel and El Morro.  Both of these forts were constructed
to defend San Juan beginning in the 1500s and continuing through WWII.  They both had some fairly
advanced ideas in construction being able to defend from land attack as well as sea attack.  The freshwater
cisterns allowed them to withstand a siege for several months.  There are tunnels that have acoustics
designed to be loud and reverberating to hear intruders approaching and lots of interconnected passageways,
hidden staircases and observation/guard shacks.  Bob said these were his favorite “tourist sites” we have seen
in PR.

This is in front of El Morro.

The interior of El Morro.

Would you trust these guards to keep you safe?!

The architecture in Old San Juan was beautiful also. The Spanish influence is seen in the bright colored
buildings, flat roofs and clean lines.  Old building had been very well maintained so we didn’t see much
deterioration.  The Capital building was a pale blue/lavender and beautiful as well.

Because we are leaving here with a three day passage to the Bahamas, we had several not so glamorous
logistics to complete.   But…Walmart to the rescue!  Provisioning for the month in the Bahamas with many
guests arriving, sewing, buying everything from underwear to a watch, Walmart had it all!

We capped off our evening and time in PR with a lovely dinner with Dora, Isabelle’s mom at Metropol. 
Metropol is a Cuban/Puerto Rican restaurant which was delicious and the company was great!  We really
loved spending time with Dora and she has really made our time here in her homeland special and unique. 
Thanks, again, Dora, now you are part of the Honu Kai crew!!

Today we take off for the Bahamas.  See you in a few days!

Leslie’s Peotry:

Nothing More Than a Dewdrop

A dewdrop sparkles on a blade of green grass



                           Onto the


The moist brown earth absorbs most

But there is still a hint

A tiny patch on the ground

Slightly more wet than the rest.

A small imprint, that those who care to look can find.

That is what we all can hope for

In the least.

To make a small difference

Just enough,

that those who care to look can see.

That those who want to find can find.

That our lives weren’t in vain

Because we made a difference.

We may only be one tiny drop among a waterfall

Or a minuscule pebble in an avalanche.

But our contribution is large enough

That those who care to look can find.

                                                                                          LESLIE M. ROBINSON
Loved Unknowingly

There is always a


Shining in his eyes.

    He's always


            to himself.

Interested, active, smart.

He is


blue and


    He creates.

Makes others laugh.

    can love.

A hyper




    and the



        else, he is.


                                                                                          LESLIE M. ROBINSON

Final blog from USVIs.  

Wednesday, April 13, 2016:  Once again I find myself having forgotten to write a little each

day.  Now I have to remember all we’ve done in the past week.  We have had a really nice

final week here in the United States Virgin Islands.  Gary, Bob’s dad, flew in on last

Wednesday night.  We were still anchored in a beautiful bay about five minutes’ walk from

the airport so that was extremely convenient.  We spent those days snorkeling, sailing the

Bic (which Leslie has named Bottlecap) and relaxing on the boat.  

Thursday morning we hauled up the anchor and headed over to St Johns.  St Johns is only a

few miles off the eastern coast of St Thomas and it almost entirely a National Park.  There

are well maintained hiking (and running!) trails, and some restaurants and shops.  The park

also maintained hundreds of mooring buoys around the island in protected bays.  Normally,

boats will drop their own anchor.  However this has proven to damage coral heads so the park

has permanently anchored mooring balls to not damage the coral. What this means as a boat is

that instead of dropping our anchor we can send a line through the buoy loop, run it back to

the boat and cleat it (fasten it securely).  Voila!  Boat is safely in one place with no

worries about dragging, swinging or damaging coral. 

The Park also has several historic demonstrations, guided hikes, star information sessions,

etc, that are held weekly.  Bob and I had looked these over and decided to spend one night

at the Cinnamon Bay campground. They have an archeology site there because there used to be

a Taino Indian settlement.  They are finding quite a few Pre-Columbian artifacts and have

displayed many of their finds in a small museum. There are some interns available for

questions, as well. We spend some time in the museum. I especially enjoyed seeing a huge

piece of ironwood used as a mortar and pestle.  The ironwood is so hard and heavy that it

sinks and even now, 1500 years later, could still be used to pound plants into pulp.  One of

the interns led us on a short hike around some sugar mill ruins, explaining the process and

how they believe the buildings were used.  I thought the coolest thing was that coral was

used in building the walls and posts, especially the corners.  Coral is soft and malleable

and can be cut while wet, but when dries it becomes as hard as a rock.  They would cut and

shape the coral to make a 90deg angle or whatever angle was desired and let it dry.  It was

amazing. Of course, now we know that coral is an animal and would never use it for that

purpose but I thought it was still very inventive.

SHARKS!!!  In Cinnamon Bay we had at least three sharks that lived under our boat!  We are

still not sure what kinds of sharks, they ranged from about 2 feet to 3.5 feet long and just

were continually swimming around in the shadow of the boat.  Oliver thought it was awesome

and swam with them getting as close as he could before Bob and I got nervous.  We have

narrowed it down to either a reef shark or a blue tipped shark but to hear the kids tell it,

the shark was a 10-foot long shark straight out of the Jaws movie!  Cinnamon Bay is a campground as

well, so there were tons of families camping and snorkeling and the campground had bathroom facilities,

showers and a mini mart.  Expensive store, but convenient and they were well stocked.

Next day we sailed two bays over to Waterlemon Cay.  This was a quieter, very protected bay

close to the Annaberg Sugar Mill ruins.  They have an onsite baker and gardener who will

demonstrate the crops, farming techniques and baked goods that were typical during the sugar

mill days, (1800’s mainly).  St John was a Danish island for many centuries and the

influence is definitely there in place names.  For example, Caneel Bay (another St John bay)

is called that because the sailors smelled a spicy smell even offshore, which they believed

was cinnamon. Kaneel is the Danish word for cinnamon.  Now we know they were actually

smelling the Bay Rum Tree, vice cinnamon, but I can see how they would make that mistake. 

The Annaberg plantation was a major sugar mill community and the ruins were very

interesting.  Two National Park volunteers, retired Maryland folks, were there to answer any

questions and they were very knowledgeable.  We sucked on sugar cane and ate coconut from

the garden and ate “dumb bread” from the bakehouse.  Dumb bread is called that because it is

short for “dumpling” bread, as the dough is often used as dumplings in soup.  

One fascinating nature fact we learned was that tarantulas live in holes in the ground but

they can be coaxed up by carefully inserting a long piece of grass into the hole and pulling

slowly up.  If you are doing it well, you start to see long hairy legs come out of the hole!

 We had fun doing that, even though it was slightly creepy.

See those ugly hairy legs coming out?!

Waterlemon Bay was a pretty cove with some snorkeling spots, a very small beach and about 10

sailboats. Oliver was able to sell some pizzas and we all met some really nice, interesting

people.  He’ll tell you about it but the coconut telegraph is working among the cruising

community!  He is beginning to be known as “that pizza kid”.  Very cool, in my opinion.  I

also had a really fun trail/road combo run.  It took a while, but for anyone familiar with

St John, I ran on a trail over the ridge to the town of Coral Bay on the east side, back up

the mountain on the appropriately named Centerline Road heading west.  At the top of the

mountain I ran back down a trail leading to Cinnamon Bay campground and ran along the North

Road back to Waterlemon Bay.  It was a great loop.

And now a word from our sponsor...

               Oliver’s Blog entry  

What’s up peeps. I’ll bet you are wondering what the heck is happening in my pizza business. Well I’ll tell
you. In the past few days the ratio of pizza selling is a whopping 4:1 in sold to refused. In St. Martin it was
1:50. Also most people have told me that “I heard about you from a friend”. “You’re the pizza kid”. So I’m
famous. Also if that pizza competition in Christmas Cove think they can sell a pizza at 25 dollars they must
be crazy. Loco. Out of their minds. Point at them and use your finger to circle around your ear. Okay they’re
professionals but I am too. See the definition- an amateur who has lost his amateur status. So tell them to get
off their darn high horse and lower the darn price. Spread the word of my pizza business.

 This is Oli Kai out.

Saturday, April 9 saw us heading around the same corner, in the boat this time.  We decided

to anchor in Coral Bay and go in for lunch at Skinny Legs, a local sailing community

watering hole with great food.   We devoured some bacon cheeseburgers, chatted with locals

and wandered around the very tiny town.  

A few hours later, we sailed around the southeastern corner of the island and moored in

Great Lameshur Bay, another protected bay on the South side.  Bob and I really wanted to do

a hike that started close to Great Lameshur and this was the best starting off point.

Sunday morning we headed off on our hike to see some ancient petroglyphs and sugar mill

ruins near Reef Bay.  The hike was really nice. In my opinion the ancient dwellers just

liked drawing pictures of monkey faces on rocks.  The Sugar Mill ruins were interesting

because they used a steam engine to power the sugar mill.  When I look at the rugged steep

mountains it’s hard to believe that they were once covered with sugar cane, but I understand

that sugar cane needs to be replanted every year (annual?).  Once they stop replanting, the

natural forest takes back over! 

Bob hiking close to the petroglyphs

While Bob and I were hiking, Gary and the kids snorkeled, fished, sailed and swam.  The kids

had planned “The Great Adventure Day” and, with Caleb as the leader, they were going to swim

ashore and explore and climb the hills off the trails.  They had fun but it was a short

lived expedition due to the sea urchins, the cacti and crumbling rocks on the cliffs.  

Probably a safe call by their fearless leader.

While I was out running that evening I learned about the Tektite Museum.  I’m going to let

Caleb write about this, but we went the following morning and I’m so glad we did.  In the

1969-70 timeframe, this underwater submersible pod was designed to test psychological and

daily aspects of living for several months completely isolated and unable to return.  The

biologists and engineers in the pod (5 at a time) were doing marine research and data

gathering but were at such a pressure that they would immediately get the bends if they

tried to return to the surface, to simulate being in space with no ability to return.  It

was a small but well-designed museum with mockups of the rooms, articles on Tektite in

National Geographic and Reader’s Digest and some information from the research they did.

And now a message from Caleb!

In the years just before Neil Armstrong and crew was sent into space to trek the moon, NASA and the US
Navy were working experiments on the other extreme, The Ocean. These experiments were called Project
Tektite, Named after a small type of rocks that was assumed then to be from an asteroid crashing into the
moon or another planet, and it sent 5 Engineers and Ocean biologists to the depths of the ocean just off of
Saint John. In fact Grandpa Gary and I (Caleb) went troll fishing just along the area that the Tektite team
went down. Although we didn’t catch anything, and we may have been breaking a few laws, it was still lots
of fun. Anyway, the Tektite team built a pod with 4 rooms, with two on the ground and the other two just
above. A kitchen, a lab room, a sleeping area and the entrance/exit/common room. During the Tektite
expedition the aquanauts are sent down for 60 days in the pod. They are sent to examine how a group would
do with pseudo isolation and to discover new things under the sea.                          

There were three Tektite trips. The first was an all men trip. But, the second was a group of ladies. This being
1969 this was a change of pace to prove that women have a place in scientific history. While the third group
was still men Grandpa says that “women got more done, They are more efficient!” (Note from Mom: I
wholeheartedly agree!)   

Leslie standing in front of the Project Tektite mock-up.

This is a huge lobster found in the bay nearby.

After the museum we pulled up chocks and sailed back to Charlotte Amalie, the capital of St

Thomas.  We did some sightseeing on Hassel Island, a small island in the harbor that has a

Napoleonic Fort, an old gun battery and signal shack and remains of old shipping warehouses

and ship repair and haul out buildings from the early 1800s.  Today the island is part of

the National Park with trails that lead to all these ruins.  Gary’s hip was bothering him so

he and Caleb did a taxi tour up to the correctly named Mountain Top and toured Blackbeard’s

Castle and the Butterfly House.  Bob and I reprovisioned at our local Costco-like superstore

and surprised the family with pizza for dinner!  Sometimes it is these little things that

are special.  

Today, Wednesday, Gary returns to the cold North and we head west to Culebra and on to

Puerto Rico.  Again, this is only my opinion, but I really like the USVIs.  The people, the

hiking and the beaches have been beautiful.  I have even met two interesting local women

that I have run with.  Therese is a public middle school teacher here in St Thomas and

Charlotte and her family are dinghy racers and run a local business.  I really do meet some

great people running!

Monday, 04 April 2016:  St Thomas, USVI.

Here we are again, Monday morning, having enjoyed the wonderful showers and facilities of

being in a marina for one night.  Last week after we left Tortola we headed over to Jost Van

Dyke, a small party island part of the BVIs that is very close to St John and St Thomas.  We

took a mooring ball in Great Harbor and just relaxed.  Leslie, Oliver, Bob and I took a walk

over to White Bay, which  is well known for the Soggy Dollar Bar and its famously potent

"painkillers".  Bob and I shared a painkiller (fruity rum drink) and we walked back over the

hill.  Nice quiet evening for us.  Tuesday morning was a milestone day for us because for

the first time since we left last spring, we were ON U.S. TERRITORY!  Some of our friends,

Rodney and Isabelle Yerger and their daughters Stella and Lydia, were coming to spend their

spring break in St Thomas, part of the USVIs.  The Yergers were staying for four days at a

resort near Secret Harbor, St Thomas.  We anchored off their resort's beach and headed

ashore to see them!  Seemed like no time had passed! Unfortunately, Rodney got sunburned the

first day which limited the swimming, snorkeling and hiking he could do but we all had fun.  

We relaxed on the beach, did lots of swimming and catching up.  Caleb and Leslie both took

an intro to SCUBA class, a three hour session of short classroom time, then into the water

with the instructor for the diving.  Caleb loved it and wants to get his SCUBA qual.  Leslie

liked the class but said it was a little "freaky" being underwater like that!  She had a

headache from the air but really liked all the information the instructor gave about the

fish and coral they saw.  

The wonderful treat for me was a long hot shower in their hotel room.  It really is some of

those creature comforts that we get so rarely now that we are anchored instead of in a

marina.  Since we are conscience of our water usage we usually take short, cool showers,  

often using the hose right on the stern.  Not the greatest, but it usually works well

enough.  We do have several actual showers onboard but we normally just shower off with

fresh water after swimming.  I always swim after I run, both to cool down and to rinse off

some of the sweat, then shower on the boat.

Our last night with the Yergers, a fun dinner at Tickles Restaurant in Crown Bay

On Friday the Yergers checked out of their resort and checked into S/V Honu Kai!  We headed

directly to St John and checked out of the USVIs.  Our plan was to go snorkeling at a couple

of spots on the north side of St John, then sail over to Jost Van Dyke and Sandy Cay,

finishing back in the capital of St Thomas, Charlotte Amalie.  Some of our plans were foiled

by the weather.  A rare occurance, a pouring down rainy day was in the cards for Friday.  We

checked out of the USVIs and got back to the boat, which was sitting on a mooring ball

outside Cruz Bay, just before the downpour started.  The rain continued all day and we

played cards and tried to stay dry.  

Saturday morning we sailed around the island and stopped at Trunk Bay.  I'll let Leslie talk

about this but it was a cool snorkeling spot with an underwater trail to follow. Not as big

as I expected but fun to do, and the snorkeling was great. That afternoon we motored across

to JVD and the Yergers set foot on British soil.  Rodney cracked us up by saying, "Funny, I

didn't expect Britain to look like this..."  The adults had a drink at Foxy's, an iconic

watering hole which boasts the greatest New Year's Eve party in the world.  We even saw Foxy


On Sunday we got up early and had breakfast out on Sandy Cay.  This is a great tiny island

with a trail that circles the island.  I kept thinking how much Jayne (our wonderful friends

from Delphinus) would have loved it because there were so many beautiful birds!  It was

silent except for the birds.  Really beautiful. Oliver has some different thoughts on Sandy

Cay and I'll let him share them. We headed back to St Thomas because we had reserved a spot

in the marina for the night.  The Yergers had a flight out the next morning and we wanted to

make it easier for them logistically.  We also wanted to get water, do some maintenance and

cleaning.  Also nice to take hot showers and a break from cooking in the marina restaurant!  

Bob and I at Foxy's

Sideboys report for Rodney, at sea on Honu Kai!

Monday, 28 March 2016:  Cane Garden Bay, Tortola, BVI.

Good morning from the BVIs!  I really need to get back to writing a little bit each day so I

don't lose track of all the fun days we are having.  Jurgita Rohde, a dear friend whose

family we enjoyed visiting in Estonia and( I hope!) will move back to Columbia soon,

cautioned me not to let too much time pass by without writing or I might have trouble

catching up. She is totally right!  We left Leverick Bay, Virgin Gorda, on Saturday late

morning.  We wanted to get an earlier start but we did laundry, took hot showers and waited

for (it seemed like) forever for the fuel pier to open up.  We needed water, not fuel, but

it seemed like the boats on the fuel pier were just camped out, not going anywhere.  Finally

the employees directed us to a normal slip where we quickly filled up the port tank and

headed out.  

We only had about 20 miles from Leverick Bay to Cane Garden Bay but we had heard about some

great snorkeling spots along the way, in the Dogs.  The Dogs are a group of multiple

islands, maybe around 6 or so, that lie north west of Virgin Gorda and have some notable

snorkeling spots.  These are pretty easy because the national parks have laid down a bunch

of mooring balls for day use.  We have bought a cruising permit so we can use these balls in

all the snorkeling spots. Of course, we are also dodging charter boats all the time.  So

many charters!  They seem like they just party all the time, but I guess that is the

difference between cruisers and charters.  Bob and the kids snorkeled and had a nice time.  

We stopped twice and snorkeled, making it to Cane Garden Bay around 4pm.  

Cane Garden Bay is a very pretty bay, white sand beaches and many cafes and restaurants

along the coast.  Like all these islands, all protected bays have cliffs on all sides.  

Pretty to look at, tough for my running every morning!  Tons of boats, of course.  Yesterday

morning I woke up and headed out for my run.  I was fortunate enough to meet Kate, a young

girl who is crew on a privately owned charter boat and spends the "season" running the boat

with her husband.  "Off season" they head home to Maine for a relaxing three months or so.  

Seems to work out great because off season here is perfectly beautiful New England summer

months.  She was gearing up for a run and I joined her.  She had great advice about the

islands and I enjoyed the company.

We decided to head over to Road Town, the capital of the BVIs, in the morning and go for a

hike on the way back.  We knew not much would be open, being Sunday AND Easter, but Bob and

I thought we would regret it if we didn't at least see and walk around the town.  It was

pleasant, small and quiet.

Jayne recently told me about a great app called Marine Traffic and Wind. This app allows you

to put in a vessel name and the AIS (identifier) will show on a map where the boat is and

all additional information.  We found out that a kidboat called Pilot's Discretion was in

the marina in RoadTown.  This boat has two boys close to Oliver's age and there was quite a

lot of whiffleball games in Rodney Bay, St Lucia.  We had a nice half hour catch up with

them!  It's always hard for kids to leave friends not knowing when they will see eachother

again but I hope they realize they are making friends all over the world.  That's pretty


I feel like I need to be honest with myself.  This may not be included on the blog, but I

think it's important for my own records.  Not everything is sunshine and roses on this trip.

 We are five different people with strong personalities in a 44 ft long boat, often with no

way off.  It is safe to say that we all, at different times, want to be off the boat, away

from everyone else and to be home.  Sometimes one of us will get mad and there will be so

much yelling I feel  like I need to close the hatches.  Other times I look around and

everyone else seems like they are on vacation and having a blast with no worries.  We are

having fun, but we still have real-life concerns, school, maintenance, a budget and this is

our home right now.  I miss my washing machine, my dishwasher and long hot showers. Mostly I

miss my friends and family.  We have been lucky enough to have some friends and family come

visit, but even that can add stress.  Bob worries about our schedule, our readjusting back

to normal school and life.  I am eager to be able to see my good friends again and get back

with my Crazies running group.

                                     O-Man’s blog entry

 I wish my experience in Sandy Cay of the coast of Jost Van Dyke, a British Virgin Island in the British
Virgin Islands in the Caribbean were better. I thought it was going to include water gun fights and playing on
the island and sharp rocks and sea urchins were not what I expected.


 It started in Sandy Cay when the Yergers kids and us Robinson kids were going to get water guns to play
water fight then we swam ashore. I had to wait for like 30 minutes because they needed to learn how to use a
water gun best. I waited, and waited. Then I went and asked them if they were ready but they said “The guns
aren’t working well” and “I wanna play on the rocks”.


We went to the rocks and they were slippery and wet and wavy. We made our way across the rocks and I
went out a little further into the rocks and my right foot into a hole with a black sea urchin and sharp
rocks. My foot was bloody and it hurt and I had nettles in my foot.

   My experience was not very fun in Sandy Cay and I never got to have a water gun fight, I got spiked by
a sea urchin and I still have not got all the nettles out.

Leslie’s Blog Entry:

To all the winged creatures, all the things that can fly.

I do not know how many people actually read this blog, but to those who do: Hello! I have not written for
a while, but now here I am! I will be writing about three topics in this blog entry: Yergers, Coral Reefs,
and Hermit Crabs all which we have seen on different islands. Enjoy!

We had the Yergers staying here for a few days, and I must say it was very enjoyable. Their eldest
daughter, Stella, had been in a school production of Into the Woods and has an excellent singing voice.
Stella’s younger sister, Lydia, likes Hermit Crabs (which I learned on a beach with hundreds of them) and
is a Master at Hearts (the card game). Mrs. Isabelle is interesting to talk to, and really nice. Mr. Rodney
writes songs and then sings them with his guitar, which are really good. They are a great family and were
delightful guests.

Trunk Bay was an interesting little island, because of its snorkeling abilities. Let me explain: The coral
reef was a protected one that you were allowed to snorkel around following an underwater trail. There
were three buoys marking the start, place to turn around, and end in the trail. The most remarkable thing
about this trail was that in the middle of these three buoys there were little signs with facts about the
coral, fish, and advisements under the water. So while you snorkeled you could literally see and learn.
For me, it was a good snorkeling all-and-all but two things made it slightly unenjoyable: One, My snorkel
kept filling up with water and two, it was not as good as the snorkeling at Pigeon Island. This made it
hard to breathe and a tad dull, but good snorkeling overall. In fact, I would recommend it, because it was
interesting, just not totally for me. In contrast to my opinion, my father believed that the snorkeling was if
not as, almost as good as Pigeon Island. So, believe what you wish. Also, we (Mom) found out that the
mammals native to this Island were bats, all others were imported. That part was for you Ms. Jayne!

Sandy Cay is where there were so many Hermit Crabs, and when I said hundreds, I meant HUNDREDS.
It was a little Island we went to April. 3, 2016. There is the beach, naturally, and in the inner island there
is a mile long walking path. Stella and I decided to walk it and after maybe a quarter mile we came across
a little clearing with a big tree in the middle of it. On the side of the tree, nestled between roots, was a
lovely gravestone. It was simple with just a carving on a tree and the man’s name and birth/death dates in
granite (I think). After Stella and I saw the Tree of Life, (my name for it because of a) plants representing
life and growth, b) there were initials of lovers carved on the tree -love, a part of life and, c) there was a
grave in the roots of the tree- death, the last stage of life) we started to notice things moving in the
leaves… Hermit Crabs – everywhere. Stella and I continued on the path and in, probably, 0.4 miles we
had counted about 110 crabs and that was only crabs on the side of the trail. Eventually we stopped
counting. But that is my evidence that there are literally hundreds of these creatures.

There you are readers, if you didn’t get bored halfway through then you might have learned something.
Congratulations! Nice writing to you, until next time. This is Leslie Melia Robinson of Honu Kai- out.

Friday, March 25, 2016:  The winds really came up as predicted, we woke to 25 knots and gust to 30.  We
still needed to clear in as customs was closed on our arrival Thursday.  An option was to dingy the 1 nm to
the customs dock, but we thought better of it and opted for a cab.  Customs was easy - about 20 min and
back to Leverick Bay Resort, where we are on a mooring buoy.  Good deal, with the mooring buoy you get
access to the resort, including pool, showers, laundry and a free fill up of water and a bag of ice.  What more
can you want.  We got organized, and found a local taxi driver as it is a holiday weekend, both Friday and
Monday are official BVI holidays, so no rental cars.  In the end it was a great deal.  Our driver was a local
and gave us a tour of the island on our way to and from the Baths, an area of huge boulders that are along the
shore.  There is snorkeling, and hiking, climbing and jumping off rock.  The kids did it all.  The highlight
was a trail that went between two bays that went through an area called the caves.  To get through includes
rope climbing, ducking through narrow passages, dark tunnels, swimming, and some wooden stairs in the
more difficult areas.  It was excellent.  The kids basically went in and did not come out for 2 hours.  On the
way back we stopped at a few lookouts and stopped at a local Roti shop and got some food.  In the end the
cost of the taxi was less than a rental car, he cut us a great deal well below the published rate.  We then hung
out at the pool for the rest of the evening.

Thursday, March 24, 2016:  U/W from Road Bay, Anguilla to Virgin Gorda, BVI.

We have had a fun and adventurous last 4 days!  To begin where we last wrote, Caleb finished his laser
regatta and took home some hardware, a 3rd place trophy.  In the end, I think he was pleased
with the racing, how he stuck with it through the hard races and is now talking about wanting his own
laser when we get back to Maryland so he can race Bob.  Frank, Caleb may be coming out your
way soon! (Bob earned his orange laser, the same one he sails today, by working one summer at Uncle
Frank's farm.  Caleb has been talking about working in an ice cream shop to make some money, so
that may fund his laser instead of farm work.)  Another exciting event was a visit by my old USNA
classmate and Bob's former colleague Dave Durazzo and his beautiful daughters Isabella and Leila.  
The girls were on Easter break from their schools in Hawaii and Dave planned a trip to the Caribbean, to
Puerto Rico and St Martin to visit family. It was perfect that we were there as well!  We
had a great breakfast at the Sint Maarten Yacht Club with the Durazzos and Dave's cousin Heather who has lived on St Martin for 20 years.  Heather and her family are so incredibly nice and
Heather's daughter Katie was sailing in the regatta as well.  Heather has a young son, Grant, who is close to Oliver's age. Oliver and Grant hit it off right away and Oliver was fortunate to be
invited to spent the night at their house.  We were joking because he was so excited to take a long hot shower, sit in air conditioning and open the fridge all he wanted!  Heather's family is in
the pizza business so Oliver was thrilled to have pizza for a couple of meals in a row, as well as some shop talk with Heather.

We were also thrilled to meet up again with S/V Madhatter, the wonderful cruising family we met in Jolly
Harbor, Antigua.  They sailed up to St Martin for the regatta and Leslie, Lily and Sailor
all became great friends.  One night Bob, Jayne and I took all the girls to the Causeway Jump Up.  A
jump up in the Caribbean is basically a loud, dancing street party.  In this case there were
about 5 or 6 flat bed trucks with HUGE subwoofers and live bands and singers.  The trucks drove from
the St Martin Yacht Club over the causeway bridge and back again, followed by the dancing,
gyrating locals.  It was fun to watch and dance from the side of the road but the bass was so loud it you could feel it in your chest!  The music itself was loud but the bass was overwhelming for me.  But we all had fun.  

Not only did we visit with Dave and the girls, but they spent the next two days with us on Honu Kai!  On Monday we sailed from St Martin to Anguilla, about 10 miles north.  It was a pleasant,
quick sail with, unfortunately, some sea sickness but everyone perked right up once we were anchored in Road Bay, Anguilla.  Road Bay is a very protected calm harbor with several restaurants
surrounding a pretty white sand beach.  We went through the usual check in procedures and the kids broke out the water guns.  War!!  Dave and the girls stayed over night on Monday and were taking
the ferry back to St Martin Tuesday afternoon.  After consulting with the under 14 set, we decided to just relax, swim and hang out on the boat on Tuesday morning.  It was really nice. I went for
a run and the kids swam, sailed on the Open Bic and had another war.  Dave, Isabella and Leila, you are welcome back anytime!

Bob worked for years with a colleague named Monty at APL.  Monty and his wife Nancy have had a house in Anguilla for 25 years and moved down here when they retired a few years ago.  They were so
nice to come out to the boat, visit with us and give Dave and the girls a ride to the ferry. Jayne, Paul and Lily came over as well so we were a merry bunch on Honu Kai!  Monty and Nancy are such
wonderful, entertaining and knowledgeable people that it was a joy to spent time with them.  Thanks again for telling us all about your beautiful island.:) 

Yesterday, Wednesday, was my birthday.  It was a great birthday, starting with a 35 mile bike ride around the island with Bob.  It was a fun place to ride, good roads, accommodating drivers and
beautiful views.  It was nice to get on the bike again.  We tried to go to the Anguilla Heritage Museum but we got there at 9 and it opened at 10. Island time... Oh well, on the next visit! I did
have someone call out his car window "nice legs!"  Here I am, an old lady of 41, and  getting cat calls. I'm not complaining! When we were done, we quickly got into bathing suits, packed lunches
and headed off to Sandy Beach.  Sandy Beach is a small flat island 2 miles offshore about the size of a soccer field surrounded by a coral reef.  There is a bar on the island, some hammocks and a
volleyball net.  We all enjoyed relaxing and snorkeling. I saw a cool fish that looked like its body was camouflaged in greys and blues but the tips of the gills and fins were red.  The most
wonderful surprise was that Jayne and the girls had baked me a carrot cake!  It was delicious and it means so much to me that they remembered and went to all the effort.

The rest of yesterday we got the boat ready to go, kids worked on school work and we all went down to Elvis' waterfront bar for a drink at sunset.  Monty and Nancy came out and it was a perfect
relaxing evening with good talk, a little cornhole and dancing in the sand and fantastic company.  It's always sad to leave people and leaving Delphinus was harder than most because we've become
so close to them.  With some people you know you will always be great friends, you will stay in touch and see again, distance doesn't matter.  I know that is how it is with Jayne, Paul and Lily.  

Best of wishes to you all with your upcoming celebrations and fair winds and following seas always.

Sunday, March 20, 2016:  Simpson Bay Lagoon, St. Martin/Sint Maarten
Here we are in the smallest island in the world that is actually two countries! The last six days seem to have flown by so I will try to recap.  The kids have some input as well.  When we got to
St Bart's, we first arrived in the capital, Gustavia.  This was a large, protected and very busy harbor.  There were many sailboats like ours, but we have certainly arrived in the region of
superyachts. More on that later.  After scouting around Gustavia, hooking up to a mooring ball and learning all the mooring balls are privately owned, we decided to leave and head one mile around
the corner to Anse du Columbier.  This was a great decision. This bay is gorgeous with a small sandy beach and completely isolated. No roads lead to this bay at all.  The Rockefeller family used
to own it and I guess they decided to keep it private.  Five or six other boats were moored there and we swam and snorkeled around the boat.  
Our guide book stated that people take their dinghies around the corner into Gustavia. I decided that I would hike up the mountain, find a trail or a road on the other side and run there to do our
normal clearing-in.  This was another adventure!  Up and down and around the mountains, I finally arrived in Gustavia and did the paperwork.  It ended up about a six mile roundtrip, so that was
fine, but the roads were really steep and curving!  Here is where I will let Oliver talk about his new "Boateria", his first business.  

Oliver has a Boateria now   

Hi guys. I’m really sorry I haven’t written in a while but you need to hear this story. It started in Antigua
when mom and dad got pita bread. We ate some with our Moroccan chicken and afterwards I noticed it
looked like a lunchables pizza crust thingamagigger thingy. So I tried making a pizza with pita bread and oh
my god it was goooooooooooood! After I made Caleb one he said when we get home you should open up a
pizza place in our garage. I thought why not start now on the boat.   I added up all the expenses and I have to
pay mom and dad 1.50 every pizza for material, I earn 2.50 a pizza, and my price is 4.00 a pizza.    I started
my business in a small harbor with only three boats. The first one did not answer, the second didn’t want
pizza, and the third (the French are so nice) wanted both pizzas and they were really nice. Mom said the
probably would not have wanted pizza if I hadn’t cooked it by myself. I made 5 dollars in those three boats
so what will happen in St. Martin when there are like seventy boats? Well wish me luck. This is olikia out.  

I've been really proud of Oliver about his pizza business. He has really priced out the material costs and delivered his pizzas exactly on time and hot.  Bob, Caleb or I have done the driving
around in the dinghy but he has done everything else by himself.  Oliver often comes up with big ideas that aren't feasible for various reasons.  I'm so pleased that here was one of his ideas that
he could run with.

The rest of the day we hiked along the coast and swam around the boat. Next morning, Tuesday, we headed out for St Martin.  Simpson Bay lagoon, the huge enclosed lagoon where most people anchor,
is accessible by one of two bridges, either the French bridge on the north or the Dutch bridge on the south.  Both of these bridges have specific opening times but the French side is free and the
Dutch side charges by the foot.  So we went around to the French side, of course! The second part of this is that to anchor where we wanted (near Delphinus!) we had to sail down a narrow, unmarked
channel where the depth on the side of the channel is 3ft.  We draw 3 feet, so we certainly wanted to stay in the channel.  Normally we could post a lookout on the bow to see if we were staying in
this channel but the water here is pretty murky.  The most we could see was a color change.  A couple of times we saw 3.3, 3.5 on the fathometer and Bob and I were very nervous.  The channel isn't
very long, only about 200m, but running aground is not desired!  Anyway, we made it through and dropped the hook.  Cheers all around!  The kids were so happy to see Lily I practically had to
restrain them from abandoning ship.

We have been having a relaxing time in St Martin.  One afternoon Leslie, Lily and I went dress shopping in search of a bridesmaid dress for Lily. We found a beautiful sundress with gorgeous green
and blue flowers that will be especially pretty in the  natural Domenica setting.

Caleb is sailing in a laser regatta out of Sint Maarten Yacht Club. He and Bob have been practicing starts and reviewing racing rules.  Yesterday was the first day of sailing and it was pretty
windy, probably 15-20 steady with puffs around 25.  I am really proud of how he hung in.  Laser sailing is not easy and this is his first regatta.  Back out there this morning for the second day
of racing and then to the afterparty!

Let's see, other cool memories of St. Martin...  The first afternoon, Jayne and Paul persuaded us to go to Maho beach and I'm really glad they did!  This section of the beach is very famous on
YouTube videos because the airplanes take off and land about 20 feet overhead. Sometimes they barely clear the fence separating the beach from the runway.  Consequently, the windblast from the jet
engines is enormous, blowing hats, shoes and sometimes small children down the beach!  Loads of people stand there trying to get a picture that looks like they are holding the airplane up.  The
first big airplane that launched took me unaware of how strong the sandblast would be.  Let's just say I am completely exfoliated and I am still digging sand out of my hair!

The local cruisers organized a fun "pre-St. Patrick's" day party at a nearby bar with an open grill.  We met some really nice people, enjoyed the music and food and Oliver took several pizza
orders for lunch the next day.

Monday, 14 March 2016:  Anse du Columbier, St Bart's.

We arrived yesterday afternoon in St Bart's after leaving Antigua early.  We had a great passage yesterday, covering over 70nm in about 9 hours, over 8 kts!  I love it when we sail fast.  
The last several days in Jolly Harbor were fun.  We started out in the marina alongside the pier, which was very nice and convienient. The marina personnel and the local restaurants were very
pleasant and helpful.  However, one of us (me...) apparently didn't read all the fine print, so by the time the daily rate was doubled for an alongside pier and added 50% for a multihull and costs
for water, power, taxes, etc, were tallied up, being in the marina was more expensive than we expected!  Since the harbor itself was very protected, we moved off to a mooring ball for the last few
days while waiting for the weather to clear.

One fun thing was meeting an American cruising family.  I am on a facebook page called Kids4Sail and there was a post asking for any families in Jolly Harbor with girls around 12 years old for her
daughter to play with.  Hey, I have a 12 year old daughter!  I wrote back and we introduced the girls.  Leslie and Sailor had great fun at the beach and swimming in the pool.  They both could
commiserate about younger brothers and school. Younger brothers Ben and Oliver both attended a local sailing class and played soccer the rest of the day.  It was nice meeting parents Lisa and
Chris as well.

We went into St John's, the capital city, for a morning tour.  We toured the Antigua/Barbuda museum.  It was very well designed, not huge but very informative. Leslie did quite a bit of research
there to write an essay on the history of Antigua; I'll include it in the blog.

Antigua: Its History and Now

The Caribbean Sea holds many islands one of which being Antigua (aHn-Tea-Guh). Antigua’s coming to
be as it is now was an incredible journey which I will take you on in this paper. Starting with the island’s
formation, to slaves being freed we will bring to life the tale of this wonderful island.

Thirty-five million years ago a volcano erupted. Volcanic lava cooled around, under, and above coral
reefs near the underwater mountain. This repeated volcanic activity, coral reefs, and the falling of sea
levels eventually spawned the island we now call Antigua. Antigua did not break off of a continental land
mass and has never been a part of one, but was created solely.

Antigua is prone to earthquakes because of where it sits on the Caribbean plate which includes Central
America and the Caribbean Sea. It sits on the Eastern edge which sits between and is being under
thrusted by the Atlantic plate. This island has seismic activity resulting from the building and releasing of
pressure from the jostling of the Atlantic plate under Antigua.

The earliest site of human settlement that scientists can find on Antigua is dated back to 3106 BC.  On
November. 11, 1493, during Columbus’ second voyage he sighted Antigua, but it is almost certain that he
never set foot on it. Although Columbus did not visit Antigua in 1493, the Spanish governor, Antonio
Serrano, did in 1520 but found the people too troublesome and the water supply insufficient.

 The first European settlement is said to have been in 1632 when Sir Thomas Warner, Saint Kitts’ governor sent his son of twenty-two years of age, Captain Edward Warner with a group of enough people to colonize Antigua. As Carlisle Bay was already occupied by friend of the Earl of Pembroke, Mr. Williams, Captain Warner went further east to find another good harbor and stopped at Falmouth.

The English tried to make Antigua as much like England as possible, by wearing the same clothes people in England were wearing, despite the heat and such. The English set up plantations and for workers they brought millions of African slaves to the island to do the job. With their plantations they made, farmed, and sold the cash crops tobacco, cotton, ginger, and indigo.

August. 1, 1834 is a day that all Antiguans will remember.
This was the day when over 30,000 slaves, by the king’s declaration, received full and immediate
freedom. These former slaves celebrated by going to the church and thanking God for their liberty.
Antigua became an independent country from Great Britain on November. 1, 1981. They have been like
this for about 35 years and are still going strong. Antigua has a rich and vibrant history that lead up to
how it is now. They overcame boundaries and loved and cultivated their island from the time they settled
on it, to now. They are now an independent country whose people step outside every day to bask in the
sun, swim, or lay on the sandy beaches. This island’s story is one to remember. 

07 March 2016: 
Here we are in Jolly Harbor, Antigua.  We had planned on coming up here anyway, but
some strong winds and squalls predicted for this week influenced our decision to stay in a marina instead of
at anchor.  We had a very nice quick 15 mile trip around the coast this morning and have even been able to
find a nice supermarket and re-provision.  Believe it or not, we had eaten every last bag of pasta on board! 
And by we, I mean Oliver....

We have done some hiking and lots of swimming and sailing while anchored near Pigeon Beach.  Our new
toy, the Open Bic, has been out multiple times every day and the kids are really learning well.  The water is
beautiful and clear and I started off this morning with a nice open water swim.  I need to get ready for some
triathlons this year.

Unfortunately, we have seen Britican this week as well. I say unfortunately because they had not planned to
come to Antigua yet but were planning to island hop for another month when some boat repairs were
needed.  We were delighted to see them but sorry that their plans were derailed.  They'll be all fixed up in no
time, but I did really enjoy our time talking together and Leslie had loads of fun playing with Sienna.

Blog Entry for March 6 in Antigua:

This blog entry is dedicated to Lily Eames-Jevons for being my friend and lending me her copy of the
book Northern Lights or as you might know it: The Golden Compass. Some of you may be thinking "Oh!
I watched that movie!" Well that movie was (in my opinion) inaccurate and terrible. In the book they
never say "Also known as a Golden Compass", EVER. Northern Lights is SUCH a more accurate title. I
don't know why Philip Pullman ever changed it. Anyway, to Lily!

About a week ago I realized something- I am actually enjoying this boat trip. Yes, yes, I know, "You told
me so", yeesh!  Now my moment of epiphany occurred at Pigeon Island which you, no doubt, have
already heard about.  While we were snorkeling, which was awesome, there were these mostly black fish
with neon blue lining that were my favorites. I was snorkeling with my new friend Lily who is 13 and is
sailing on the boat Delphinus, named after the Greek god.  Lily is awesome!

Her mother and future step-dad, Ms. Jayne and Mr. Paul, are awesome, too! (I really need to get a new
positively descriptive word.)  Lily has been sailing for 3 years and knows a lot about cool places (there's
one!) that we haven't been to.  There are 3 boats: Us, Delphinus and Britican that are all kind of sailing
alongside.  Britican's crew consists of Sienna (5), Mr. Simon, Mrs. Kim and Eve. Eve is great!  She is so
interesting and full of stories about her travels and her country, New Zealand.  Mrs. Kim is a traveling
journalist, which, in my opinion, is the best kind of journalist because you always have something to
write about going from place to place. Me, myself and I have been swimming-a lot, there's not really
much else to do except for read.  But lately I've needed your help.  I have read every book on this boat
and am looking for suggestions on new books to read.  Help!  Please, if you have a fiction, preferably,
book suggestion for me just contact me on the delorme thing or on one of these blog pages. There's a
link.  Please support my reading need by taking 2 minutes to send me a quick message with a  book title
and, if you want, the author's name.  I look forward to reading the suggested books. 

This is Leslie M. Robinson of S/V Honu Kai, standing by on channel 69.

05 March 2016:

I'm getting behind on the blog!  Here we are in Falmouth Harbor, Antigua, yet another new country for
us.  The biggest problem, besides laziness on my part, is that we had some difficulty buying a sim card in
Guadeloupe.  The one time I found the digicel store and was trying to buy a card I didn't have my
passport with me.  Different countries have different requirements and Guadeloupe needed a passport. 
So we didn't have enough wifi to be able to update the blog.  

Carol and Rob spent a week with us, a wonderful visit!  I know Carol is writing her own blog entry so I
hope to be able to include that shortly.  I'll just update from my point of view.  When we left Pointe-
a-Pitre on Thursday we headed down to Les Saintes.  These are islands belonging to Guadeloupe that sit
about 15 miles off shore.  Interestingly enough, the initial inhabitants of the islands were French
fisherman from Normandy and Brittany as opposed to the African background in Guadeloupe proper. 
From the first morning when I went running around the mountains of Terre de Bas (lowlands) I noticed
that, in my opinion, almost all the locals looked South American or Spanish.  Darker skins than in
Normandy, but definitely Caucasian, a very different ethnicity than the rest of Guadeloupe. I find these
things really interesting.  

We anchored that first night in a sweet little cove on Terre de Bas.  This is one of the largest islands, but
not the popular beach and tourist one. Lots of wild goats, remains of an old sugar refinery and beautiful,
well kept houses in bright pastel colors.  I ran on a trail the circles the northern half of the island and was
treated to beautiful views and very different terrain, rocky and steep.  The photo is of this trail.

We really wanted to be on Terre de Haut, the main island.  We headed over there first thing in the
morning, hopped on a mooring buoy and started swimming and playing in the water.  This island has
ferries coming every hour or so, bringing tourists eager to snorkel, scuba dive, windsurf, kitesurf or sail.
Very active bay.

We also eagerly awaited our two friends, Britican and Delphinus. They were coming up from Dominica
that morning and we were hoping they would find buoys near ours.  Luckily it all worked out as planned. 
Delphinus was right off our port quarter and Britican used her powerful engines to blast past another boat
heading towards the buoy and grabbed that last buoy with style and grace!

As we were walking around that day, Bob, Carol, Rob and I stumbled upon a beautiful beach, straight out
of the South Pacific!  I had to pinch my self as it was so beautiful, I needed to check that I was not
dreaming.  Pompierre Bay was curved, protected, with white sandy beaches, snorkeling rocks and picnic
tables.  It is an old volcano crater with only two small openings from the ocean.  The next day we all
packed lunches and walked over the hills to this beach.  What a glorious afternoon. Great food,
relaxation, sun and a cooling breeze made this such a nice day.  Of note, walking around the island
sometimes gives you the feel that you are in a petting zoo.  On the walk to the beach we saw multiple
Iguanas, goats, cows, chickens in fields, on the side of the road, on the road, in the restaurants.  The
iguanas seemed very territorial, or it is mating season as they all seemed to be fighting, one even fell
from a tree and scared us as we walked by.  Looking up we saw who had pushed him out as he lifted his
head and puffed out his neck.  We also saw a just born baby goat, he was so cute and he did not mind
being picked up and petted.  At the beach we were befriended by a handful of goats and chickens.   

We also walked up the hill to Fort Napoleon.  We had great views over Les Saintes, Marie Galante and
Guadeloupe proper.  The fort has been turned into a museum, quite a nice little museum about local
history, customs and a special exhibit about a sea battle in the straights between Dominica and Les
Saintes.  Around the exterior of the Fort is a botanical garden, specializing in local cacti. The rest of the
weekend in Les Saintes were spent relaxing and swimming. 

After 3 days in Les Saintes we moved up the western coast of Guadeloupe to the bay of Deshaies.  On the
way we stopped at Pigeon Island.  This is a Jacques Cousteau water reserve.  Supposedly somewhere on
the bottom is a rock statue of Jacques and touching him brings you good luck.  We did not find him, but
the snorkeling was amazing. The kids were continually saying, "Dad this is amazing". (See Oliver's Blog
Entry on the snorkeling here) We ended up getting the last mooring buoy (no anchoring allowed in the
park) so we invited Lily off Delphinus to join us.  She jumped off her boat as they passed by as we were
all going to the same anchorage that evening.  Deshaies was a small relaxed town with a handful of
restaurants.  First order of business was arranging transportation to the airport for Carol and Rob.  That
done, the next order of business was arranging for the purchase and delivery of a small sailing dingy from
a local store.  Ended up we needed to go to the store to complete the purchase, so Jill went in the taxi to
the airport and got dropped off (only one primary road that is along the perimeter of the island) and the
store drove her back with the boat.  What great service and the boat has been perfect.  It sit easily on our
back deck for storage and all the kids have been sailing it and it is just big enough for Bob to go out on
it.  So it has been a little bit of sailing lessons for the kids each day since and a nice way to explore
around the various anchorages.  We stayed in Deshais for 4 days.  Highlights include the kids going to a
botanical garden, meeting some local fisherman and being given some fish called coffin fish, and a fun
evening with our cruising friends from Delphinus hosted by Britican on their Oyster 57 (a very nice

We left early in the morning on Thursday the 3rd for Antigua and had a bit of a rough passage that was
very squally (winds in the 30s in the squalls and 18 in the lulls), shifty (40 deg shifts more N in squalls
and more SE in lulls) and both waves from the E from the wind but also there was an annoying northerly
swell.  The course was due north from Deshaies to Falmouth and so made for mostly a tight reach.

Oliver's entry:

 Have you ever gone snorkeling before? If so it would probably not even compare to my snorkeling
adventure in Pigeon Island. If not then you have to go. There are lots of fish and coral. Pigeon Island was by
far the best snorkeling place on our trip.

  It was very clean water with lots of fish. They were red, blue, green, etc. Some were really scaly and some
did not have scales. Some were rough but others were soft. The fish ate moss off the side of rocks and other
fish. We only saw fish but before in Dominica we saw squid so it was probably there. Natural sponge looked
like funnels and you could really use that as a sponge in the kitchen but we normally use synthetic sponge.
The coral looked absolutely beautiful.

  If you haven’t gone snorkeling really go. There is beautiful coral, sponge, fish, and way more. Just go to the
store get a mask and a snorkel and take a flight to the Caribbean because the snorkeling is the best in the

Thursday, February 25, 2016:  We are in Guadeloupe, Pointe a Pitre to be exact.  Pointe a Pitre (PaP) is
the main city in Guadeloupe and we arrived on Tuesday afternoon.  The sailing across from Portsmouth,
Dominica was smooth, but the arrival in the marina was anything but!  First we expected to tie to a
mooring buoy, so on went the mooring bridle.  This is a line we attach to both sides of the bow and
connects together in the middle. THis middle line clips to the mooring buoy. This arrangement allows
both hulls to evenly distribute the pressure and the boat rests better.  

We drive around for a few minutes and realize that there are no buoys.  Everyone is anchored.  So, off
goes the mooring ball bridle, on goes the anchoring bridle. Same principle but different bridle (for us
anyway).  We let down the anchor and quickly feel like we are dragging.  This is something we need to
look into because sometimes it seems like everyone else's anchors hold beautifully and ours doesn't.  

So we decide to go into the marina where our guide says there are mooring balls.  In case anyone is not
clear about this, most mooring balls are a single ball in the water.  The ball in securely fixed to the bottom
below, usually in a concrete block. You hook up to it from a line attached to the bow and you are safe on
the ball, only swinging slightly around the ball.  So we put the mooring bridle back on.

I call to the marina, explaining we want a mooring buoy.  First they direct us to a spot on the dock, telling
us to put fenders on both sides.  We rush to do this, while Bob is driving, wondering why we need
fenders on a mooring ball.  After all, you aren't touching another boat.  But we put the fenders out and the
marina assistants direct us to a spot on the dock. I explain again that all we want is a buoy.  Ok, so they
tell us to follow them and tell us to put out four lines, port and starboard, bow and stern.  What?  Why?! 
We get into the lagoon and see the mooring buoys are actually a grid of balls, and each boat positions
itself squarely in between four balls, lining up like a row of hot dogs!  What a crazy situation.  When we
were finally safely tied up in our four buoys, Bob and I breathed a sigh of relief. We have never seen a
field like this before.  Oh well, learn more every time, right?

Monday, February22, 2016:  Portsmouth, Dominica.  

We have absolutely loved Dominica.  Up in Portsmouth it has been Yachting Appreciation Week, so tours
and barbecues have been organized by both the cruisers in the harbor and by the Portsmouth Association
Yachts Services (PAYS).  This is the association of boatboys that work very well to ensure boats are safe,
tours arranged, trash dumped, etc.  We worked with Providence and he was very knowledgeable.  We
took an Indian River guided tour with him, along with the families we've met from Britican (Kim, Simon,
Eve and Sienna) and Delphinus (Paul, Jayne and Lily).  Great people, all!  We saw the swamps, the marshy birds, plants and animals.
This is a picture of a crazy house in Portsmouth I saw along a run.  I think it is made entirely of plumbing T joints.  Of course, I had to take a picture of it!

  Really great.  

We met many new cruisers at some of the social events that were held. It is so interesting to me, learning
about people's lives and how ended up living on a boat in the Caribbean.  Such unique stories.  Fort
Shirley, on the nearby hill overlooking the bay, was built by the British in the 1600's. It has been
maintained and is now an absolutely gorgeous spot to visit

Friday, February 19, 2016:  Firstly, happy 29th birthday to Laura and Liza!!  Two of my very favorite
people in the entire world were born on the same day and I hope they are enjoying it.

Today we left Roseau, Dominica and sailed about 20 miles north to the town of Portsmouth, Dominica. 
It was an easy sail with light breeze and we expected to tie to a mooring buoy here but they were all
taken. So, we anchored off the coast. Dominica drops right off fairly deeply so we are anchored in deeper
water than usual but so far so good.

Yesterday in Roseau was a pretty low key day after two strenuous days of hiking and swimming.  Bob,
Leslie and Oliver went with Lily and her mom Jayne (S/V Delphinus) to Champagne Beach, a famous
snorkeling spot where the hot water bubbles up from the ocean floor.  They had a great time and said the
snorkeling was great.  Caleb and I explored Roseau, he got a haircut and I had a nice run.  Good day for

This morning I was up bright and early and on the beach for a run. I had the good fortune to run into a
very nice local runner, a woman who is a lawyer here and training for her first marathon, the Paris
Marathon in April.  I never got her name so I know she won't read this but meeting some nice runners in
local communities really make me feel at home in different countries and environments.  There are
always runners and we share so many likes, race stories, training plans and injuries that I feel right at

Caleb's Entry:
 We got a boat! Its a dinghy called Open Bic. The boat is small and really tipsy though. It also is slippery and
is hard to get your butt over the seat to hike. However it can go decently fast in good wind. Its really good
for people who have grasped the absolute basics since its really hard to stay mast up so it helps learn the little
harder stuff. Dad is incredibly good on it, He can sail standing up. Mom will (hopefully) add a picture of the
boat to this entry.

Oh ya! I'm also going to compete in a Laser race in Saint Martin so you all can expect me to write a long one
about that.

Dominica-February 18, 2016.

Hopefully this will catch us up for the blog!  We arrived in Dominica on Monday after a "fresh" breeze
that carried us across the 50 mile passage very quickly. Of course, I was somewhat zombified due to the
seasickness medecine, but happily recovered as we got into the lee of the island.  My first impression of

Dominica is that it is very rugged, very lush and natural. In fact, Dominica bills itself as "The Nature
Isle" and I think it is correct.  Our guide book highlights the spectacular waterfalls and hiking trails and
we were really looking forward to that.  The only part we weren't sure about was that our guide book was
written in 2008 and Dominica had a hurricane that hit last year.  We didn't know what would still be valid
and what was OBE.  

The guide book talked about the "boatboys" and the guides.  Boatboys are common in the Caribbean and
they are local people who will guide you in to a mooring buoy, assist you in mooring, generally take care
of any needs you have.  This was our first time in an island that had boatboys so we weren't sure how
much to tip, what to expect, etc.  Our guide book talked about how helpful and nice Marcus was so
imagine our surprise when Marcus showed up right away!  He certainly is as nice and helpful as the
cruising guide said.  

The cruising guide (Doyle's) also recommends two island guides, Pancho and Sea Cat.  Marcus contacted
Sea Cat and we immediately arranged two days with him.  THe first day, Tuesday, would be the whole
family hiking, waterfalls and the Titou Gorge.  Second day would be Bob, me and whoever wanted to do
the 17 mile hike to the Boiling Lake.  

So, Tuesday then.  This was an amazing day.  I think all of us would describe this day as one of our
favorites and Dominica as one of our favorite islands.  We started off hiking to Middleham Falls.  This is
about a one hour hike each way to one of the highest falls on the island.  The hike was well maintained,
marked and the waterfall was gorgeous.  I asked Sea Cat if there would be anywhere to jump off the cliffs
into the water (yep, Oliver's request) and he didn't really answer, but as soon as we got to the falls he
dove in the water, swam across the falls and climbed on a ledge about 12 feet up. With a roar, he leaped
off the ledge.  Of course, all of us loved that and immediately stripped down to our suits and swam across.  That was a great start to the day. 

Here is Bob eating seeds from the Cocoa pod!  They were sweet, sort of slimy but you have to roast and grind the seeds to get "chocolate".

Next we got back into the bus and drove to Titou Gorge.  This was one place among many where a scene
from Pirates of the Caribbean was filmed.  This was a narrow, deep river of cold water surrounded by high,
sheer walls of rock.  There were many cruise ship tourists there when we arrived but they didn't have guides
with them.  With Sea Cat leading us, we swam through the gorge, jumped 20 feet off the ledge into the
middle of it and then proceeded to climb up another waterfall to get to the pool and the waterfall above that! 
Then, get this, we dove (!) off the waterfall into the pool below to start swimming back.  Everyone knows
Sea Cat and they know he knows all the safe places and where all the rocks are so they allow him (and us) to
do so much more exploring than the average tourist.  

Lastly on Tuesday, we went to Trafalgar falls.  This was another waterfall with a very short walk down a trail
to get to the viewing platform.  I thought we were just going to see it and take some pictures, but before I
know it Sea Cat has us walking down the stairs past the 'do not go past this point" point and we are climbing
UP the waterfall!  We rock climb for another 15 minutes, maybe, and get to a pool at the top. Here we swim,
jump, enjoy ourselves.

 Here's the amazing part.  When we were climbing down, we stopped at a place where the rocks were bright
yellow, orange and green.  This is where the hot springs came out. This water was as hot as a hot tub and
flowing over the rocks.  We lay there, soaking in the hot water massage until we forced ourselves to go back

Yesterday, Wednesday, Bob, Oliver and I undertook the 8 hour hike to get to Boiling Lake.  This was a huge
lake that was so hot that the bubbles rise to the surface and only accessible by the hike. Most people hike up
and back on the same trail, starting and ending at the Titou Gorge.  However, Sea Cat said we were strong
enough hikers that he recommended we start across the island and hike back.  This would make it a one way
trip instead of out and back and would be a much more interesting hike.  So true!  We started really early and
by 7:30 found ourselves in the middle of the rainforest, swinging on vines and climbing roots up deep
ravines hand over hand.  Barely a trail to be found!  Absolutely beautiful and we learned so much about local
crops, flora and fauna.  Super muddy since it never stopped raining in the rainforest.

When we got to Boiling Lake about noon we ate lunch, rested and chatted with Kenny, our guide for the
day.  I don't know if Sea Cat doesn't do the long hikes anymore or was already busy yesterday but Kenny
was a great guide. Very philosophical and cheerful.  

The hike from Boiling Lake back to the Gorge was much easier going since the trail was lined with logs to
help provide traction against the mud.  The three of us swam in the gorge, washed off the mud and enjoyed
talking with the local men who work at the gorge.  All the cruise ship tourists were gone for the day so it was
just us!  

Today the plan involves snorkeling on the reef, visiting the capital city of Roseau and who knows what else! 
We are heading up to Portsmouth, Dominica tomorrow and we are really looking forward to hiking up there,
visiting a Carib village and who knows what else?!

Oliver during our Boiling Lake hike.

We thought the black water was really unique.


As I wrote a little earlier, we had a wonderful time with Mom in Martinique.  We did some sightseeing and a
great little hike, but mostly we just swam, played cards and enjoyed being all together.

After spending a few days in Ste Anne, on the south side of the island, we sailed north to a bay called Anse
Mitan.  This was another beautiful beach and tourist area that was ideal for just lazy mornings, lots of
swimming and some wandering around.  The week absolutely flew by with Mom here and we were sorry to
say goodbye to her.  She had an early morning flight and the logistics worked out smoothly, always a plus!

Thursday, February 12, 2016.

Mom is here!  I was so excited to pick her up on Monday here in Martinique and we have had a
wonderful time so far.  As usual, I am behind on updating this so I’ll backtrack to St Lucia briefly.  

Oliver has written about St Lucia so I will let him tell most of the sightseeing we did.  I’ll just mention
some of the other items I found interesting.

St Lucia is part of the British Commonwealth. There is a Lieutenant Governor appointed to be the
Queen’s representative, but she does not have any power.  She lives in a plantation house on the island
and, as far as I can see, enjoys having fundraising or other such parties at her house!  What a life! 
Everybody speaks English and the official language is English, but all the locals speak a patois that is
much closer to French.  Very interesting to hear.  Everyone was very nice.

We were in Rodney Bay marina because we needed some work done on the boat. That’s what they say,
cruising is fixing your boat in foreign ports.  We had a rip in the mainsail and some areas of the jib that
were fraying, so off with the sails.  We took them to the sail loft, right in the marina.  The refrigerator was
not working either.  We were toying with the idea of replacing them, since we have had problems before.
(See:  Finland and Portugal blogs…)  We really liked the repairman and hopefully he found the ultimate
problem, which was a leak where the compressor lines met the evaporator.  He soldered all that together
and so far it is working well.  

St Lucia has so much local produce that we loaded up!  Inexpensive, fresh and tasty. We had green
papaya, mango, bananas, grapefruit, and salads.  The regular grocery stores were not that expensive
either, so we were able to really provision for the first time since the Canaries.  The kids were excited
because we are starting to see many more “US” brands of food we haven’t seen since leaving last year. 
Real quality items like Doritos, Cheetos and popcorn!  I will confess to enjoying finding a bag of
Stacey’s Pita Chips.  There was even a Mega J superstore that had BJ’s products.

Here the kids found friends, too!  We were happy to see Lily and her parents, Paul and Jane, again. 
Oliver talks about it in his blog but we had a great day with them down in the southern part of the island
where the rainforest and volcanoes are.  He didn’t mention the Botanical Gardens but they were
beautiful.  The flowers were amazing and we saw some gorgeous hummingbirds with red, blue and black
feathers.  I don’t think I’ve really seen a hummingbird up close before.

Oliver wrote about the waterfalls, but they were very interesting.  At Diamond Falls water coming in the
river over the falls has an odd color. The water for us was a greyish color with a purple tone and we
learned that the color changes depending on the chemical composition that day.  

We stopped for dinner in Marigot Bay, a beautiful protected lagoon south of Rodney Bay.  We had been
considering heading down there and anchoring for a day or so.  We didn’t end up having time to take the
boat down there so I’m glad we were able to see it. James Michener is famous for saying this is the most
beautiful bay in the Caribbean but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t say that anymore, as jampacked as it is
with boats and surrounded by restaurants and resorts.  It kind of made me sad.

We had lovely neighbors in the marina, a couple from Bermuda who have been sailing in the Caribbean
for 20 years. They had great advice and experiences to share, as well as a helping hand.  I also got a
running partner!  There are so many cruisers in St Lucia that every morning at 0830 there is a “cruiser’s
broadcast” held over the VHF radio. It’s a chance for buying or selling parts, announcing social events
and sharing the weather.  I spoke up and asked if anyone would like to run with me and Anita from S/V
Timshel responded.  Anita is from Aberdeen, Scotland and she and I had many enjoyable runs together. 
We both loved trail runs and triathlon so we had lots to talk about.  

Speaking of trail running, Martinique is the BOMB!  As always, I wish I were a better photographer
because I can never capture the full beauty of places.  We are anchored now in a bay near Sainte Anne, a
creole village towards the south.  There are wonderful hiking and running trails all over Martinique and I
am still pumped over my 11 mile loop yesterday around the southern coast.  In fact, I ran through a
Natural Park known for the Petrifications.  We all wanted to do a hike yesterday so we drove our rental
car there and had a great hike and swim.  Loved it.

Martinique is packed right now because of Carnaval.  In Martinique, each of the 3 days of Carnaval has a
separate color scheme and everyone wears the designated colors for the parades and costumes.  Tuesday was
red and white and Wednesday was black and white.  People are dressed in all manner of fancy dress, cross
dressing and even some Halloween costumes.  Lots of loud parades, dancing and decorated cars made for a
great experience.  Almost all the shops except the restaurants were closed for Carnaval so it made for an
unusual week but I’m really glad we were able to be here for this celebration.

Another cool parade figure in Carnaval.

We watched this local sailboat race in Trois Islet, a town in Martinique.  The cool thing was that about 12
people sailed each boat and they jumped out on these oars to balance the heel.  Sometimes they fell into the
water or capsized!

Leslie’s Blog:

God bless America, ‘cause America is free.

My Carnival experience

                                 By Leslie Melia Robinson

Carnival is weird. I went to it and that I can truthfully say. The music was loud! As loud as a concert.
Everybody was dressed in black and red like Satan and looked crazy. Some men wore female clothing
and some women wore very risqué clothing. There was a parade with lots of people dancing waving.
Also a crowd of Miss’s and Little Miss’s of Martinique. But, by far, my favorite part was this one float
that was playing music and had a bunch of people behind it and then the music switched and these people
started dancing the same choreography to the song. This was my favorite part because they were so
synchronized and I liked how they all became ribbons bending and twisting and moving.

One problem was we forgot to have colors. On the day that we went the colors for Carnival were black
and red…we forgot to wear black and red. On the day after that we were going to have dinner the colors
were white and black…the closest any of us got to black and white were Dad’s black shorts with two red
stripes on both sides and his gray T-shirt. When somebody brought this fact up at dinner, (I think it was
Dad) my father asked my mother “Why didn’t you tell us to wear red and black yesterday?” and Mom
responded with “I did tell you! You just didn’t listen!” or he forgot, my dad forgets things…But, I still
love him, until he sends me to my room. So, yeah. Colors. Nobody in our family ever wore the correct
colors, but my grandmother brought some masks so we fared well enough.

On the last day of Carnival we went on shore to eat, as I’ve told you multiple times in paragraph two, and
as we were dining we saw a big bonfire spluttering with sparks and smoke so (obviously) we went to take
a look. What was the bonfire there for? I’ll tell you, they were burning in effigy the symbol of Carnival.
This was because it was the end of Carnival and this was their way of recognizing it. This was no
ordinary looking fire: It was gorgeous. Like the smoke was a thick velvet cloth with little flecks of amber
and mauve. Amazingly gorgeous. This did not mean apparently that a bunch of people set on annoying
others turned off their cars that sputtered and stopped revving their annoyingly loud engines. No. So we
sat there while these cars went around in loops that passed where our family was eating so often I wanted
to throw a rib at one of the cars. So did Oliver, I believe. The place where we ate had extremely good
food and we had beat the rush too, I’d recommend it if I remembered its name. So we went back home in
the dingy with stomachs full and smiles on our faces. Lent is here, let us all relent something in the name
of our lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Oliver’s Real blog entry

  Can you imagine volcanos, sulfur pools, two waterfalls, and an obstacle course on the same island? Well
St. Lucia does. In case you don’t know St. Lucia, it’s an island in the Caribbean. On the second day there
when I was doing schoolwork in a café and I saw these kids playing with nerf guns and I quickly made
friends with them. They are 11 and 9 years old. Ronan is 9 and Ryan is 11. So starting this day we slept
too late and could not do what we planned which was to go to the volcanos and waterfalls. So we made a
new plan and it was a good plan. We planned to go to obstacles on the beach. We only went for an hour
but thankfully time went at normal speed. It had an iceberg, a Saturn ring, a trampoline, two slides, and
lots more. If you go to St. Lucia this is definitely recommended.

  On the second day, we went to the waterfalls and sulfur pools. Fist we had to pick up my sister’s friend
named Lily because she and her parents wanted to go. Then we got into the van and thankfully I
remembered my 3ds so I wasn’t bored for half the entire trip and it was long. The first waterfall we went
to was called the Diamond Falls and it was very colorful. It smelled like rotten eggs though because of
the sulfur. The second waterfall was called the Toreille Falls and we could swim in but it cost money. My
parents did not care so we went swimming. We got a massage from the water crashing on us and it made
a good picture. After this we went to the sulfur pools. It was 100 degrees because lava is near the
surface.  You put mud over you and it’s supposed to have healing properties. I was really hungry at the
end of all of that so I went to Doolitles and ate a 12 inch pizza and learned something funny. Lily and her
parents are British and they taught us that in the cockney rhyming slang wife is trouble and strife.

Here is a out of sequence blog entry from my Mom.  We only have one request for those who come to visit, and that is that they write a blog entry.  Here goes.

December 15-22-I am told that visitors on Honu Kai owe nothing but a blog.
Carol Robinson owes a Blog!
Gran Canaria (Grand Canary) is one of the islands where Columbus stopped on three of his four trips to
 “India.”  According to Oliver (after visiting a museum in the building where Columbus stayed), “He was
a fraud because he never stopped in India or America, only the islands of the Caribbean and South
America.”  The museum had well done, large charts on all four of Columbus’ trips, models of his ships
and the town in the 1500s.  It also had a digital display of the timeline of the evolution of global charts. 
Worth the visit.

Food:  Almond/honey cakes, to die for.  Apparently these are only on Grand Canary Island.  I had hoped
to buy some on Tenerife, island just to the west, but no one there knew what we were talking about. 
Oliver fixed pancakes one morning.  Chicken is cheap here. Bob and Jill prepared several dinners with
chicken.  A popular  daily fare on the boat are  quesadillas with cheese and Oliver’s created his own a
cheese with nacho chips inside and shredded cheese outside.

Scenery:  First day spent on a sandy beach.  These are volcanic-formed islands with beautiful mountain
scenery and the sunset were amazing with colors going from grey, to pinks, to reds and purples and back
to grey.  Bob, Caleb, Oliver and I climbed up to Roque Nubo, not a difficult climb, though I chose not to
go all the way to the top with the rest.  To their surprise, the top has a wide flat area with the one square
shaped rock jutting up at one corner. From there we could see the mountain peak on Tenerife (the highest
peak of the islands.) Afterwards we stopped at a tapas restaurant and had native foods, cheeses, olives,
peppers, etc. that fit the bill.

 Siam Park: Went to the largest water park that I have ever seen with a huge wave pond, steep, high water
slides through tunnels some with enough water pressure to go up part of the slide.  Leslie and I did the
“tame” moving river with the rapids.  The rapids were indeed rapids, a bit of a surprise after having to
push ourselves along the river part of the time.  We opened and closed that park.  A must do for anyone
visiting the Canaries.

Marina: The Las Palmas Marina is divided into two parts with the catamarans relegated to the smaller
area—still no Mediterranean mooring for Honu Kai..  Honu Kai was tied next to a boat yard of sorts,
limited to a line of wooden sailboats that people works on only in the morning…one boat at a time,
grinding the paint off to the wood.  Then lunch, lively chatter and all workers were gone.  The security
worker played classical music in the evening and another worker would excitedly tell us when Barcelona
football team was playing next.  We could walk everywhere and the children would go to the library as
often as they could.   The WiFi was non-existent at the marina; great at the library.  Jill could run at the
well-lit, mini hippodrome for runners that was very close to the marina.

Tenerife: Bob, Jill and I took 4 hour watches for the trip west.  Leslie’s job is to unzip and rezip the mail
sail cover.  She just climbs up and goes along the boom.  No wind; no sailing and an easy motor over
with very few boats.  Had to wait for a boat to leave the harbor before we could enter: too narrow for two
boats.  Beach was black pebble; water chilly but bearable for all of us.  This island boasts the highest
mountain in the Canaries, which often has snow and invariably hides behind clouds.  We rented a car and
wound around the island visiting the mountains, the cliffs, a 1000 year old tree that does NOT have rings
to actually determine how old it really is.  We ended the day going to an Italian restaurant with great food
(mushroom ravioli for me; pizzas for others and for Leslie who stayed home to do homework.)  And I
was delivered to a hotel near the northern airport where I would be flying out the next day.  This was a
hole in the wall and thanks to Bob’s Spanish, the attendant lined up a taxi for the morning.

School:  Bob and Jill and the kids have figured out how to make home schooling work.  The children
individually determine which days are school days and they work on the schoolwork until it is done. 
THEN we can go places.  At the end of each month are exams.  Caleb likes this arrangement so much
that he is campaigning for home school on their return.  They continue to read veraciously and end up
rereading the books in their compressed library.  Leslie’s Kindle is in her hands a lot.
There is so much they are learning just in their travels.

One last thing:  Do NOT play poker with Leslie.  She wins.  Caleb was out first, then Oliver, then Bob
and me.   The odds were in her favor.

Leslie’s Blog:

To all of those out there who appreciate good books and are always looking for more of them

You know in those movies where a character is perspiring and beads of sweat are running down their face and they look like somebody just threw a

bucket of water on their face? And you think ‘Wow! That is so fake’? For example in the movie Howl’s Moving Castle – which if you haven’t watched is an amazing movie by Studio
Ghibli that you should totally check out, (it’s, like, so rad! :P).

Well that happened to me while I was tightening some screws on my fan, I was literally dripping and trust me I am not exaggerating.

The Windward Isles have hit me with some surprising pangs of homesickness- more surprisingly they were caused by brands that are commonly
seen in the U.S.A. I will be precisely ecstatic when I return to Maryland.
Here is a poem I wrote, which also has music to it for a song:

Remember This
While you’re out searching for fireflies,
 Look up at the moon in the night sky.
Think of me and it’ll be oh so bright…
 It’ll be almost like I’m standing next to you,
Seeing the same moon.                                                            


Leslie’s List of Book You Must Read: ·       
 The Giver Quartet by Lois Lowry ·       
 The Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix ·       
 The Kingdom Keepers books by Ridley Pearson ·        
Last Days of Summer by Steve Kluger ·        
The Maximum Ride books James Patterson ·        
The Genius Files books by Dan Gutman ·        
The Host by Stephanie Meyer (Yes, Margaret. I know.J) ·        
And MANY more that I have sadly forgotten the titles of…    

Thank you for reading this blog entry and please read at least one of the books or series I have recommended to you.

Blog from St Lucia:

 I am late getting this written but we have made it across the Atlantic!  14 days and about 15 hours after leaving Mindelo, Cape Verde, Africa,
 we arrived in Bridgetown, Barbados.  My first thought when we pulled into Carlisle Bay was that we got to Spring Break in Key West!
  People were everywhere, SUPing, boogie boarding, riding jetski, power boats and glass bottom boats.  I saw people snorkeling, swimming
and drinking and the music was LOUD!

 Before I talk more about Barbados,
 let me back up a couple of weeks. When we left Cape Verde, we knew the winds weren’t going to be ideal.  A big low pressure system
was scheduled to only give us winds head on.  We wouldn’t be able to get far enough south to avoid this system building up.  This is the
same system that developed into Hurricane Alex so we were well aware of how it was developing. 

When Bob’s Uncle Frank arrived on January 6th, poor guy, we immediately told him we were planning to leave that evening.  He got a quick tour
 of the Mindelo grocery store and market!  There really wasn’t much to see there anyway.  I’m glad we got to see another country and maybe
 some of the other islands are better, but Bob and I agree that if there were a next time we would probably leave directly from the Canaries. 

I will speak for myself here, but I was very frustrated the first few days.  The winds were light, we had to motor for some of the time, and I would
look at the mileage log at the end of the day and cringe!  We were only making 110, 109, 119 miles per day when normally we make at least
 150 miles a day.  I know, I know, when Columbus et al crossed the ocean they would take months, just sitting there waiting for the wind or
 rowing to meet it!  I did not want to take months.  Anyway, we knew that would happen and our weather router, Chris Barker, knew we would
get our normal trades back after about a week. 

Since the winds were so light, after 5 or 6 days we decided a swim call was in order.  Being good Naval Officers that we are (were), we first held a
 safety brief.  If you were swimming, you had to be tethered to someone on the boat keeping you fairly close to the boat.  With this in place, we had a
great time jumping off the boat and swimming around the boat. How many people can say they swam in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean?!

Then the lovely trade winds came back, we raised the spinnaker and took off. Our spirits rose along with the sail. We passed the time reading, playing games,
doing schoolwork and taking naps.  The kids learned to play bridge and euchre and I reread my favorite series of books.  Bob will kill me if I forget to
 mention that we caught 3 big mahi mahis and one Wahoo.  We still have one mahi mahi in our freezer ready to become chowder soon. 

Frank and one of the fish we caught.

We arrived in Barbados mid morning on Thursday, January 21.  This was the day of the Mount Gay Barbados Round the Island race and we were
able to see the incredibly fast tri-marans, the windsurfers and several boats in between during their race. Those trimarans were in Lanzarote with us
while they were preparing for the transat.  We found out later they crossed in 6 days!!  Amazing!  From the Canaries, it would have taken us around
 18, as a point of reference.  

We checked in with the customs and immigration officials, headed the 12 miles south to Carlisle Bay in Bridgetown and let go the anchor.   Wow! 
After more than 2000 miles, we were anchored in the Caribbean.  We had made one of the biggest trips in our schedule and arrived in one piece and
still speaking to each other.  ;)

Because the Round the Island Race is a big deal, that evening they had the after party at the Barbados Cruising Club right on the beach about 100
 feet from where we were anchored.  That party was rocking!  The rum was flowing, the music was loud and pounding and the beach was very crowded.
 We had an adventure getting to shore. First, our dinghy motor wouldn’t start because it had been such a longtime since it had been used. It needed a little
 TLC.  Extra frustrating because we just bought it in Gibraltar!  Navigating the dinghy onshore in breaking surf is not for the faint of heart, let
 me tell you.  We were pretty wet by the time we got onshore, but the water was gloriously refreshing and we didn’t care.  We ate at the Cruising Club
 that night. I don’t know if the food really was that good or we were just so happy to be there, but I think we all will remember that dinner.

Next day I got onshore for a run and was happy
to stretch my legs again. I rode the bike trainer a few times during the calm days of the transit but nothing beats getting out there and running.  Frank swam
 to shore and he and I walked around the beach doing a recon of shops, restaurants and sites.  When we got back to the beach, the boat was GONE! What?
 What happened was that the breeze that day was swinging us a little too close for comfort to the surf break near the Hilton hotel.  Bob moved the
boat and reanchored on the other side of the bay, about a mile further north.  Finally Frank and I found the boat and got a ride from a jetski out to the new anchorage spot.

Ok, I don’t want to go on forever, so I will just mention some of our highlights in Barbados.

1.    Tea with Dr and Mrs. Goddard.  Frank has a bridge partner in Ohio whose sister lives in Barbados. We were invited to their lovely home for an
English tea one afternoon.  We had a wonderful time.  They are both so intelligent and creative and we were all amazed at Jean’s art, their historic
charts and the stories they shared with us of their lives in Barbados.  Just incredible people.

 2. Going to a polo match.  We heard that USA vs Australia was playing in a polo match. None of us knew anything about polo but we were interested
 in learning and seeing a match, so we rented a car and headed up into the hills.  The horses were beautiful and I loved seeing how well the riders
control them.  We saw one local “club” match and one international match.

 3.Bob, Frank and I went to the Mount Gay Rum factory. This was cool, learning how rum is made and tasting all the different blends.  I’m not a big rum
 fan but you can definitely taste the differences.  Thanks for the recommendation, Heidi!

4. Beaches!! The beaches were beautiful, the surf was perfect for playing in and the ideal temperature. I swam every day in addition to running and I am
happy to start getting back into some open water workouts. 

5.The people.  The local people were very friendly and Barbados felt very safe.  Running around neighborhoods, I may have gotten some strange looks
 but I never felt unsafe.  It was nice meeting the other cruisers who were in the anchorage and seeing some old friends! 

We left Barbados on Thursday, January 28 to make the 100 mile overnight to Rodney Bay, St Lucia.  This is where the ARC (a huge group of sailboat who travel
 together across the ocean) arrives, so we were expecting a marina with all the repair, reprovisioning and infrastructure that you would expect for 100 yachts
 arriving from the Canaries.  Happy to say that we have found all that!  We had a couple of repairs to do so we are working on those.  We have canvassed and
 located the grocery stores in town.  I have completed the laundry from our transit!  Laundry here is about 8 USD/load just to wash, so I did one load of all the
 really dirty or hard to wash things and I did one load by hand of all the small things.  So glad that is done and we have clean clothes.

This morning Bob, Oliver and I went on a hike. 
We hiked up to a Nature Preserve area about 2 miles from the marina.  At the top of the mountain in the Nature Preserve there were dozens of signs next to
 various plants and trees, identifying them and explaining how they are used, either for furniture, ropes, medicines or art.  Nice views as well. 

I have to mention Caleb's birthday!  He turned 14 on January 26th and we celebrated with cake in Barbados.  Can't believe he's getting so old when I am
only getting younger.  How did that happen?

We expect to move out of the marina to an anchorage tomorrow.  This has the advantage of being free and allowing us to swim and play right off the boat. 
Disadvantage, of course, is needing to have transportation ashore. 

Well, I think I finally got this done, or at least hit the high points!  We are heading later this week to Martinique, just in time for Carnival.  We can’t
wait for my mom to come next week!!! 

Blog from Mindelo, Sao Vicente Island, Cape Verde: Wednesday, 06 January 2016,

Underway for the Caribbean!  We decided to leave a few days earlier than planned due to the wind.  Supposed to be a pressure system with light wind in a few days so we decided to leave today to have good wind for the first few days at least.  We also were ready to go.  We like the beach here but I think in general we didn’t find much to do in Cape Verde.  I’m going to upload this now since we will be out of cell coverage very soon and I’ll see you all on the flip side!   Sunday, 03 January 2016.

We made it!  Yesterday morning around 9am we arrived in the Cape Verde Island chain.  Originally this was not on the itinerary. We were going to go directly across to the Caribbean from the Canary Islands, a transit of about 18 days.  However, somewhere along the way, possibly in the Azores or elsewhere, we began hearing about these islands.  People talked about how friendly, inexpensive and unique Cape Verde is, with the advantage of breaking up the passage across the ocean into 5 and 12 day segments.  This sounded good to us, with the added reason of simply experiencing another country. 
Cape Verde is an independent African nation off the coast of Senegal and Mauritania which was a Portuguese colony until 1975.  So it has qualities of both.  The architecture, colors and tiles are very characteristics of Portugal, but the people themselves are culturally more similar to the nearby African nations.  Portuguese and Kriolu (Creole) are spoken, but we have found many people speaking French and German as well.

Anyway, Sao Vicente is a volcanic island, and very dry and desolate.  70000 out of 75000 residents live in the city of Mindelo and outside of that is really rocky, barren mountains.  Kind of starkly beautiful.  I have read that some of the Cape Verde islands (there are about 15 islands) in the Southern direction are much greener and have rain, but here rain and water are so scarce that here at the marina fresh water is metered.  In the showers you pay by the amount of liters of water used!  There are quite a few boats here, almost all of the starting the crossing in the next week or so.

Bob and I were pretty tired when we got in yesterday.  We felt like our night watch schedule had been going well with just the two of us, but it is still tiring.  Once we were tied up and the boat “put away”, the kids were finishing their schoolwork so Bob and I decided to go for a walk. We wandered around the markets with ladies balancing huge baskets on their heads, piled with greens or fruit.  We smelled the fish market and went through our usual routine of figuring out where everything is!  Pretty laid back day, which was great.

Today I got up early and went for a run.  It was kind of tricky to find a running route. I would run along the coast until the road ended and then try to run up the mountain roads.  Eventually I would run into guard dogs, or possibly wild dogs. Either kind was enough incentive for me to turn right around!  In Morocco they used guard dogs all the time.  I think tomorrow I will just go back and forth along the coast.  We cleaned the boat today.  Bob scrubbed the decks and I scrubbed all the salt-crusted cushions.  At least things dry super –fast!  We had a nice lunch at a café next to the marina.  Mostly because they have free Wifi! 

Our guide book talked about how on Sunday afternoons people would dress in their Sunday best and promenade in a city park with a brass band playing.  So we made our way to the Placa Nova and…empty!  No people, no brass band.  Oh well.  We went to the beach instead.  Really nice wide beach.  

Saturday, 02 January  2016:  Arrived in Mindelo, Sao Vicente Island, Cape Verde.

We made it here today!  Almost 800 miles south and we are now in our last port before crossing the Atlantic. It took us 5 days to get here.  It’s blowing like stink right now, but it is nice to have gotten here easily.   I have some notes from each day underway and our time in La Gomera as well. Enjoy!

This next paragraph contains some notes I took as we were transiting south.

At sea, enroute Cape Verde, 29 December 2015:

Almost one full day at sea.  It is early morning as I write this and I am eagerly waiting for sunrise.  Yesterday was good wind and seas, but somewhat rougher with Getting Back into Sea Mode with the kids.  I think everyone needs to settle down, get back into the routine of schoolwork and boat schedule.  Hopefully this will happen today!

At Sea, enroute Cape Verde, 30 December 2015:

It is about 5am on this Wednesday morning. A very quiet, uneventful underway so far as far as the wind and sea are concerned.  We are moving along averaging about 7 or 8 nautical miles an hour.  The seas are behind us, so we are also profiting from surfing down those waves and gaining extra distance.  Yesterday we watched dolphins and whales swimming around the boat.  Always fun to see!  Not much else to report.  I hope everyone has (had) a great New Year’s Eve celebrations.  Not for us this year but we almost never make it to midnight anyway!

At sea, enroute Cape Verde, 31 December 2015:

Another nice day at sea yesterday. I say a nice day because we had fair winds and following seas and I didn’t get seasick!  The patch really works for me, I have found.  Thanks again, Carol!  (Carol was able to bring some additional patches with her last week since we had run out.  The patches aren’t available in Europe. There is another medicine that is available that is very successful with the kids (and moderately for me) but the patch stays on for three days and the pills you have to take every 8 hours.  As usual, we are battling the arrival time speed. Right now we averaging about 7.5kts.  This puts us in Mindelo in the middle of the night!  So we either slow down to arrive at dawn or we try really hard to average almost 8.2 kts to get there before dark Friday night.  Averaging over 8 kts is pretty tricky since the winds are supposed to lighten tomorrow.  So we furled the jib and are now making about 7 kts only on the mainsail.  Yesterday the kids did schoolwork and just relaxed.  Bob and I took turns standing watch and napping.  It’s about 4am now so it’s my turn to stand watch.  I don’t really mind the sunrise shift because I always enjoy seeing the sun come up over the horizon.  Before sunrise it is amazing to see all the stars.  They are so bright.  It’s nice also that the moon is bright. There is a silvery light on the water from the moon and it is so much nicer than looking out into total blackness.

At sea, enroute Cape Verde, 01 January 2016:

We are about 24 hours out of Cape Verde now. This passage has gone quickly, I think. It is certainly the longest passage the kids have done so far.  Not much shipping out here.  Maybe once a night a cruise ship passes by and one or two cargo ships.  We saw 2 Japanese fishing boat down here, which seemed strange that they would be all the way over here fishing.  Caleb is on watch right now and has promised me a pirate ship, so I am waiting for that excitement!   

Bob's Technical Entry:  Ok it has been a while since I have written. Couple of topics for the evening. First, I just spent a bit of time with Oliver showing him how the water glows in the dark from efflorescence in our wake.  It is also a very clear night and the moon has not risen, so we were out trying to find some constellations.  So many stars when there is no moon or light pollution…. Also makes it hard to see the constellations.  With the help of the Ipad and star walk we found a few of interest.  Orion was the one that Oliver liked the best. 

I also promised a write up on how we finally connected to shore power back in the Gibraltar Blog.  For those of you not familiar with the electrical power available in most of Europe, Asia, Africa, it is 220V 50Hz which is different from the Unites states where we are 1 phase 120V (or sometimes for dryers / ovens – 2 phase 240V) all at 60Hz.  Needless to say the boats in Europe are wired for 220V 50Hz and have no problem plugging right into the power provided at the piers.  Up until we got to Portugal (October) we had found that our solar panels were pretty much sufficient for our electrical loads… but as the days got shorter and we had all the rain in Portugal, Spain and Gibraltar (plus the shadow of the Rock) we were starting to have to run the generator every other day.  Also underway we had to run it daily… the sun was lower and we were generally going south such that the sails would cast a shadow on the panels for part of the day.  Plugging into shore power does not solve the power balance underway, but sure makes living in the marinas nicer (microwave, unlimited lights, charging all the devices, and the battery stays fully charged).  So two problems.  First voltage and second frequency. To be honest I was not out seeking a transformer, I had heard they were expensive ($700), but in chatting with a sailor who owns a local hardware store and chandlery, he mentioned that he has worksite transformers for the construction industry that US boats owners also purchase and use for stepping down shore power voltage.  We discussed the ways to wire so we could connect the transformer input to the various shore power plugs and then how to connect from the transformer output to plug we have on our shorepower cable.  So in the end it was 5 different plugs, 3 meters of wire and the transformer… for about $120.  Ok so I get the thing home (it’s pretty heavy) and wire it up.  Plug it in to shorepower on the dock and measure with my volt meter and I see 114V.  Looks good.  So plug it into the boat. Our shore power breaker has a reverse polarity indicator and interlock – so I’m thinking I wired it backwards – no problem open up the plug, switch the wires, plug it back in… nope – still reverse polarity.  Ok so now I get the volt meter out again and start taking measurement at different points.  Here I discover that the center of the secondary coil was actually grounded to the power input.  I had never heard or seen this before but it was 220V single phase in and output was two 55v phases, 180 deg out or basically -55V and +55v.  So looking across both one does see 110V, but that is not how our US system is.  We have a single phase of 120V.  I then go to the other US boat in the Marina that is using the same set up and ask what he did… he was not aware that there was a problem, he just plugged in and it worked (I guess he does not have an ground fault interlock) Now I do some internet digging and some thinking. I read that what you need to do is cut the ground such that it makes it an isolation transformer (no direct path from the primary to the secondary), but the discussion reverences a diagram on a different web site that is no longer.  Time to dig up some EE knowledge from college and also take some measurements and look at the wiring of the transformer so we can figure out what we have.  So with the voltmeter I measure for continuity across all the input and output put points and determine that there is a single primary coil and a secondary coil with a center tap to ground.  Ok no problem, what I want is to remove the centertap so I cut the center tap and then disassembled the output plugs to remove the center tap ground and then rewired the output plug positive and negative across the full secondary coil and also tied the ground output to the same side of the secondary coil as I did the negative.  Alright, now I have a single phase 115V output and the ground and neutral are tied together.  Also there is no longer a direct tie to ground from primary to secondary so it will also act as an isolation transformer..  added bonus for those who know anything about galvanic corrosion on boats in a marina.  If you tie your boat to ground and another boat is also tied to ground but has a DC short, then it creates a nice battery cell using the sea water and can eat away all the metal exposed to sea water on your boat (thru hulls, props, saildrives etc.)  Alright now the test – plug in, ground fault is happy, I can put 115v on the AC bus…. Ok solved the voltage problem! Hmm… now I become very concerned about what the 50Hz is going to do to our system.  Specifically the inverter / battery charger.  Most everything else is ok.  If you look at the charging plugs of most electronic plugs or devices you will see that they generally have a range of voltage and frequency.  We found that everything works just fine on 50Hz, even the TV and the DVD player…. And Microwave!  I think most electronics convert to DC voltages and the AC motors just run a little slower so not a big deal.  Ok so the inverter – this is an expensive piece of equipment and I was not going to just flip the switch and “see what happens”  I looked at all the documentation and the stickers on the device and all it said was 120V 60Hz input…  no range.  So now we are on to day three – the kids were so excited about having power and I keep saying no (what’s the rush!)  I go back to google and can’t find exactly what I am looking for, so I email tech support for the mfg of the inverter.  After that I decide to call the electrician who installed the inverter…. He has bad news…  need a different inverter charger, the input frequency range is very tight 60 +/- 0.5Hz…  ok so now I’m a little upset with myself for not looking into this first and feel like I wasted $120 and lots of time.  But then I get an email from tech support (they are in CA so there is a 9 hr time difference)  and they say the input freq range for all their North American inverters is 50-70Hz….  Hmmm  right at the low spec.  We emailed back and forth a couple of times and though they never would come out and say it was ok – they didn’t say not to do it either…. So we plugged in and turned it on and everything worked great.  The transformer was really designed for continuous use, I believe it is a 50% duty cycle, good for work site power tools – so I try to keep the use to the night and use our solar panels when we can during the day… but it sure is a really nice thing to have!  Also save propane as we can microwave our foods more often!        

Blog from San Sebastian, La Gomera.

The next day we took care of last minute business in Tenerife and set sail for La Gomera.  At first the winds were great and we were cruising right along.  Then we turned the corner and the winds shut off completely!  Arggg. Then they filled in on the nose.  Yuck. At least it was only about 30 miles away so we still got in by the mid afternoon.  San Sebastian is a nice little town.  Very small, nestled in the valley.  It has almost everything you could want or need, but on a smaller scale. 

The first couple of days here in La Gomera we pretty much lay low.  Bob and I were tired after all the sightseeing, renting cars and busy days.  So we just relaxed.  La Gomera is well known for its hiking trail system.  It is very extensive, well marked and kept up.  There were so many hikes that we definitely could come pack purely for the hiking.  Bob and I took one day and hiked 10k up the mountain from San Sebastian.   The views were amazing.  We hiked up, had lunch and hiked another 10 k back.  Really fun day and hike.

This is another one of the views along the hike.

Christmas!!!  Yes, we did celebrate Christmas on the boat.  We got a very small plastic tree with white tipped branches and strung some lights over it.  Voila!  Somehow Santa managed to find the Robinson clan on this side of the pond.  Yay!  We had a very relaxing day.  The weather was somewhat cool so we opened presents, watched Polar Express (that part is mandatory, Leslie says.) Bob and I didn’t feel like trying to cook a big Christmas dinner on our small stove so we made reservations at a local fish/pizza restaurant.  Here in Spain the 24th is when they really celebrate with a family dinner and I believe the presents get opened on January 6th, the Epiphany.  Even though most places were closed on the 25th as well, we had some miscommunication with restaurant owners when we asked them if they would be open for Christmas.  We meant the 25th and they meant the 24th!  Dinner was lovely, we had a nice bottle of local wine, kids ate pizza and Bob and I had local cheese, salad and grilled fish.  We skyped with family and were mostly successful in wishing our families Merry Christmas.

On Christmas morning I set off on a long run and found a great trail to run!  It was mostly smooth and went along the ridges to a nearby beach.  Just perfect for a Christmas run.

Now, Leslie believes that the true holiday is on December 26th.  That is her birthday, after all, and our girl turned 12.  When asked what she wanted for her birthday dinner, she decided on White Chicken Chili and chocolate cake.  Who could argue with the deliciousness of those choices!  She had wanted roller skates for a long time and was so excited to unwrap the skates Bob and I found.

Bob spent some time researching roads, hikes and routes, planning a bike trip for the two of us.  On all the Canary Islands we have seen tons and tons of cyclists, always heading up the mountains.  Miles and miles of climbing. On Gran Canaria we met a group from North America who were on an organized tour by Trek bikes.  For six days they rode up the mountains, starting and finishing somewhere different each day.  We were just amazed at how much and how long the climbing is for these folks.

So now it was our turn!  In the center of the island there is a National Park.  This island has so many different climates, ranging from desert to rainforest, and even has a couple of big waterfalls.  He planned a 25k bike climb up to the top of the mountain.  From sea level to about 3700 feet with at least 20km of climbing to get there!  This was a really hard climb, especially when you see the roads and all the switchbacks ahead of you and you are thinking, OMG, I HAVE TO CLIMB ALL THE WAY UP THERE!  Of course, after the first hour I was grumpy. Bob said I needed to eat the granola bar he brought.  Ok, eat the bar…   Zing, up the mountain!  It still was a long hard climb but it’s amazing how much your mood depends on needing more fuel.  The weather was cloudy and the wind was gusting about 25 kts.  Some directions on the switchback were with the wind and were great, but other climbs with the wind in your face were very tough.

This rickety old bridge was part of our hike to El Cedro. I'm glad it didn't collapse!

We made it up the mountain and locked up our bikes.  We were trying to hike into the rainforest and see the waterfalls.  In this particular hike, you have two options.  First takes you over the mountain and descends as you would expect.  The second way is somewhat shorter and takes a tunnel 600m through the mountain, coming out the other side in El Cedro.  Bring your headlamps, the advice said. So we had our headlamps.  Crossed a collapsed, rickety bridge and started into the tunnel. This tunnel was about 4 feet high and the inside was filled with several inches of water and rocks.  About 50 m in we found a collapsed section.  About 50m more we both were nervous and decided to go back.  We backtracked, along with some other hikers we met, and climbed over the mountain on foot.  The signs said that there was a restaurant/café in El Cedro and I couldn’t wait to get a hot cup of coffee. The weather wasn’t so warm and we had brought jackets, but after sweating so much during the climb, I was getting pretty chilled on the descent. 

Luckily, we found a wooded chalet (it seemed) at the end of the hike. This place was busy with hikers from all over the mountain and had a wonderful fire going too.  The first thing we noticed was that everyone had huge bowls of soup in front of them.  Sounded heavenly, so we ordered two bowls.  This local soup is called Potaje de Barros (watercress soup) and it was so wonderful.  Pretty smooth, hot, think and served in great wooden handled bowls with crusty bread.  Bob and I (and everyone else we saw) devoured this soup.  I wish I could have taken some back!   It totally replenished us and we set off back over the mountain on our hike in good spirits.  We never did see the waterfalls but we saw beautiful views none-the-less. 

One of the wonderful aspects of traveling is meeting new people around the world.  In La Gomera, we met a great Irish family down here on Christmas vacation.  They were very familiar with the Canaries, having come here at least once a year. We really enjoyed talking and having a drink with them and the kids met to play soccer, swim or just goof off.  As Oliver mentioned, the kids got along very well and taught each other new games.  I’m so glad we got their email addresses so we can keep in touch.

  Hi guys Oliver’s blog again here from La Gomera we met an Irish family (Ireland is part of Britain) (finally people who are fluent in English) who is very nice. The 1st family: JOHN: the youngest of the family, a total of 8 years old, he’s silly and likes to play games. PAUL the middle child, 9 years old, a great teammate in soccer (we completely beat Rory and John so bad). Rory the oldest boy, 10 years old, oh my god he is such an annoying fake outer in soccer. And the parents I don’t know their age (that’s their business), and they were always very nice. And there cousin either Ana or Anna: I think she’s eleven, and she’s friendly. With them I learned a 2 new soccer games like one touch: you can only kick the ball once and it has to go out of your square for you to still be in the game. And squash: same rules 1 touch, out of your area, blah, blah, and blah but you have to hit in on the wall to get it to the person (I like it better than 1 touch). We played a lot of soccer together and ate dinner together, and went to the pool to play. Overall they have been my best friends this boat trip.  

We were planning on leaving La Gomera for Cape Verde on the 27th, but the winds and sea state were not favorable.  We decided to wait until the 28th and leave then.  This decision was fine as it gave Bob and me more time to finish provisioning and preparing the boat and allowed the kids to swim and play some more.

Blog from San Miguel, Tenerife
San Miguel and the south coast of Tenerife, up until Los Christianos and the Playa de los Americas, is a complete tourist/resort area.  And not just any tourists, this area seems almost exclusively British, to the point where people speak English better than Spanish, all the grocery stores carry British brands and all the people I saw running were British!  Let me back up a few days.

We had an easy overnight passage with Carol from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.  It was so nice to have a third person standing a night watch.  Made me especially glad that Frank Hill is coming across the Atlantic with us!  We got into San Miguel uneventfully and did all the necessary logistics for checking into the marina and securing the boat.

Tenerife has two airports, located in the north and the south of the island.  We needed to figure out the logistics of being in the extreme south and getting Carol to her flight early in the morning from the northern airport.  In the end we rented a car.  We spent the day touring the west and northwest sides of Tenerife and dropped Carol off at a hotel close to the airport.  As her flight left at 7am this seemed like a reasonable option. 

We toured Tiede National Park again, seeing different aspects of the volcano.  These islands really are beautiful. 

It was hot and dry on the South coast, very different climate from Santa Cruz and the north of Tenerife.  Not that the North was cold, or even cool, but the south was a desert.  Almost no vegetation, just the fake greenery of golf resorts.  The south coast was made up of huge ravines every 100m or so.  There were rough walking trails to follow the coast but on the road you would have to climb up about a ½ mile out of the ravine to be able to come back down the next one over.  It was pretty but I didn’t enjoy the running there as much.  

However, there is one main reason we came down here.  SIAM PARK!  Siam Park is a waterpark, written up often as the best water park in the world.  I have to say, I have never seen such amazing rides.  The rides were fast, had gut-dropping descents and steep tubes.  Even the Lazy River had rapids that were as fast as rapids on normal rides.  Grandma Carol enjoyed that. One ride, called the Power of Tower, drops 28m (about 90 feet) straight vertically, then shoots through a tube that goes through an aquarium with huge live sharks swimming around.  This was nuts!  Caleb loved it but nobody else had the nerve to go!   Well, Oliver would have gone but he wasn’t old enough.  The wave pool had really big waves you could actually surf.  You had to climb significant flights of stairs to get up to the rides so we all imagined if that would fly in the US, or if Americans would demand an elevator!  We had a great day there.

Oliver’s blog: Hi guys we went somewhere awesome like 1 or 2 weeks ago, Siam Park. It was AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The only disappointment was that I could not ride the Tower of Power. The Tower of Power is like 100 feet sheer drop then it curves into a  fish and shark tank only accessible  by the tower or the lazy river (right after rapids).  You halve to be 14 but I made the height :/. So I rode the other awesome rides. Like the Volcano that erupts while you are on the ride so you get very wet. There’s the Jungle Snakes where you can race on different tracks: python, boa, cobra, and some other snake I don’t remember right now. Then there is the mega racer which you get on a mat and race down identical slides. Then there is the kiddish baby rides #most boring ever even though I did not ride them. Then there is the Mekong Rapids. It’s more fun than Lazy River rapids too. It is a hot, hot, hot ride. Literally it is a cool ride but we only went on it because it is really warm water (it defrosted us after rides). But then there is the Dragon. It’s a ride that you go with a tube in the dark and then there is a big drop and you go up one of the curved walls then you go down and go up another wall until you slow down and go out of it. It was thrilling. Then there was the machine gun ride (the real name of the ride is on the tip of my tongue so be patient). I call it that because the ride goes uphill but how it does it is weird. Jets of water spray at you from behind and bring you up the hill and then throws a bucked of cold (shiver) water on your head. Then last and my favorite ride there was the Kinnaree. It takes you straight down a steep hill at the beginning and into a dragon thingy and then you go down picking up speed and then you go to another dragon thing but it’s like 60, 70 feet high and 90 degrees F and if you sit backward you go like 5 feet higher than if you are going forward. Well that was Siam Park. I enjoyed myself and if you come to Tenerife go there. Oh the name is the Singha and I forgot the twin toilets called the Giant. Guess what I got for Christmas: a 3ds two awesome model cars (a Lamborghini concept s and Mercedes sls amg), The Sword of Summer (new book by Rick Riordan) ,tape, pencils, popcorn and more but you will read about that later maybe (but probably not because I forget things).                            Ciao  

C-BOT stories  

Hello, I am CAL3B. C2LEB and CA1EB have been sent to the scrapyards for various malfunctions. While C4LEB is in the works I decided to tell the stories of my travels through the Canaries. Tenerife in particular due to us spending the most time on that island. We had various “adventures” such as a water park called Siam Park. While I hold all memories of the C-BOT series none had a memory of a water park quite like this. We also visited lots of mountains. Overall it was quite an exciting interesting time on Tenerife.  

Siam Park was a super adventure, even more so because we had Family! G-BOT CAR0L came to visit and had sailed with us to Tenerife from Gran Canaria and had a great time with us. (Even more so because she brought Nacho Cheese Doritos which aren’t made in Europe for some reason. Bad Doritos Company- do better.) When we arrived Siam Park left us to wait for a good 30 minutes since when the brochure says the Park opens at 0930 that really means that opening time is 1000. Once we had completed our waiting period we got into the Park! P-BOTS M0M and 10AD had pre-purchased tickets so that we could enter the park right when it opened.  

The P-BOTS and G-BOTS wished to go straight to the beach instead of beating the lines on all the rides. Once we had arrived at the Siam Beach and locked down the best spot on the beach, O-BOT OL1VER and L-BOT LE2LIE came with me to jump on some rides. The first ride was the Dragon and was quite enjoyable. In the end we managed to ride EVERY single ride in the entire park at least once. Or I did at least. One ride had an age requirement of 14 to be able to ride. HaHaHa Don’t tell them ok? I look 14 I swear. The ride is called the Tower of Power and was a high slide. The ride went very, very fast and was required to lay completely flat and cross your arms. After that I will never enjoy a tame “pool” slide again.    

Surprisingly there are other things to actually do in Tenerife besides going to Water Parks. We went hiking on the Mountains that separate the Leeward and Windward sides of the island So. Many. Times. Once we did a hike up to the top of a peak of sorts where my not so bright clumsy brother O-BOT 0LIVER got hurt. Afterwards, 0LIVER was scrapped for oil leaks and a ruined leg so OL1VER was shifted in. OL1VER butting in (sorry CAL3B) but I cut my leg and it really hurt that’s why I got scrapped. We hiked with G-BOT CAR0L all the way to the top and took LOTS of pictures. P-BOT M0M decided not to credit me for the picture and I probably could sue her for a lot of money, and win.     In the end we had an amazing time in Tenerife with awesome Water Parks, neat Mountains, Photo Infringement, and lots of school torture. You all should come and visit.     Or who knows what will happen….

We drove out to these enormous cliffs, aptly called Los Gigantes.  They reminded me of the Na Pali Coast on Kauai.

And finally we made our way to the northern coast and to the Dragon Tree!  This ancient tree is estimated to be over 1000 years old but nobody is certain because you can't count trunk rings.  It's huge and very beautiful.

Anyway, we topped off the evening with pizza in La Laguna, a great little university town near the airport and Carol’s hotel.  This is the same town where we raced a few weeks before, so some of it was familiar to us.  Of course, the rental car didn’t overheat and have steam coming out of the hood the last time!  We parked the car, ate our dinner and refilled the car’s water.  No more steam!  Then we dropped Carol off and heading back south.  It was a long day but I am so glad we got to see some of the other sites on Tenerife.

New paragraph

Blog from Las Palmas, Gran Cranaria,

Saturday, December 19, 2015:

We are underway from Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to San Miguel, Tenerife.  This is the same island that my race was on, but the southern side.  We never made it to this side of the island before but it is the main tourist and beach area since it is the drier side of Tenerife.  We decided to sail overnight since it was about a 12 hour trip. So much nicer with three watchstanders on board!  Somewhere along the lines I caught a cold.  Not very fun, so I feel like a druggie with cold meds and sea sickness meds.  What do they say about not operating heavy machinery?  Yeah, I don’t remember either.

It’s hard for me to believe Christmas is less than a week away. Places are decorated here but I don’t feel the frenzy of pre-Christmas activities or shopping.  It could be that I am just not tuned in it here.  There are trees in the stores but I don’t see huge lots selling Christmas trees and the shopping doesn’t seem more crowded than last month.  The kids are excited.  We’ll be in La Gomera, another Canary Island, for Christmas.  We have promised them we can decorate the boat when we are there.  Of course, after the terrible fire at the Annapolis Yacht Club last week from a Christmas tree that caught fire, we may decorate differently. 

Friday, December 18, 2015: 

Grandma Carol is here!!!  Yay!  We are so excited to have her visit us in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria.  She arrived on Tuesday afternoon and I have already been promised a blog entry from her, so we have that to look forward to.  Let me back up a few days.  After Dave left we relaxed for a couple of days.  The kids did schoolwork, visited the local library and Bob and I went on walks.  I started running again on Wednesday or Thursday and it felt very nice to stretch the legs again after our race last Sunday.   People in the Canary Islands put a lot of importance on physical fitness, which is great to see.  There are miles of ocean front paths to run, walk, cycle or roller blade.  There are skate parks nearby, pools and beaches with volleyball and kayaking.  There are tons and tons of trails to hike, as well! One of the greatest things is that directly opposite the marina is a 1K running track, made of soft sand with a clock at each end.  Along the sides of the track are exercise machines, pull up bars, climbing walls and flat space.  In the mornings and evenings this track is jampacked!  Running groups are doing speed work, technique work and just casual jogging.  I spent of couple of workouts running one loop, doing a set of strength work, run and repeat.  Lots of fun! 

On Sunday, Oliver, Bob and I met Mike and Jeannette (our new friends from Morocco onboard S/V Dutch Link) for a mountain hike.  Mike and Jeannette have spent winters here so they are very familiar with the trails and bus schedules.  We rode the bus up to the town of Altenara, which is the town with houses and churches built in rock caves.  Very cool. The scenery was gorgeous, just unbelievable walking along the ridges.  It reminds me a little of Hawaii.  Seeing the cave houses and current houses always makes me think “I wonder what it would be like to live here?”  It would be scratching a few crops from the terraced mountainside, you wouldn’t go to town often and If you kicked your soccer ball to hard you might as well forget about it! All along the mountainside we small small crop and livestock farms, mostly alone on the steep slopes.  These islands are all volcanic so many of the mountains are actually the volcano caldera.  We hiked about 10k, arriving in the Cruz de Tejada just in time for tea! Oliver was fun to have along because he always wants to explore off the beaten path. Sometimes he tries to give me a heart attack, but mostly I just enjoy his lively chatter.

We also toured the Christopher Columbus House in Las Palmas.  This was not a house he lived in, but rather stayed in for several nights while he was repairing and resupplying the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria on his 4 trips west.  Let me start by saying that the kids didn’t want to go, because they said Columbus was a fraud, a fake and never made it to America, so why do we celebrate his voyages, etc.  I’ve been reading about him and there are certainly some mysteries about his background and life, but he did explore so much of the Caribbean and the northern coast of South America.  The museum was not really about him, but more about his voyages, the routes and cargo they carried and the role of the Canaries during that time.

It was a beautiful Spanish house with a spacious inner courtyard and really ornate carved wooden ceilings.  There was a well in the courtyard and two Macaw birds.  One of the employees came over and started playing/messing around with the red one and the kids learned the meaning of “getting your feathers ruffled”.  

Hey guys its O-man again. Same old boring stuff going on in mom’s blog cave towns, mountain stuff, Cristopher Cufungus (Christopher Columbus was a Fraud!)Museum blah blah blah. We are going to go scuba diving today.

Leslie’s Blog:

Hi Margaret!!!!

Greetings! Life on the boat right now is exiting: With Mr. Dave before and my Grandma Carol now. May I just have a moment to say just how nice Mr. Dave is, he really is a splendid guest. My Grandma being here is also awesome because she is so great. The streets here are cool because there are bike paths or really one never-ending bike path that I wish Maryland had. A shout out to Constance, Alexis, and Frederic and Peggy in France. What else? Um… Well Grandma Carol is being forced to write a blog entry (by the psychopathic blogger: Mom). Caleb is being greeted with “Messi!” “Yeah, Messi!” wherever he walks around in a certain shirt (guess which), Mom has a cold, and my neck really hurts. Happy 48th anniversary Grandma Tish and Grandpa Roger! Love You! I think that’s it folks: Bye!

Leslie’s Blog:

Dec. 22, 2015 La Gomera, Canary Islands, Spain.

This blog entry is dedicated to Lindsey Lampel.

How hot can it get? I envy you Marylanders! Also others who are experiencing cold weather right now. We finished our first Logbook! (To those of you who don’t know a logbook is a book that is where a boats movements and significant events are recorded.) It’s kind of exciting actually knowing we’re halfway through the boat trip. Ish. It’s also hard because everywhere we go we’re “tourists”. I mean it’s cool, but I find myself wishing I could just ride my bike to the little bookshop near my “house” on my bike. Or go to the library and read tons of books. I know I’m SUPER lucky, and I am not trying to sound like a spoiled brat saying that nothing’s ever good enough for them. It’s just a little hard because all of my friends are literally countries away and my only close friends (close in distance) are my brothers. Also, all the different cultures are hard to take in. Hmm… Pouring my feelings out on a blog for anyone on the internet to access… Not a good move. I’ll probably delete this when I’m finished. On a more interesting subject: The people here used to “speak” (oh wow, I’m using a lot of air quotes today) a language of whistling (in ancient times). And not like 2 whistles equals hello, they had grammar and articulation and such. It was an actual, fully functioning, language. The kids here are also being taught it at school now. Cool tidbit, eh? So, um, bye! J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J J

Today is Thursday, December 10, 2015.  I haven’t updated the blog in forever, it seems, so this may take some time!  We left Lanzarote on December 1 and sailed overnight to arrive in Santa Cruz, Tenerife, the following afternoon.  As Bob puts it, I put a stake in the sand and registered for a race on Tenerife on Dec. 6.  Even better, we have a friend, David Hopkins, who also was a glutton for punishment and registered for the race also.  He was arriving Friday evening and the race was Sunday. 

Our immediate impression was how different Tenerife was from Lanzarote.  Tenerife has Mount Teide, the highest point in Spain, about 12000 feet.  The mountain range on this island runs kind of northeast-southwest, with the northern side being more humid, green and full of vegetation, whereas the southern side of the range was arid and hotter.  Santa Cruz and the race were both on the northern side.  Tenerife’s mountain ranges were rocky and steep, the kind that make me think you could cut yourself on the knife edges-they are so steep!  Also absolutely beautiful.  I hadn’t realized that so many cruise ships pull into the islands, but every city has had multiple cruise ships every day. In Tenerife the marina is on the opposite side of the harbor as the cruise ships, but we all followed the same painted stripe on the sidewalk to get into town!

We laid low the first day or so we were there.  The kids had the monthly school tests to finish.  We mainly explored Santa Cruz on foot or scooter, going to the beach, the library and the skate park.  We were planning on renting a car when Dave came for the race.  We decided to wait to visit the highest peak until he came because we thought (rightly so) that it was something he wouldn’t want to miss.

One thing I want to mention that is becoming more and more common are the people approaching us looking for a ride or to crew with us across the ocean.  Every port has tons of flyers up advising the sailboat owners of their unique qualifications, languages spoken, instruments played, etc!  We have had dozens of people ask personally if we are looking for crew.  It seems like so many people come to the Canaries willing to get a ride on any boat, going anywhere across the pond.  To me it seems dangerous, to allow some stranger or strangers to be 1000 miles from anywhere on a boat with our children.  Don’t worry, Mom, we won’t be taking anyone!

While renting the car for the weekend, we met two very nice Americans who had been living and teaching English for three years in the Canaries.  They recommended eating at a Guancheria, small family run wineries that have grown to offer cheese and limited menu items.  The Guanche people were the native islanders. This sounded like a great experience so we got this names of some specific ones to try. More on this later.

Happily, Dave’s flights arrived on time, if perhaps not as much legroom as he would have liked.  Not always an easy prospect, getting out to these islands.  The next day, Saturday, promised to be a beautiful, jampacked day.  We began by taking care of the necessary race logistics, picking up our packets and race numbers in La Laguna, the nearby town where the race starts and ends. This was a simple, low key affair and we were soon on our way to the National Park.

We took the windy ridge road into the park.  Along the way we stopped at beautiful viewpoints and continued climbing steadily.  We really like to hike, and I knew that Dave does as well, so we packed our lunch and necessary snacks and made our way to a 5k hike inside the caldera of one of the volcano peaks, called the Roches de Garcia.  Garcia had some big rocks, certainly!  This was an interesting hike, we saw caves, huge volcanic rock formations and expansive views.  As always, I am not a great photographer and I never seem to capture the majesty of a place with my camera, but I keep trying and I’ll include pictures here.

Panoramic shot of our hike

After the hike we made our way to the cable car.  The primary way to reach the summit, at 12,000 feet, is to ride up in a cable car. This actually takes you 200m lower than the summit, but to climb those final 200m you need to have a separate permission from the park.  We tried to make the reservation, but they only allow 50 people/hour to do this climb and they are full through mid January!  If you would like to do this, plan well ahead.

The cable car is a fun 10 minute (or so) ride straight up the mountain, going from about 5000 ft to 12000 ft.  We knew it would be chilly up there and had brought jackets but some of the people were dressed for the Arctic, complete with gloves, puffy jackets and blankets.  It was an absolutely incredible view in all directions.  You can see other islands and they sometimes appear as mirages in the distance.  A rocky path allows you to curve quite a ways around the peak and the scenery changed as well.  And there was snow!  Only a little bit, but we had a small snowball fight.  I won. 

I tried to talk the mountain rangers into allowing us to go up the final 200m anyway, but he didn’t allow it.  It turned out to be wise because both Caleb and Oliver started having huge headaches and other symptoms of altitude sickness.  In Oliver’s case, if he had ever stopped running it may have been less severe, but have you ever seen Oliver do anything less than at top speed?   Me neither.

Dave and I at the top of Mount Teide.

Another view from the race. Yes, we ran all around both sides of this ridge!

As expected, once we went back down in the cable car the headaches disappeared.  We were ready to leave the park and try to find this Guancheria.  One thing I love in the Spanish language is how you add “eria” to any word and you will have that kind of store!  Cerveceria, quesaria, carniceria. (beer, cheese, meat!) I’m probably getting the words and spelling wrong but that is my best guess. We don’t have internet at the marina here in Las Palmas so I can’t look up the words to check.  Anyway, I digress.  We drove on these incredibly narrow, windy, steep roads and found the restaurant!  The steepness of some of these roads rivals San Francisco, the kind that makes you stomach drop like on a roller coaster.  Crazy.  We found the restaurant, a house on the hill, surrounded by a farm with about 4 tables.  Beautiful view of the north side of the island and the ocean.  After limited communication with the owner, we had wine, cheese and a dish of everything they were making that night!  It was great.  I loved the local wine, cheese and olives, we had smoky grilled pork fillets, poached eggs, papas fritas and two kinds of sausage.  Delish.  I think we were all stuffed when we left and I’m so glad we got that recommendation.  I hope to go back to another one when Bob’s mom visits next week.

The next day was Sunday, Race Day!!!  When we got to the race start, the first thing we noticed was the super fit racers, complete with trekking poles.  This race was the K42 Anaga, Canarias marathon.  K42 means 42 kilometers, a normal marathon, but this race was actually 44k. 

The winning times are usually around 5 hours or more, so for any non-runners out there, this is about double the time for normal road marathons winners.  In fact, that is how it proved to be.  I may write a separate race report, but suffice it to say this was the most difficult and beautiful race I have ever done.  Strava says it was 28.8 miles long with 11000 feet of elevation gain.  We climbed up (and ran down) three peaks.  Everytime I thought “oh, they won’t make us go all the way up there…” we went all the way up there.

It was insane.  Much more climbing than running. I am so proud to have completed this race.  It took me 7 ½ hours but I was working every second of that.  Bob jokes that he has been using this trip to decrease my fitness!  I truly think it was not a lack of fitness, it was an insanely hard mountain race. This race even is a qualifier for the Sky Running World Championships, if that helps categorize it. Really an ultramarathon.  Kilian Jornet has run it.  Dave finished as well, met some great people on the course and we were both so proud to have finished.  We were exhausted and spent the evening relaxing on the boat.

The next day was an early underway and we were off sailing to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria!  The winds didn’t seem to listen to the weather forecast and what was supposed to be a beam reach turned into a motoring slog into the wind.  The last hour we were able to sail, which made for a much smoother ride.  Since both Dave’s and my systems were not back to normal from the race, it wasn’t a smooth, easy ride, but we made it!

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, (GC) is a huge bustling port.  What used to be a small yachting community turned into an industry for the island when the ARC made GC their starting off point.  The ARC is a rally of cruisers who travel together, either across the ocean or around the world.  So GC improved their marina, their chandleries and their waterfront stores/restaurants. 

We got ourselves settled at the marina.  Dave had to take the ferry the next evening back to Tenerife for his flight, so we needed to get some logistics settled before we started touring.  We learned that the best ferry for him leaves from the other side of the island, so we decided to rent a car and sight see across the island on the way to the ferry.  This worked out perfectly!

We rented our car and set off into the mountains on twisty, curvy roads.  The first stop was the Cruz de Tejada in center of the island.  We saw the most amazing views!  This was sort of a tourist/hiking starting point because they had all sorts of local foods/goods and hiking trails starting.  Since my legs were sore, I was up for very short hikes only!

I think this portion of the blog will be best served by pictures. The views were incredible, to say the least.  We saw a community called Artenara where the houses are essentially caves built directly into the rocks!  Really cool.  We met several cyclists from North America who were riding UP the mountain using a different route every day!  We saw sheep, burros and horses for transportation.

This picture is of a church built directly into the cliffs!  La Virgen de la Cuevita (Our Lady of the Cave) is also patron saint of cyclists!  Happily for Dave, we got to the ferry terminal in perfect time for him to board and make it back to Tenerife in time for shopping!

We have really been relaxing the past couple of days.  We found the library, the kids have been doing school and Bob and I went for a bike ride to explore.  I ran a short 4 mile run, which felt nice on the sore ol’ quads and we all went to the beach! 

I am looking forward to Carol coming next week!

from Lanzarote, Canary Islands  29 November 2015:

Today is Sunday and we arrived on the lsland of Lanzarote on Wednesday afternoon.  I have to first mention that the passage from Agadir to Marina Lanzarote was awful!  We made good time, so it was about 30 hours, but the seas were high and the waves were choppy and couldn’t make up their minds what direction and amplitude they wanted.  So, even though I had taken my seasickness meds, I spent a pretty miserable first 24 hours at sea. At least it was a full moon so it was very light out throughout the night. Small favors, right?!

Let me take a quick step back. Two days before we left Agadir, I told the Marina office and the police that we planned to leave early Tuesday and could we do the checkout procedures Monday evening?  Yes, no problem was the answer on Sunday.  I reminded them twice on Monday.  No problem, the police will come to your boat to stamp out the passports.  Monday afternoon-I go back and this time the marina office says that I should bring him our passports and the police would return them.  So I bring the passports, when I learn that I should collect the passports the following morning before we leave.  So, the next morning I go for an early run and stop by for the passports.  Well, now we have to wait for the police to speak with the customs folks and then they will bring the passports!  We wait, no one comes.  I remind the marina guard (who is the only one on duty at this time of the morning) and he eventually comes back with our passports.  He starts to tell me that I need to now go to the customs office in town!  Wait, what!!??  I checked and our passports were stamped out, so I asked him point blank if we needed to check out with nothing to declare.  He hemmed and hawed and said we could leave. So we were off!

Anyway, after miserable seasickness (I need the patch again but we ran out) we thankfully got into Lanzarote.  Pretty narrow harbor entrance but protected.  A Lanzarote to Grenada sailboat race that started on Saturday, so there were amazingly fancy and huge boats here preparing for the two week transit race.  They were all professional, with matchy tops and visors and stuff…  That’s not how Honu Kai rolls!

This picture shows how happy I am to not be sick again!

During our trip from Agadir to Lanzarote, Leslie wrote a poem that I think is so well done. I am including it here:

Hatch View

As the sun goes blindingly
Merging with the white tornadoes that
Only one as close as I can see
how it –at the top- is like cream.  Then
goes under,
into the wet.
Cloudy now-not deep
Spinning –its light pallor showing up against the
dark.  Indescribable-
The white coming like steam-seeping-but then disappearing
Melting into the ocean.
With all the other pale, frothy storms
Raging in the calm of the ocean
Making it rife with anger, then leaving.
But still look at the calm blue
And the greeny turquoise that follows
The merging of storm and sea.
As will go on forever more
Even after I myself no longer walk
the globe.

                                                                                                                -Leslie Robinson  

Thursday was Thanksgiving, even here in Lanzarote!  Caleb wanted pumpkin pie, Leslie wanted apple and Oliver just wanted meat.   So I spent all morning in the kitchen doing the baking from scratch with fresh pumpkin and only hand tools.  Bob spent the afternoon cooking chicken and a turkey breast in the pressure cooker, making mashed potatoes and sautéed veggies.  We had a lovely early dinner (THAT WAS DELICIOUS! – Caleb’s Required Addition.)

We rented a car for three days and we have really enjoyed touring this island.  All the Canaries are volcanic islands with amazing black sand and lava everywhere, with huge craggy peaks.  Because it is incredibly dry here, the farmers create semicircular-waist high rock walls with the crops inside the circle. This allows the dew overnight to be trapped for the plants and not evaporate right away.  As a result, the island grows grapes for wine, oranges, cactus fruit, bananas and all sorts of veggies.  Really amazing to see fields of these small half circles.  A field the size of a soccer field may have 40 of these circles. 

The first afternoon we went up to the Fire Mountain National Park.  We finally got a chance to let the kids ride camels. I had promised them in Morocco and it didn’t happen there.  Caleb was not excited about it but I forced him to do it.  I told him that he would forever regret it if he didn’t ride the camels over the mountains.  Leslie’s and my camel we named See-Saw because if either of us shifted our weight the other of us felt the change.

These Fire Mountains are amazing.  From a distance they appear to have a smoky, almost a velvety surface. The lava rocks are so broken down and with no vegetation there is nothing to break the smoothness of the surface.  It was incredible.  We went to the visitor’s center because you have to take a bus tour around the park. Nobody is allowed to drive or hike around the park alone.  Actually, a really amazing sight is at the visitor’s center the volcanic heat is very close to the surface.  There are employees who push dry brush into a hole about 2 feet deep and the brush will burst into flame!

The restaurant cooks its meat and potatoes over the volcanic heat pits or just by burying the potatoes in the ground.  Incredible.

After we left the park we drove around the western coast. The roads here are so nice and smooth and clean.  There are always cyclists out riding and it would be a great place to tour on bike.  They also have an Ironman here and I can see why it’s simultaneously one of the most difficult and rewarding IM rides.

Yesterday afternoon we drove up to see the lava tubes and Northern side of the island.  A local artist, Cesar Manrique, was similar in style (in my opinion) to Frank Lloyd Wright.  He believed in using and highlighting the natural aspects of Lanzarote in his designs.  First we toured a lookout point he designed called Mirador del Rio. This is a Cliffside restaurant and overlook where you can see La Graciosa Island and the Atlantic. It’s an amazing view and the drop down is a little terrifying.  We could see people hang gliding off these cliffs.

Lastly, we went to Jameos del Agua, a complex of caves and partially sunken lava tubes that Manrique turned into a volcano museum, restaurant and concert hall.  There is an underground salt water pond that has blink albino crabs! Tiny things but they stand out against the lava bottom.  All the seats are made either from lava rocks or smooth petrified wood.  Beautiful place!  It would be incredible for a wedding if any of you are looking…;) 

Today, Bob and I went to the farmer’s market and grocery store and loaded up for the next leg of the trip. Tomorrow we will leave for Tenerife.  It will take around 24 hours to get there and I am eagerly anticipating getting there because Dave Hopkins (Crazie friend!) and I are running a trail race.  Although I have been running daily, this race will really challenge me and I am excited for Dave and I to tackle it together.  

Blog from Agadir, Morocco: Monday, November 23, 2015- Agadir, Morocco We arrived in Agadir early Thursday morning and had a (thankfully) uneventful arrival and mooring. The night watches have been getting tougher because there are hundreds of fishing boats out here.  Some are lit, others are not. Some have huge nets and extended arms, others don’t.  None of them use a normal recognizable lighting scheme and, of course, they follow no set course!  It becomes a tricky business to see these crazy lights, a bearing drift that is constantly changing in the black night.  Very poetic of me, isn’t it!  Anyway, we made it in safe and sound.  Agadir is a funny place.  An enormous, beautiful beach lined with a clean, well maintained boardwalk complete with all the shops, restaurants and resorts that you might see in Hawaii or Ocean City.  The beach itself is huge and flat and you can see pickup soccer games anytime from dawn till dusk.  The boardwalk itself is about 3 miles long and the beach extends further than that. Everything along here is very European, people wearing bathing suits, shorts and tank tops.  The marina is at the Northern edge of the boardwalk, so a great location. If you go inland, you really see more typical Morocco. People more modestly dressed with a typical souk (market).

There is really not much touristy to see in Agadir since the city was completely rebuilt in the 1960’s after an earthquake hit.  There are remains of the old Kasbah on the very top of the closest hill.  It’s impressive from the ground but Bob and I rode our bikes up to the top and there is nothing but trash and people selling trinkets up there. Really nothing is left except the outer wall. 

I have discovered a new fruit, the persimmon! For a week now I have seen this orangey-red fruit for sale in all the markets and on all the carts.  Really unfamiliar to me.   A couple of days ago we asked one of the salesman about it and he cut us a slice.  Such a sweet, juicy flavor, somewhat like a melon.  We bought a bunch and ate them all. Then, Bob got some more.  But we didn’t know how to tell if they are ripe, so I picked one and started to eat it.  If you eat an unripe stringent persimmon it almost is like an allergic reaction!  The inside of your mouth feels dry and like a cotton ball is stuck all over!  I can’t even describe the feeling but Bob felt the same way. So then we googled it and learned that how to identify a ripe persimmon.  Quite an experience!

We’ve met a really nice French family here that spent the past 15 years sailing around the Caribbean.  It’s great to meet people who can give us first hand knowledge of where we should and shouldn’t go.  We’ve been able to rethink some of our plans from their advice, so that’s been great.  They also have an 8 year old son who is super-friendly and comfortable playing with all ages of kids! Our kids can be very shy and hesitant about meeting other kids so it’s great to know such an outgoing friendly kid to break the ice.  We’ve been playing musical instruments, legos, pokemon and remote control cars with Julien!

Yesterday morning (Sunday) I went for my normal run along the beach and I was amazed at the craziness!  The boardwalk and the beach were packed with people running, walking, riding bikes and playing soccer.  I even stopped and watched a couple of pull up bars where no less than 50 people were surrounding doing strength tricks on and over the bars.  All young men, no women on these bars.  Their tricks ranged from gymnastic-like swings to static holds and Cirque du Soleil-type stunts.  Pretty amazing to watch some of them.

So the last few days we have done school, played on the beach and gone for walks on the boardwalk.  It’s gloriously hot and dry with cool nights.  Perfect weather for sleeping and dry enough to keep away mosquitoes.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015-underway, enroute Agadir

We left Rabat at dawn yesterday morning.  It was a two-step process, because first we had to move from our pier to the police pontoon, then we were allowed to clear out.  Even though we are going to another Moroccan port we still had to notify the police we were leaving and have the boat searched.  We met some lovely people, Mike and Jeannette, who have been cruising for years and they gave us some great advice about the Canaries and Agadir.  They left as we did and were going directly to the Canary Islands, so maybe we will see them again.

Our last couple of days in Rabat were relaxed.  I had a small cold with bad sinus pressure so I stayed in bed most of Monday. Thankfully by now it is almost all gone.
So far this transit has been pretty calm.  The wind was dead until mid afternoon, then it picked up and we have had good breeze since.  A nice downwind sail.  Kids did schoolwork and watched a movie in the evening.      

Blog from Rabat, Morocco:

Sunday, November 15, 2015.

We’ve been in Morocco for one week now. We had a pleasant overnight sail from Gibraltar to Rabat, arriving early Friday morning.  The marina harbor staff here have been wonderful, coming out on a pilot boat to escort us into the channel.  There are a couple of twisting shoal areas entering the marina and it is very advisable to enter at high tide with the escort.  The problem is that if there is a strong Atlantic swell, the waves will enter and break in the direction of the channel. A boat could surf this wave in, lose control and drive right on the rocks.  This morning, one week later, the swell is pretty big so I saw how this could happen. In fact, with a big swell the marina will close down the harbor and escort boats.

I took this while running.  This is an amazing optical illusion because it looks like there is a huge pit but it is actually a plateau with water running off it.

Morocco has been a very big change for us. For me, I should say.  The marina is relatively new and one of only two modern marinas on the Morocco Atlantic coast.  It is clean, very secure and friendly.  Rabat is actually on the south side of the river and Salé is on the north side.  The marina is on the Salé side.  Rabat is much more the touristy, historic and commercial side, whereas Salé has not been affected as much by modern development and is where the local people live, work and shop.

The photo is from the Islamic Cemetery in Rabat.  Its incredible how many gravestones inside the low walls.

The first afternoon we were here we went into Salé.  It’s pretty interesting; the old area is surrounded by high walls with several gates to enter. The gates are pretty wide, mostly big enough to allow two lanes of traffic to get through.  Certainly the majority of the people dress conservatively. I would estimate in Sale 90% of the women’s heads are covered and both men and women are dressed in traditional Islamic fashion.  That being said, there is an accepting attitude towards people and religion.  I can hear the call to prayer but things don’t shut down like they did in Middle Eastern countries I have visited.  It’s more the feeling that if you want to pray, go right ahead, but if you don’t, no one will condemn or criticize.  We have tried to dress respectfully but I see other women wearing tank tops or shorts and nobody seems offended or surprised.

Very quickly we realized how inexpensive some things are in Morocco, especially food.  We can buy breakfast for everyone at a bakery for less than 1$, including pastries, baguettes and buns.  Oliver has found that he loves these thick hot “crepes” that are sold every morning on the streets.  The first afternoon we all had delicious grilled marinated chicken sandwiches for 1$ each!  I was very nervous about eating them since I had read all about bacteria, bad water and getting sick. Every guide book and website we read said don’t drink the water, don’t get fresh juice unless they use bottled water and don’t eat any fruits or vegetables uncooked unless you peel them yourself.

The fish market we walked through before we ate our sandwiches was awful.  Fish guts and dirt running down the street, flies everywhere, stray cats, dogs, smoking people and hot crowded narrow streets.  Honestly, I did not like this one bit.  I just wanted to get out of there.  Caleb was almost physically ill, begging us to please just leave there and get back to the boat.  I completely understood that, but we managed to find a place to get the sandwiches that looked clean and took them to a nearby park to eat. The park itself was overgrown, dirty and run down but at least we could sit in an open space on a bench and eat.  We all kind of relaxed and enjoyed our sandwiches.

The rest of the market was much better. Fresh fruits and vegetables on carts, prickly pear fruits that are opened for you and nut/raisin vendors. Bob liked the live chicken vendors. Also lots of clothes, bedding, etc.  Sale is pretty much people just going about their shopping, not geared towards tourists at all, which is great!  Nobody bothers you but people are very friendly if you do approach them. The Moroccan people are very friendly.

The other side of the city, Rabat, has more of the tourist sites.  An Islamic cemetery that is right on the water and jam-packed with graves.  Rabat has an amazing Tower of Hassan built to be the highest tower in the world. Unfortunately the tower was not finished (10m shorter than planned) and is being renovated so it’s hard to see how the facades are supposed to be but there are tons of signs nearby that show what the walls and designs are and how the renovation is going.  This tower has a huge ramp inside instead of a spiral staircase so the califf can ride his horse up to the top and give the call to prayer. I want to ride up to the top on my horse!

In Rabat, this is the Tomb of Mohammed V and Hassan II.  During the day this area is packed with tourists so it was amazing to see it so empty.

We have taken a couple of local trips.  First one was a day trip to Casablanca, about an hour away by train.  The main site in Casablanca is the Grande Mosque.  This is the 3rd biggest mosque in the world, behind Mecca and another one I can’t remember.  About 200,000 people can pray there simultaneously between the inside main floor (men 20,000), upper floor (women, 5,000) and outside.  Contrary to popular belief, none of the scenes from the movie Casablanca were filmed there and there is no Rick’s American Café!  Now there is a café with that name but I imagine that it is entirely touristy.  Casablanca is also a much more cosmopolitan city.  It is the business and finance center of Morocco so it has some fancy hotels and modern ocean front architecture. 

This is a a photo taken inside the Grande Mosque.  Photo cred: Caleb   He takes all the cool shots.  All the boring ones are mine!

We took a tour of the Mosque.  It is also one of very few that non-Muslims can enter, so I wanted to make sure the kids had a chance to see inside.  This mosque is only about 10 years old and was built very quickly, in only about 6 years.  The mosque was very ornate, beautifully done and made from almost all local wood, metal and stone.  The roof can open up in three minutes, too, which would have been cool to see.  Our guide described some of the cleaning rituals done before prayer and some interesting facts about the construction of the building. One interesting thought is that the king specifically wanted this mosque along the sea because historically Muslims saw sea dwelling and working folks as subservient.  Our guide said that people who were being invaded would be driven from their inland homes to the sea so the only people at the waterside would have been completely conquered by the invading armies. 

We also took a cab out to visit the Jewish Museum of Morocco.  This museum was in our guide book as the only museum in Morocco depicting what Jewish life was like throughout the last century here, as Morocco had a sizable Jewish population. After bartering with the cabbies for the taxi fare we found our way to the museum, which was hidden in a very residential suburb in a former Jewish children’s home.  I got the impression that we were the first visitors in a while!  The museum was ok.  I actually think there could have been much more information and better presented, but there were some interesting clothes that were Morocco Jewish bridal garments.

I like all the intricate designs everywhere.

Marrakesh:  We also took an overnight trip to Marrakesh. Marrakesh is about 4 hours away by train so it made sense to stay overnight.  We booked two rooms in a riad (bed and breakfast) very close to the center of the city.  The fun part was that Bob’s mom, Carol, and our friends Rob and Andi Overton also stayed in this riad when they were here several years ago.  After our train ride and our walk from the station into town, it was lovely to be able to put down our backpacks and sit in the shady courtyard area of the riad.  It got very hot in the middle of the day and as soon as the sun went down the temperature drops about 20deg F. 

Marrakesh is a very interesting city.  Very busy, bustling and hustling.  This is where the salesmen will follow you down the street, trying to convince you that their wares are “all homemade, purely by hand, by their own mother down the street” while you can clearly see the Made in Thailand label and the machine stitching!  The first afternoon we walked around the prominent mosques and tried to find the gardens that our guide book promised.  Caleb wasn’t feeling well, so he was kind of dragging and we were didn’t want to push too hard in case he really became ill.  Like I mentioned before, I’m trying to be very careful about what we eat and touch.  Infections, stomach problems and illnesses can be all too common for visitors.  Anyway, we found the mosques and some interesting burial tombs. The burial tombs are for the direct descendants of the prophet Mohammed, so they were ornate and beautiful.  We had trouble finding the gardens but it was eye-opening just walking around.  We went to Jemaa el Fna, the huge central market square. This is where the snake charmers, the monkey tamers and the nut and fruit vendors congregate.  Lots of women squat down offering henna tattoos and kids selling Kleenex packets.  Tons of stalls selling hot food, especially fish.  The square is surrounded by cafes that have really high terraces so we ate ice cream up there watching the sights.  The ice cream was nice and refreshing, but walking back to the riad we passed about a dozen horse drawn carriages available for a ride and the smell was so overpowering that we avoided the direct path after that. 

Caleb and Leslie at lunch.  Caleb finds the Moroccan seating very comfy.

In Marrakesh at the Saadian Tombs.  They have beautiful colorful roses and these were Leslie's and my favorites.  Cecilia, this photo is for you!!

Caleb took this picture of Bob in Marrakesh at the Ben Youssef Medersa, an intellectual center.  Or is it David Letterman???!!!

I think we were all tired and happy to get back to the riad.  Hot showers did the trick and we felt better afterwards. Caleb and Oliver were ready to just read the rest of the evening but Leslie was raring to go.  Bob, Leslie and I headed back to the square and had some hot fish and watched the late night action.  By the time we were back Oliver was sound asleep and we shortly followed!

Next day we visited the Souks, the markets.  We were interested because you could watch the artisans at work at leather, wood, ceramic, metal and wool goods.  Of course, there was a lot of salesmanship as well, so you kind of had to ignore the salesmen to watch the craftsmen work. In the end, we bought a couple of things, had a relaxed lunch and made our way back to the train.  Back at the boat around 10pm, we were glad to have gone to Marrakesh but really glad to be back at the boat.

Bob really wanted a picture of the donkey and cart so he made us pose for a "walking down the sidewalk in Marrakesh" picture.

The last few days we have been catching up on school and watching the weather window for our departure. We are planning to go to Agadir, a city in the south of Morocco.  We are only planning on staying there for a couple of days before heading across to the Canary Islands.  I’ve been able to run every day here, which is nice, but I have certainly gotten some strange looks and honks.  Oh well.

Bob and I rode our bikes to one last site in Rabat called Chellah, the Merenid Sanctuary.  This is a ruined walled city that has been there since before the Phoenician times.  There are ruins from Roman times and ruins from the first Merenid Sultan from the 1200s.  Freshwater springs directly from the ground in this hillside so there are lush fruit gardens, flowers and even a fresh water spring where, since ancient times, women have thrown boiled eggs in the water to appease the fertility gods.  We watched some women throwing the eggs even yesterday!  Pretty cool.  These ruins were amazing because you could still see how the Roman streets were aligned and designed.  There are also these cool birds that make enormous nests.  This is the ruins of the minaret at Challah. Everything is open and people can climb and walk all over these ruins.  We were very glad we went. 

This looks like a Dr. Seuss bird to me!

This is the freshwater spring with the super secret fertility powers! These women were throwing eggs in the water and Bob and I felt like we were back in time.

This photo is of the kids at the Tower of Hassan.  They are actually hugging AND smiling!

Oliver’s note
: What up guys. I thought “Hey, I have not done a blog entry in a long time so why not” so here I am. So in Morocco (or Maroc in French) people bargain for things and I have had the experience same with my mom and dad. So before I tell you what happened when I bargained, I must tell you what happens when you bargain. So first they set a price to start on. Then you do a suggestion and they do a suggestion ect. Then you agree on a price and buy it or do not agree on a price and you walk away. So here is what happened with me. First he set a price, 250 Dirhams for a magic box I wanted (10 dirhams to a Doller so it was 25 Dollars). Then I said 150. He said 180. Then I said 170. But then dad said he wanted these things you need for kabobs and he said both of them for 250. I said 230 but he said no 240. Then Leslie started whining and saying that that we could buy them for so cheap somewhere else and he finally caved in to 230. So morocco you should go to because of fun stuff and bargaining but remember this people get mugged and kidnapped here so only go with an adult. It also has smells and a lot of people don’t brush their teeth (the dentist should put a field trip to morocco because people will always brush their teeth forever) and they pray 4 times a day the first one at 5 o clock. So that is what you need to know so…Ciao!!!!!!!

(Note from Dad – Oliver did a great job.  He first did some research by knowing what he wanted, then looking at the work of three different shops.  He started out by complimenting the guys shop and his nice work.  He also at the end told him he was a really good negotiator and that we had come back to his shop because we found his work to be of higher quality than some of the other shops.  Regarding the mugged and kidnapped; well I admit we used a bit of scare tactic before coming to Morocco, probably unfairly, but our kids tend to wonder off and not stay close to us and we really did not want them out exploring on their own, as their sense of direction is suspect at times and we really did not want them to get lost in a country where few people speak English.  In the Channel islands and in Gibraltar they pretty much had carte blanche to go anywhere they wanted as long as they gave us a general idea of where they were going and were back at dark, so wanted to make it clear that would not be the case in Morocco. In hindsight, we probably did not need to use the scare tactic as they seem to realize the need to stay together and close after wondering in the maze of the souks and finding just how different things are here)

Jill’s blog:  Trip to the lower caves, otherwise known as our spelunking!
One of the recommended tours for Gibraltar was to explore St Michael’s cave.  This is a huge natural grotto and series of caves within The Rock.  The Upper Caves are open to the public and they even have big events held in the “Cathedral Room”, such as the Miss Gibraltar pageant and small concerts.  Very cool but touristy too.  We had been recommended several times to get a tour of the Lower Caves. These are only accessible with a hired guide.  When I read the explanation and it said you need to wear sneakers or hiking boots, loose fitting clothes and be in good physical condition and they would provide the hard hats, I knew we needed to do this!  I found a guide online, a young local kid named John, and we booked a tour. 

First came getting up the Rock to the caves. Others may take a bus or taxi, but not us!  We hiked up there, about three miles uphill from the marina. I had packed sandwiches to eat at the entrance to the cave before we started, but this ended up being a bad decision.  I had not counted on the aggressive rats, AKA the Macaques.  These monkeys get one look a bag opening or a plastic bag and they swoop down and snatch it away. They are completely aggressive and will sit there and watch you out of the corners of their eyes. If you look like you are going to open a bag they will jump on you and grab the bag. A little scary, actually. So Leslie ate her sandwich in the bathroom, poor thing, Caleb ate his in huge bites from under his shirt and Oliver waited until we got INTO the cave before eating.
Once we got inside the lower cave, it was incredible.  We got suited up with hard hats and John had a head lamp. Other times when I have been inside caves it was “stay on the path, don’t touch, etc.”  This time there was no path!  There were ropes in some places. 

This cave was discovered during WWII when they thought they might need to develop a hospital wing inside the Rock.  They blasted through the rock to make an entrance and found a very extensive series of caves.  Luckily, the hospital didn’t need to be built so the cave was essentially rigged for lighting and then left alone.   We were climbing up ropes, down ropes, shimmying on a two inch strip of Rimstone to get around an interior lake while looking at amazing stalactite and stalagmite formations that took millions of years to grow. 

John was a great guide, young, fun and always pointing out the interesting shapes, like Winston Churchill’s head, the Alphabet Soup and Monkey’s Bum.  Sometimes he would shine his flashlight a different way to change the shadows and entirely different shapes would appear.  Awesome!  You certainly could not do this tour if you weren’t fit, because you would get stuck in the narrow crevices we had to crawl through or squeeze between. It was about 2 ½ hours and it was great fun. 

   Macaques, a funny type of monkey living on the top of the Rock of Gibraltar  

Many people go to the top of the rock of Gibraltar but do not know much about the monkeys. One thing that is kind of funny about them is that they don’t have any tails. One explanation is that the monkeys up on The Rock do not need tails because they do not swing from their tails on trees. Where they live they do not have many branchy tall trees. When they were wild (they are now controlled by the government) the dominant class would eat the lower class’s berries straight from their mouths (they are not as wild anymore). In the world there are 23 species. 23 SPECIES!

Here is a scary part, they hold a virus that if humans catch will probably die. It’s better to fall off the rock than to catch this virus. And remember this: THEY ARE MONKEYS NOT APES! In Gibraltar there are 17 separate families. Within each family the Macaques don’t know which male is the father.  This causes all of the fathers to act like every baby is their baby. Maybe you can go up there when you are older and check out the sites like the monkeys and the Mediterranean steps or even the Pillars of Hercules.

Another entry from Oliver:   Sometimes people have good days and some people have bad days. Well, this is one of my WORST days ever. We were in Rota, Spain and we were leaving that night but we wanted to go to a city called Cadiz to see the sites. We woke up to super strong winds and rain. We were going to go on the ferry but because of winds it was shut down for the day. So we had to take the bus. So I was on the bus for a long time maybe an hour. After we got there it started raining and every one was in a bad mood. So we first went to the market where we got veggies and fruits. My mood was bad. We walked through the town. My mood got worse. Then we went to a museum. And after all that stuff I still did not explode. And after that we went back. That night when we were underway I got really seasick and threw up. That was a terrible day.         

 Now that I have told you about my worst day I will cheer you up with my best day. So I was back in school at this time staying in an apartment/hotel sort of thing and it was the last day of school. So I was having a good day had fun with my friends and had a tasty lunch (I think it was pizza?) with everyone. I played games at recess with my friends. But sadly the school day ended but we did not go back to the apartment/hotel we drove into Virginia and stayed in a real hotel. After that we stayed up half the night watching T.V. lastly we went to bed. Now after you have heard my best and worst days you can compare yours with mine (if you want).  

First entry from Oliver:  Hey guys, I have been in Gibraltar for a long time and I’ll tell you what I have done on the coolest part of the rock.  First, we went up half a million steps!  After that we climbed a steep road and passed an awesome castle.  Next, we saw something cool.  A guy was speeding down the mountain and he skidded really cool-y!  (Note from mom:  I did not think this was cool as this guy almost skidded off the cliff!)  After that we got to the top and saw some monkeys, but they did not have tails.  Later, we went down on a cable car, like a ski lift.  It was like a steep roller coaster but not fast.  Lastly we went back and had dinner.  That was a great day.  

Scene 2 Setting:

Kids still working on schoolwork; mom in the wings; right after scene 1…


         Mom who has heard all of scene one makes an appearance…

Mom: “Hey, kids…” seems to get an idea and smiles mischievously.    

Mom: “How about instead of doing the Composition assignment, you can write a blog entry?”

Leslie: “But, Mom-“

Caleb: “We love the idea! Right, Leslie? Gives meaningful and threatening look.

Leslie: “Yeah… Sure…”

Oliver: sings and does a little jig “No Composition. YEA! No Composition. YEA! Whoops 3 times

Dad: appears from outside “What’s going on? I heard whooping.”

Mom: “Nothing dear, it was just the kids being all rowdy.”

Kids: “Hey!”

Dad: “Okay…” goes back outside

Mom: “Kids, don’t make such a ruckus! It’s fine that you’re excited but keep it down.

Caleb and Oliver: “Yes Mom…”

Leslie: “But I-“ is silenced by look from Caleb who goes back to looking innocent 2 seconds later

      Caleb and Oliver talk excitedly about the preposition made by Mom. Leslie just sits looking confused and annoyed. End of Scene 2.

Scene 3:

  Mom is in her room at computer posting blog entries; kids and Dad are inside and oblivious to anything happening.


                                 Keyboard clicks. Keyboard stops, Mom grins an evil grin.

Mom: “They’ll all write blog entries, all of them! Mom cackles evilly “I will control them!”                           

Caleb's sailing explanation!

Have you ever wondered how a boat moves? Probably not, BUT I will now invite your interest to this subject at hand. How exactly a huge piece of Carbon Fiber or plaster or anything else from which a boat is made out of manages to move across the water with just a sheet of canvas or nylon.  At this time you’re definitely wondering where the nearest exit is, however this could be some necessary information if you ever wish to go sailing yourself. The wind doesn’t always flow from behind you to make an easy downwind sail., Eventually a new sailor starts to realize that it isn’t as easy as you, and many new adult sailors (cause adults are over rated), thought.              

Many people want to go sailing but yet have no idea how to start. As stated above said new sailor may think it is extremely easy to start sailing and when they get on their fancy new boat have absolutely no idea how to sail much less not know how to keep the boat upright. Then after 20 minutes of the new boat resembling a turtle they decide that a sailor’s life is not for them. All these wannabe sailors could have just read this guide and become good sailors right of the bat (I hope). A boat sailing through the water is affected by the shape of the boat, the size and trim of the sail and the wind direction.  Let’s get to it.  

            The first thing that you want to do is find out the direction from which the wind is coming. The way to do this is fairly simple, you could find a flag and use that to find the wind direction, another way to do this is to get your finger   Once you have found that out you can place your sailboat in a position to use the wind to your advantage. This can be anywhere as long as you are not in the “pizza slice” directly upwind:

            One point of sail is downwind. The boat is headed in the same  way of the wind. When sailing Downwind you have your sail far out, in order to catch the most wind as possible.                                                           
  The next direction is called a reach. A reach can be on either sides, and can extend from a close reach, which is almost upwind, to a broad reach, which is close to downwind. A reach is generally the fastest way to sail.                 

         This direction is called upwind. This is generally the hardest direction to sail as if you accidentally go into the wind you have to fight to get out the the “no-go zone”.   Ok.  Big hint for sailing. DON’T SAIL DIRECTLY INTO THE WIND. YOU WILL NOT GO ANYWHERE. Unless you have a motor. Then you can go anywhere you want. 


        Once you have determined the wind direction you can adjust the sails to catch the wind. If you are doing it right on a reach, the sails will then now look like the gently curved. This happens because of the wind has “filled” your sails. The sails will now begin to try and pull your boat across the open sea.  This happens because of the sail being connected to the mast of the boat. Unfortunately, there is science involved. While the wind pushes the boat when going away from it (downwind) the opposite happens when going toward it (upwind). The wind is pulling the boat forward. That forward pull is referred to as lift. For that reason, sailors steering upwind must take a zigzagging path called tacking. By doing so, the wind approaches at an angle rather than head-on.          

  WARNING SCIENCE AHEAD:                                                                                                      

 Lift diagram

 The science for how a boat moves is simple. According the Bernoulli's theorem when a person is sailing upwind the wind is moving across the sail.  The wind completely underneath the sail moves freely. The wind maybe a few feet/inches up isn’t as lucky. It has a huge sail in the way, but how is it supposed to get around it? The sail decides to just go with the flow and skates along the sail. The next “strand” of wind has the same problem and does the same thing. Eventually they create some high wind pressure. On the other side of the sail the exact opposite happens, the wind ignores the sail and goes around said sail. This wind creates low wind pressure. This is a combination for greatness and the high wind pressure attempts to fill in the low pressure on the other side of the sail and pulls the boat forward. 


One of the most important parts of sailing is the shape of your boat. You and I both could get a bunch of cardboard. Tie a stick on it and put some cloth and call it a day. The question is, would it actually work? 100/1 that it wouldn’t.  The shape of a boat should be hydrodynamic and it should look sleek. It doesn’t matter if you have the most hydrodynamic boat in the world. If it doesn’t look cool it doesn’t matter. I’m kidding by the way. In all seriousness the most hydrodynamic boat shape has a point at the bow so the forward motion of the boat can push the water out of the way more easily.  If the bow is square shaped it would require much more force for the boat to be able to push the water out of the way and move forward.

  I hope that my essay has at least created a tiny bit of interest in the topic. If you actually had ever wanted to go sailing before I hope that this has educated you just a little bit.

One last thing. The foundation for Caleb Kai is slowly crumbling. We are losing support. Send donations. Please and thank you.

Gibraltar: I heard a phrase once that you sail your boat until it is too broken then you stop and fix it and repeat.  I like this thought, though we have had minimal problems, there were a few wear and tear items that I have wanted to get done and also there are some things that we will need in the Caribbean as the cruising will be different with hopefully lots of time on the hook and not so much time in marinas.  Gibraltar seemed the ideal spot to get this work done (everyone speaks English and many of the parts on our boat were originally sourced from the UK and Europe and are metric).  So we have been busy doing a few projects.

 First was to have some additional chafe patches put on the main.  We have a fully battened main and how the sail is built, the batten pocket is sewn onto one side of the sail.  In our case this is the port side.  On both jibes when gong down wind, our sail rubs on the shrouds, though we try to limit this but putting our traveler down and trimming in the main to limit the twist on the leach.  On Port Jibe, this is not a big deal as the battens are on the inside and do not rub on the shroud.  On Starboard Jibe, it is a different story as now the battens (which are solid round fiberglass of approx 16mm diameter) protrude above the sails surface and rub pretty hard against the shrouds.  It is easy to see where the shroud rubs as the wear is visible.  Before we left on the trip, I was aware of the problem and attempted to build my own chafe patches.  I purchased some rip stop and some plastic/Teflon material (can’t remember the exact name) that has very low friction and on each of the spots I had made a small patch and taped them on.  Needless to say the initial try did not work very well as the adhesive on the rip stop was not strong enough and after a couple of days sailing, I found a few on the deck.  I had read somewhere that if you need to repair a sail, use 5200 as the bond is actually stronger than sewing.  So try two, I used the 5200 and that worked great.  These patches were effective for most of the chafe spots and were still holding up fine after 6 months.  But in a couple of spots, the shroud had chaffed through the patch and plastic/Teflon.  Not really a big deal up to now, but I expect that for the next 6 months we will almost exclusively be on Starboard jibe and hopefully reaching or broad reaching in the trade winds!  So wanted a more permanent solution. I had contacted the marina ahead of time and they recommended a sail maker.  We arrived Gibraltar on a Saturday and he was scheduled to come get the sail on Tuesday Morning.  I had never taken the main off the boat before and was not familiar with how to detach the main from the cars on the luff.  When we purchased the boat I found a bin of extra track.  I thought one way to remove the main would be to take the stopper off the end of the track and slide each car onto the small pieces of track such that none of the ball bearings fall out, then tape the ends so car does not slide off.  Well after looking at this, I was not too excited about this plan, and I could only envision ball bearings bouncing on the deck and over the side.  So I started googling Frederiksen main sail removal, and found a blog that said there was a way to remove without taking the cars off.  So with Caleb’s help we were able to figure out that with the removal of two screws where each batten car is  that the batten fitting can slides off a couple of prongs.  The rest of the cars were easy with the removal of a cotter pin.  It took a couple of hours but we got it off without losing any parts and then proceeded to remove the battens.  We found that a couple of the battens were cracked, so now I was even gladder that I was having the main worked on.  The sail maker came and got the sail (we almost dropped it overboard – it is heavy, easily 200lbs).   While it was away, I got out the epoxy and glued the areas where the battens had cracked and filled in a couple of areas where some wear was showing.  Battens were like new.  We also made some adjustments and repairs to the mainsail cover.  When the main returned a week plus later, it had nice new chafe patches with 3 inch webbing over the batten pockets.  Looked great.  This time we used the main halyard to lift the sail onto the boat much easier.  So time to reassemble.  Battens in first.  The top batten was missing its end when we pulled it out.  I figured out why.  It was too long.  I had some extra ends that the prior owner had left on the boat that took me some time to find (which bin did I put it in – oh yeah with the odds and ends stuff 20 bins later).   Without the end it is about a half inch too short.  While we were sailing, I never liked the look of the top of the sail and now I knew why, without the end and it being too short, the leach had nothing to keep the roach of the sail tight and flat.  I put the end in, figured that the batten was 1 cm too long and got the hack saw out and shortened it up.  Perfect now.  Can’t wait to see the new leach under sail and I’m sure it will give us an extra .07 kts of speed!  Got all the other battens in, tightened them up (had to use sailing gloves to pull and tie the small lines – first time on the trip – glad we purchased 4 pairs all still in their original packaging).  Put a few small patches on the main here and there and was ready to put the sail back on.  Luckily the winds were light (the rock really does make it so there is little wind here in the marina) and on the bow, so just raised it slowly and stopped at each point where a car needed to attach.  This done and main fully raised, then put the outhaul and reefing lines back on.  Rewired tied the tack shackle – done.  Went very easily.

  Next project was replacing the main halyard.  The outer core of the halyard was showing wear, had some cuts and was getting fuzzy where it takes all the load on the self-tailing winch between fully up and the first reef.  I could also see that “dust” was coming off it so knew that UV was taking its toll.  So had to learn about lines and also needed someone to do the splicing.  We asked around for a rigger and eventually we were introduced to a live aboard here that does a good bit of teaching (there are I think at least two sailing schools here in the marina) and he was willing to do the splice and teach me how to do it.  He even gave me a video on splicing at the end which is great!  So for the line, we started asking around and got different opinions and eventually settled on polyester braid on braid.  I measured our line and we needed 48 meters of 12mm.  Our halyard is a 2:1 with on end attached to the top of the mast with a large pin through an eye splice (thanks Jill for going up the mast and taking pictures), this comes down to a block and shackle that attaches to the top of the sail, then runs back up to the top of the mast to the normal turning block and runs on the interior to a ports side exit. There is one major chandlery here called Sheppards.  I visited them and they had a selection of a few colors, but the only one that they had 48m of was a solid green.  Ok ok it’s a cruising boat, but everything is blue on this boat… we had heard about another chandlery, so headed that way, and glad we did.  Shop is called Hire U Shop and the owner is named Mark and he has a boat between 40-50 feet.  We talked with him and in the end we sat down and looked through the cruising guide for Morocco, he helped with getting us the line (in blue and much cheaper than Sheppards) and he also had transformers so we could step down the shore power to 120V (more on this later).  Great guy – thought the selection is not as broad, he has most of what we have needed. I have since gone to him first for items before going to Sheppards.  Got the line spliced on both ends, and pulled a messenger through the mast and down so we could feed the new halyard through the mast, which we did.  And now it was Jill’s turn to go up the mast again, this time to remove the old halyard and install the new one.  From the pictures the pin just had a cotter pin and washer on both sides.  So up she went with the new halyard, needle nose plyers and a new cotter pin.  She got it done, and was ready to come down and the job was done.  I have since done another splice for the new inner forestay halyard that we purchased before we left and did some whipping on our topping lift – running rigging is looking really good again!  

Blog would not be complete without a Top of the Mast Selfie!

Today is October 19, 2015:  As you read down, this begins a week ago and includes up to yesterday.  I hope it is not confusing. I am happy to include the first installment of Leslie's play, The Manipulator.  I look forward to reading more of her story as it comes!  Wonder who is the Manipulator...

Tuesday, October 13, 2015: U/w enroute Rota, Spain

Saw this triple rainbow shortly after leaving Porto.  It made me smile.

The Manipulator                           

 By Leslie M. Robinson

Scene 1 Setting:

Family of 5 lives on boat; 3 children ages 10, 11, and 13 being homeschooled; 2 adults, a mom and a dad; all sailing around Europe; family has a blog that kids dislike writing in; kids are doing schoolwork...


 Caleb: “I hate composition!”

Oliver: “You think your composition is hard?” gives incredulous look at Caleb “I have to write three paragraphs about how to ride a bike, three!

 Leslie: “Like your work is hard!” scoffs “Caleb and I have tons more work than you!”

Oliver: “Nuh- uh!”

Leslie: “Uh- huh!”

Caleb: “Guys, fighting isn’t going to get the work done, give it a rest!”

Leslie and Oliver stop fighting. All sigh.

Caleb, Leslie and Oliver: “I would do anything to not have to do stupid composition

Kids slump over in defeat, and continue working on composition…

 Scene 1 ends.
Scene 2 Setting: Kids still working on schoolwork; mom in the wings; right after scene 1…
“Action!”          Mom who has heard all of scene one makes an appearance…

Mom: “Hey, kids…”
seems to get an idea and smiles mischievously.

To be continued...

Bob's technical digest from our last day in Porto: 

Well we had rain all day today, so I decided to attack our battery charging system.  I had been seeing some high charging voltages when we are running our engines.  And the screen on the battery monitor connected to our Magnum inverter has been on the frits.  Batteries: We have Lifeline AGM batteries (House = 900AHr, and a starting battery). Overview of our charging system - we have two Yanmar engines, both with 155 Amp alternators along with a Northern Lights Gen Set.  We also have solar panels that keep up with most of our loads, so even though we have not plugged into shore power since we left the US, we have only run the generator 60 hrs.  We often had a good bit of excess power while up in the Baltic when the days were 20 hrs long!  But days are getting shorter now and the sun less directly overhead… plus lots of clouds and rain these last few week or so.  So the problem has not been the Solar or the generator as it provides AC to the inverter which has been programed with the correct settings.  It has shown up when we are motoring, I noted a during a transit in the Channel Islands that the Bulk and Absorb charge settings seemed to be running around 14.8 volts on one engine and 14.6 on the other.  The float voltage was also a little high at around 13.6v.  So a week or so ago I used our magnetic screwdriver to extract all the settings off the Balmar 612 regulators we have.  I sent the info to Rob Rowland (new family friend living in Annapolis), and we got an assist from an electrician friend of his, Chris Witzgall.  Chris provided some excellent information and even called Balmar for us and provided that the program code (P15) that was in the starboard regulator was not a custom code, but that the regulator must have been electrically scrambled at some point, as the program code it showed was one that does not exist.  He also suggested that using the factory setting for an AGM battery (program code P04) would be much better than what we were currently charging the battery.  The Port engine was set to program P02.  Well I have them all reset and both set to P04 now, so we will see when we motor out of Leixoes what happens!  So Engine chargers taken care of, it was time for an oil change on the generator, so ran a 2.5 hr charge to top up the batteries and get the oil hot (ok a bit excessive)… but during the charge, for the life of me could not get the Magnum display to show battery status etc. (luckily our solar panel display shows battery voltage, so I could see when it dropped to a float charge)  The screen had been freezing or showing gibberish for a while now, and for our last mail drop in Estonia, I had my mom pick us up new parts in Annapolis and had her mail them to us.  I just had not done the install because it was not truly broken… unplugging and plugging back in always seemed to work for long enough to read the meters.  Well now it was, so I got the parts out.  Because this was a newer model, it required that I change out a board in the inverter.  So 10 screws to get the cover off, 3 more plus a big bolt to get the card out and then reassemble.  Jill helped out and removed the old and installed the new ME-ARC remote control.  We connected it all up and it was beautiful.  Works great.  Had to go in and put in some additional settings, as there are more options on this new controller.  I think I have it all correct.  The only one I wonder about is that I set the absorb charge to end when current drops to 5 amps.  I downloaded the Lifeline battery manual and it said absorb charge at 14.2-14.4v until current drops to 0.5% of full capacity.  We have 900 AHrs so I calculate 4.5 amps.  The old controller was set to a time of 2.5hrs.  The new controller has three options, time, State of Charge (SOC) or percent of full charge based on what the battery monitor thinks, or this amperage setting.  I went with the amperage setting since that is what Lifeline says to do.  We will see how it works next time we run the generator – maybe in a couple of days during our transit to Rota if the winds are good and we don’t do any motoring.  I think it will take a really long time to get to 5 amps, so not sure I will be willing to run the generator that long. In the end the only quirk was after we turned the battery disconnect off, there was still quite a bit of power on our DC bus – either capacitors in the inverter, or power from the solar panels, not sure… after tuning off the solar panels and putting a load on the bus, it eventually drained it off.   I will investigate this more later.  

Other notes:  If using google map for driving directions in Portugal, make sure you set it not to take you on dirt or gravel roads.  Also the bus systems are not in google maps – so good luck trying to figure out how to get to and from places by bus.  There are two bus systems here, and other than going directly to their websites I could not find a way to figure out their schedules.

Well, the weather window opened up for us and we were able to get underway yesterday morning from Portugal.  We were supposed to have winds increasing to 20kts by evening but that never happened. We had light winds astern for almost all day and night, and now (5am) we have about 15 kts astern (true wind, not relative wind).  It is about 400 nm transit to Rota, so it will take us about 2 ½ or 3 days.  We are settled in! As probably everyone reading this knows, 5am is my most alert, productive time, so that is why I am writing now.  Yesterday we did school and relaxed.

0730:  Still dark. This time of the morning I ask myself, is it ever going to get light?!  Come on, Sun, don’t fail me now.  I have just put a coffeecake in the oven. It’s hard to bake in my oven because all the heating coils are at the back, so the back gets done quickly.  When I rotate the pan around, which I do, all the sides cook, but the middle doesn’t cook very well.  And I have only one temperature.  5.  What does that mean?  Not sure.  So I made this coffeecake in a bundt.  I’ll see how it cooks now!

This is Oliver teaching me how to play "teckdeck".  He is not pleased with my progress.  Time for some EI.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015: Update.  Bundt pan worked, crumb pie was demolished by hungry kids.  Yesterday was another normal day at sea. Kids did school, bob and I took turns napping and being on watch.  Tacos for dinner. 

0842:  Heading almost due east now, the sun came up earlier than yesterday, about 7:30am.  It’s amazing how much difference this makes in my mood!  Now, if only my friendly dolphins will come play.  One thing I want to say is that I really do feel safe in this boat.  Not every moment is great and I know I get seasick at times, but I have never felt unsafe on this boat.  A good thing!

Thursday, October 15, 2015:
We caught a fish yesterday!  A tuna, perfect size for the five of us to eat and have no leftovers.   We got into Rota this morning.  Glad to get there.

Tied up to the waiting pontoon, had some breakfast and got the boat all put away as the Marina office did not open until 1000.  After checking in we moved to our assigned slip.  No Wifi here, were told that there was wifi at the library so we headed that way as we needed to get in touch with my friends who are stationed here at the Naval Base.  It was wonderful for us to be able to have some packages mailed to them here. 

What we didn’t quite realize was that the US Navy really is “renting” pier space from the Spanish Navy so the rules to get on and off the base and the commissary/exchanges shopping are different.  We had to be escorted on the base and we weren’t allowed to shop at the exchange.  We could go to the mini mart, though. The mini mart was very big and had all the things that remind us of home, if more expensive!  Bob and I had a wonderful morning with our new friends, Bernie and Mike, loading up on Peanut butter, green chilils and Reece’s PB pumpkins.  All critical items….

We also toured around Rota, enjoying the churches, the tilework everywhere.  I loved looking inside the doorways that were open because often the outside would be bland and crumbling and inside would be beautiful colorful tiles and courtyards.  It took a little getting used to that everything closes from 1-5.  Really, Rota becomes almost a ghost town.  Then things liven up around 6 and the party starts!  Since Bob and I are such party animals this suits us perfectly…

The kids were making pancakes that morning and having a lot of fun.

I think they did pretty well!  Maryland with powdered sugar, anyone?

We took a day trip into Cadiz. Normally this would be a 10 minute ferry directly from our marina but the ferry was closed due to the high seas, so we took the bus.  Cadiz was nice.  Bob really like it and thought it had much more charm and personality than Rota.  We went to the Cadiz museum and climbed to the top of the Tower for the view.  We enjoyed a spontaneous flamenco dance party in the street as well!

Cadiz Cathedral on a rainy day.

The three musketeers who climbed to the top of the tower. Not very high, as towers go, but a pretty view anyway. The sun came out just as we got there!

This is one of the original drawings from Tintin showing the Tower of Cadiz and Captain Haddock overlooking the harbor.  Leslie found it.  Cool.

Statue to Cortez in Cadiz.

One thing I have noticed about Spain and Portugal that I really don’t understand is….poop.  In both countries you always have to watch where you are walking because there is enormous amounts of dog/cat/who knows poop on the sidewalks, streets, beaches, etc.  I don’t know if there are so many stray animals around or if it is not in the culture to pick up your animals’ droppings.  Perhaps a little of both.  For me, it made me enjoy my surroundings much less because I was always looking down!  CONSTANT VIGILANCE!  Ok, had to get that off my chest.

Again, looking for that window to cross to Gibraltar.  About 80 nm away so we needed to plan about 12 hours underway.  Problem was that strong easterlies were coming (wrong direction for an easterly passage) from 10-40 kts predicted.  10 kts would be ok, 40 would be another story.  Small window of passage opened up from Saturday to Sunday morning so we took it.

It was very rough to begin.  Huge chop in the seas but it settled down considerably as the night went on and we sailed SE.  Got to Gibraltar early yesterday morning and felt like we could finally relax.  We had made it out of the Schengen countries without violating any maximum allowed days and we are in a protected harbor for the next 10 days or so.  We look forward to exploring “The Rock” in the next week.

Sunday, October 9, 2015:  Still in Leixeos. 

We thought we would already be heading south, but the winds are conspiring against us, so we are still in the marina outside Porto.  We decided to rent a car for a couple of days to explore the countryside and Lisbon instead of sailing to Lisbon. This will also save us 40 nmi in and out of the river to Lisbon. 

Sometimes you start off with great plans and instead end up having an adventure!  On Friday we got the rental car and headed out to the Parque Natural do Alvao.  This is about two hours east of Porto in the mountains of the Douro region.  This park has a 300ft waterfall, swimming pools and natural slides and hikes to do.  Amazing!    Bob put the directions into his phone and there were two options. One option was 30km shorter than the other but took about the same amount of time, so that’s the one we took.  Little did we know that this route would take up directly over the top of the mountain on rocky, narrow, windy trails through remote farms and a couple of villages.  Little did we know we would be greeted by all sorts of grazing wildlife!

A sample of our road companions.  Look at the road itself!

My window wouldn't go down so there is glare on the screen but the countryside was beautiful.

Our destination.  We made it!

The scenery and countryside was absolutely gorgeous, with terraced vineyards, citrus orchards and roman ruins.  Once we finally picked our way over the mountain and into the park, we were happy to find a paved road and a sign to the waterfall hike.  Of course, by this time is was about 4 pm.  Sun sets here around 7:30 so we didn’t have a ton of time.  We hiked down to the natural pools and the kids liked climbing over the rocks and swimming in the (cold) mountain water.

This is an attempt to take a picture of the jaw dropping gorge of the 300 ft waterfall.  Pretty scary to get to close to it.  Scary for me, anyway!

On the trek back, we decided to take the bigger roads and highways.  We were NOT going to go, in the dark, over those mountain paths in our rental car.  So we had to choose to go equal distance NW or SE, in order to eventually go SW.  So we picked NW and for the next hour we proceeded to curve, wind and cross narrow bridges and roads, but at least the road was paved! But then when we got to the highway, we couldn’t get on it!  We paralleled and crossed over and under the highway at least 6 times but we couldn’t find an entrance ramp.  I was about at my wits end; tired, hungry and carsick when we finally found the entrance ramp!!  Victory.  

Ermelo, one of the villages that we passed through in the mountains was famous for these slate roofs. 

Hey this is Oliver and my mother finally bribed me to do this. She said I did not have to do phonics today. So here it is.  

 My family went on a crazy trip where we hiked and swam and had a crazy trip back too. First in the middle of the day we started to pack our things. We brought mostly electronics but that doesn’t matter.  Then on the car ride we went on poorly paved roads with rocks and stuff sticking into the tires and every thing. Luckily we didn’t get a flat tire. When we got to the hike to the swimming area we kept slipping on lose rocks and dirt. Well me anyway. We looked at the view of the 300 foot waterfall and were awestruck by it because it was amazing. After that we went to the swimming area. There was supposedly a natural waterslide there but there was not.. :[ so we swam a little but not a lot because the water was cold. After that we hiked back and went home. I almost forgot we also went to this point to see the 300 foot waterfall better.

Then we drove home.

Because we decided to skip Lisbon and sail on, we drove to Lisbon yesterday to sightsee.  Yes, it was quite a ways, 3 hours, in fact!  We got an early start, waking up around 6am.  Let me tell you, rousting these kids at 6 was a challenge.  They have completely gotten out of the habit of waking up early.  It will be a rude awakening for them next year!

I had spent the previous evening mapping out a plan for our day.  Best laid plans….

We had an easy drive down and easily found the parking garage.  That was a positive. It rained the entire day! That was a negative.  We got our bearings and headed out to the Se de Lisboa, a church built around 1100AD.  A very pretty church, with nice stained glass windows.

Then we climbed up to the Castelo de Sao Jorge, Castle of St George.  Normally this would be a beautiful place to climb the walls, roam around the ramparts and explore the extraordinary views.  The weather put a damper on that, sadly.  One cool thing about this castle is that is still an archaeological site, with Stone Age findings, remnants of Moor domination in Portugal and finally the middle ages.  There is a small museum that shows artifacts found inside the castle walls century by century.

 A rainy day in Lisbon. This is the Praca do Comercio.

Finally we walked down to the water through another city section called Alfama.  Probably would have been a very vibrant area in sunny weather with music and outdoor cafes but yesterday it was slippery and cold.  Caleb was wearing his slippers (like the kind soccer players wear) and he fell several times.  Don’t tell him I told you!  Also, a bird pooped right on Oliver’s head!  Don’t tell him I told you that either…

I took a picture of this building because I loved the tilework.  Portugal is famous for these painted tiles.

Last thing we did was wait about an hour for Tram 28.  This was written in our book as a “must –do” experience, similar to a roller coaster with sharp turns and climbs along the track.  It was incredibly crowded, hence the wait, since the trams would just pass the stops without letting anyone on if they were too full.  The kids had fun, though, so that was good.

We got back to the boat around 8pm and we all were exhausted.  I am glad we went to Lisbon but I am also very glad we decided not to sail there after visiting.   Some of the places we have been incredible and I loved them. Others I am glad we have seen but don’t feel like I need to spend any more time there.

But they are all adventures!

Friday, October 9, 2015:  Leixeos, possibly leaving today for Lisbon.

Bob’s note: Success.  We got the refrigerator fixed.  We were told that the port of Leixoes was a great place to get maintenance done and though we did not speak any Portuguese, we were able to talk with the marina staff who talked with their primary maintenance guy who called in a refrigeration technician and he was able to find the Freon leak.  It was luckily located on one of the tubes near the compressor, so the technician took the compressor home and repaired, brought it back the next day, we filled with Freon (which is done by weight – and it was fun trying to measure 60 grams of refrigerant with a digital scale on a boat that was rocking slightly from the swell that still snakes it way into the marina).  The wiring was not quite right when the technician left, as the compressor ran but neither the fan to cool the heat exchanger nor the fan across the condensing unit in the fridge would come on…  Today I took a couple of hours of troubleshooting and figured out that the wires had not quite been plugged back into the compressor controller correctly – now it works great…. And just in time as Jill and I did a major food run last night and the store delivered around 1330…. So both the freezer and refrigerator are in overtime getting everything cold…. Good thing it is super sunny today and we have lots of solar power!  So in all the technician probably worked 5 hours on the boat and I don't know how long at home.  Total bill 200 euros!  In the US I'm not sure that you can get someone to even look at a refrigeration system for that!

Now the big challenge is getting our US propane tank refilled!  We have two, so we are ok for now as we just started on the second tank, and it should last two months if we are conservative.  Tank fittings are not standard so we have to find someone that will do it for us.

We are also planning a new main halyard and adding some chafe patches to our main.  The battens rub hard on the shrouds on Starboard tack and I expect that we will be on Starboard tack, broad reaching for most of the trade wind passage to the Caribbean and while we are down there working our way back NW to the US.

Jill’s note:  The last few days we have been concentrating on schoolwork, maintenance, food shopping, new haircut (Leslie) and pedicure (me!).  We have gone into Porto a couple of times, though.  About a 30-40 minute bus ride but it drops you directly into the city.  The first time the kids and I went by ourselves.  We did a walking tour that was in our guide book and we really enjoyed it.  We climbed to the top of the Torre de Clerigos and had amazing views.  Basically you have a steep downhill towards the water.  We enjoyed the walk, fortified with Portuguese pastries and coffee and made our way down to the Rio Douro.  Very touristy, of course, but the architecture was beautiful and I enjoyed looking out for the azulejos, the unique tilework.  Beautiful!

Down at the water is the cable car.  This is the kind of overhead 4 seater car that rides on an overhead cable and is designed to give great overhead views, like they have at Disneyland.  “Mom, can we do that!!!!”  “Well, let’s see.  Sometimes these things can be really expensive…   5 Euros for all of us!! We are on!”

So that was fun. 

The next day Bob and I went back by ourselves for porto tasting.  There are dozens of port caves on the south side of the river and most of them offer tours and tastings.  We picked one that offered a tour in English. Bob picked the tour that gave three tastings at the end and I picked two tastings with Portuguese chocolate!  Same tour, just different tastings at the end.  It was really interesting with HUGE port casks or barrels. The “tastings” we got were as much as you might get when you order a glass of port, so one warehouse was enough for us!  The flat bottom boats in the river were used to transport the barrels of port down the river to put on the bigger ocean going ships. 

Our delicious port samples

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire....(Much needed after the port tasting!)

Apparently there have been many wrecks and sinkings on Rio Douro and now I understand why.  The current flows quickly and there are rapids at places along with eddies and tons of rocks.  It was amazing to me to look at this river with the water flowing upriver and the current flowing downriver.  So much churning going on in there.  We are on the river to the south.

We may leave today for Lisbon. We are nearing the end of our time in Europe.  Sad sad. We would like to hit Lisbon, Rota (Spain) and Gibraltar before we head across to Africa.  Not only new countries for us, but new continents! 

Sunday, October 4, 2015:  Leixeos, Portugal
I am so glad we decided to get here yesterday instead of today.  The weather models didn't agree when the front would hit (surprise!) and we thought we may have another day and the storm would hit late on Sunday instead of mid day Saturday.

Well,they were both wrong and the storm hit early Sunday morning.  We went to bed with calm winds and hazy skies and woke up to gale force winds!

Our plan here for the next few days is to rent a car and visit Porto and some cities in Spain we weren't able to see before.  I''ll  keep you posted!

This is what we woke up to this morning, and it is INSIDE the breakwater!

Friday, October 2, 2015:  Enroute Leixeos, Portugal

Well, you win some, you lose some.  Today, in Muros, we tried to go on a hike.  Not long, just an hour or so, but it would go to the top of the hill and overlook the valley and river.  Beautiful scenery.  There were supposed to be some interesting churches and other sites along the trail. Well…..sometimes trails are well marked and clear of brush and a joy to hike.  Others, not so much!    We got to the highest point, which did have a very nice view, and then the trail seemed to disappear. Not completely, but it was so overgrown with prickly bushes and thorns that we decided to turn back the way we came rather than get completely scraped up.  Oh well!

We got underway around 3pm today.  We decided because of the oncoming storm to sail overnight to Leixeos, Portugal. That is a very protected harbor and not too expensive.  We can stay there for a while, possibly get some maintenance and work done for the boat.   This is a pretty straightforward trip, we should arrive tomorrow morning.   

I haven’t mentioned much about our homeschooling.  Sometimes the kids fuss about certain parts of the curriculum. Oliver has phonics once a week, usually 4 or 5 pages each time. He hates phonics!  So, I will include the essay he had to write for phonics today.

This is why I hate phonics so much.  It’s a brat and I already have enough paragraphs to write from stupid composition.  Then you give me 6 pages!  6 pages!  Then after that I get an activity page and six more subjects.  That’s 7 subjects a day!  You should be ashamed of yourself, Phonics Empire.

Ha! It cracked me up.

Leslie is reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  It’s been 25 years since I read that book, so I am rereading it now. Partly because we all read and reread books to pass the underway time, partly so I can answer any questions she has.  Most of the books they read are award winners, so Bob and I are also enjoying reading their literature.  Caleb is reading The Prince and the Pauper.  The curriculum actually calls for The Pearl, but Caleb read that last year and absolutely hated it!  He likes The Prince and the Pauper much better.  I didn’t like The Pearl either.  

Bob’s note: So on the night watch.  We have found that standing longer watches works better for Jill and I.  I usually try to get 4 hours of sleep after dinner, then I stand a 6 hr watch through the night and Jill takes over in the morning generally when she wakes up.  Then I go back to sleep for another 4 hour or as much as I need. 
On this passage we have had dolphins with us often.  I am sitting reading in the main cabin and started to hear their squeaking.  You can actually hear the dolphins “talking” through the hull of the boat.  At first I thought it was something on the boat making noise, but when I went up to do a visual search of the horizon, one jumped out of the water right next to me.  I have since been watching them, and it is pretty amazing how well you can see them swimming under water at night.  I’m not sure if it is effloresce  or just cavitation of some sort coming off their fins and tails, but the dolphins are perfectly outlined in white “bubble” in the very dark water.  There is a moon tonight, so there is some light, but it is overcast so not very bright out.   They appear to be having fun jumping in the bow and stern wakes.

Caleb’s Speech:

Hello, my name is Caleb Robinson. I have decided, against the advisement of my parentage, to come before you guys today. I am happy to announce that our campaign to change the name of our great and holy boat to have a more (speaker pauses here) great and holy name. The name that the Caleb Administration has chosen is:                                                                   Caleb Kai  

The new name signifies the fact that this ship will have free and trouble-less passage through the oceans due to said oceans being Caleb’s Sea/Ocean. The Caleb Administration tends to think that an incorrect name is the main reason that that “Honu Kai”(Read with contempt) has been having so many of its crew succumbing to sea sickness. Our First-Rate founder was immune to this sickness and if the name of this boat was changed to support this man then our crew may be blessed by Caleb and gain his immunity.      

Thursday, October 1, 2015: Muros , Spain

The next morning we took off around the corner. By that, I mean around the NW corner of Spain.  We rounded some beautiful rocky hills and are exploring the rivers in Galicia.  We stayed last night at a very nice quiet marina in Camarinas.  They have a great café/restaurant at the marina and we took advantage of it by ordering paella for lunch.  Leslie really wanted paella and we were starting the gather the ingredients when we realized it really would be a better dish to buy prepared.  Wow, was it delicious and beautiful as well!  Camarinas was truly a fishing village and Bob and I enjoyed watching the rhythm of the fishing boats coming into port, offloading their yummy cargo and heading back out.

We had no wind today, so we motored about 40 miles down to Muros, another very nice town in Spain.  We are excited to be moored next to another catamaran of a British family with two kids. How fun!  I know everyone in Maryland is concerned with Hurricane Joachim coming up the coast. We also have a storm we will be hiding from come Saturday/Sunday, so I’ll update more when we are safely tucked away.  Please, everyone, stay safe.

Our paella!  Look at all that incredible seafood!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015:

We are underway again, just for the day until we arrive around the corner in Galicia, Spain.  Let me backtrack a few days first!  We arrived in A Coruna around 5am on Monday morning, having just gotten a great view of the blood moon. Hopefully some pictures will turn out but it’s hard to take that kind of a picture.  We tied up pier side and immediately went below to catch some zzz’s.  This marina felt very different than previous marinas, with many more blue water cruising boats and fewer “day trippers”.  For the first time since the Azores in May, we saw another American boat!  In fact, we saw two American boats.  We still haven’t seen the mass of boats with kids onboard that we’ve been told about, but maybe that will happen in the Caribbean.  Our kids have just gotten used to being the only kids around.  They do bicker some, but I also think they are getting along better than before our trip. They sort of stayed in their own rooms back in Maryland, but here they play games more together. 

We got ourselves sorted out with the marina after we woke up and I went for a run.  I had a really good run and enjoyed seeing the Roman ruins, the menhirs and the Oldest Working Lighthouse in the World! (Called the Tower of Hercules).

Each country we have entered has had different rules regarding immigration and we thought we had done all the appropriate paperwork for entering the Schengen Zone.  We hadn’t, so Bob and I trooped downtown to the police station (!) where this is handled.   After navigating through the interesting police station characters, we met the passport stamper and he said “where are the kids?! They need to be here, come back tomorrow, maybe around 10, or 11…”  So we got there, with the kids, the next morning at 10.  He wasn’t there, so we walked around until 11.  Success!  Passports stamped.

We stayed one night at the marina and then anchored in a nearby cove the second night.  A very peaceful anchorage.  That night, the 29th, was Oliver’s birthday!  Our first birthday celebrated onboard.  It was a very quiet birthday but he had a cake, candles and presents.  What more could you want?!

Saturday, September 26, 2015:

We are underway, enroute A Coruna, Spain.  Down to warmer climes!  We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in the Channel Islands.  Speaking for myself, I loved Guernsey.  I think I could have easily lived there, or anyone needing to spend a winter somewhere could do well wintering in Guernsey. Although it had everything you needed, Guernsey maintained that small town feel for me.  Jersey was bigger, more commercialized and industrial.  Once you got outside St Helier it was rural and beautiful, but it seemed like “all roads lead to St Helier”.   I also never had any feeling in Guernsey or Alderney that an area was unsafe or had “unsavory characters”. (I’ve always wanted to use that phrase!  Now, to find a chance to use the verbs, To Butle and To Burgle, my other favs).  Back to the islands, in Jersey I felt like there may be gangs or areas to avoid. 

One last funny thing on Jersey.  Fort Regent is a Victorian era fort built on the highest overlook next to St Helier, facing the sea on two sides.  This fort had never seen battle but was prepared for defending Jersey against the French.  The funny part is that now the fort has been renovated and become a Gym and Leisure Center.  Everything from exercise equipment and classes to birthday parties, swimming and a concert venue is now in the fort. Actually inside the building itself, not merely inside the walls. So you can take a self-guided tour of the fort and you are walking inside the gym, with squash courts to your left and historic placards on your right!  Craziest thing!

The seas are calm and we have about 12 kts of wind for a beam reach. It’s been a very pleasant, starry night.  We changed time zones back to the normal European time so it feels so dark for 0715.

Blog from Jersey, Channel Islands:

 “Jersey is a cool island but there is not much to do there. Unlike Guernsey…” – Leslie

We got to Jersey Saturday afternoon, around dusk.  Jersey was a short 20 mile sail from Guernsey.  Unfortunately we had to motor the whole way because there was no wind.  As we entered the outer marina, there were at least 50 boats waiting outside the sill.  There were probably 5 rows of boats, with all the boats rafting up alongside each other.  It really looked like there was a party going on!  I saw tons of boats that had the wine and beer flowing, dinner being served and they looked like they had been there for a while. Bob and I thought all these boats were waiting to enter the inner harbor once the tide was in and the sill could be crossed.  I was very concerned about finding a place. 

We rafted up alongside a couple of French boats and waited about 30 minutes.  When the light switched to green, indicating the sill was open, we immediately shoved off and headed in.  It didn’t seem like there would be any available slips and they had enormous power yachts on the ends of the T piers so there wasn’t very much room between the yachts and the concrete wall.  We didn’t want to try to slip in there and not be able to maneuver inside. 

We found a spot to tie up at the end of a pier. It jutted a little further than we like into the harbor entrance but we figured it would be fine for the night.  It was fine, but the next day we did move to another open spot which we preferred.  But the crazy thing was that almost none of the boats that were waiting outside came in.  Only about 4 or 5.  The next morning, Sunday, when I was out running, they were all gone!  I think they were all staying overnight outside so at first dawn they could be off back to France.

Anyhoo, Jersey is a very difference island than Guernsey.  Jersey seems much more industrial and much more developed, at least in the city of St. Helier.

Sunday was a sunny, hot day and we went down to a beautiful crescent beach close to the downtown St. Helier area.  I should say that although the air was warm, the water was still chilly.  Not many people swimming, but many people were enjoying the sand and sun.  They have another man-made salt water swimming pool with a diving platform in the middle. Leslie and Oliver braved the cold water to swim out there and jump off.  I think I am still holding out for warmer water.  At least over 70 deg!

Bob and I really wanted to do an around the island bike tour.  Jersey has several routes marked, with Route 1 being around the island, 40 miles.  We set off to do this on Monday since the rain and bad winds were set to roll in Monday afternoon.  I will include some pictures, but let me say that this ride was not for the faint of heart!  Curvy, steep descents on roads surrounded by high stone walls followed by climbs to rival Ilchester Road (for those HoCo readers!)  Probably 6 or 7 cliff descents and climbs like this in the 40 miles. Bob mentioned if this were an Ironman race, imagine doing this course 3 times!  We had a good time, though.  It is always good to get out of the main city and see the smaller towns and harbors.  It took us 4 hours.  We were blazing fast, apparently!  But actually, later on I saw the route map marked with an estimated 6.5 hours to complete.  Then I felt better…

This has been a very calm week for us. The kids have been completing their Lesson 20 tests. These are the comprehensive tests that include all the work so far.  It has been a learning experience to figure out the best way to review and administer these, but we are getting the hang of it, I think.  We have been frequenting the public library and wandering around the town.  Jersey seems very expensive to me.  Not the food specifically, but the museum entrance fees.  Some of the smaller museums can charge 15 dollars for an adult.  So we have been trying to stick to cheaper (read free) activities.  I love the library!  

Bob’s note:  Also while we have been in the Channel Islands we have been checking the weather models (ok I have and Jill says if I look every day it is going to drive me crazy!).  I look primarily at the GFS model forecast provided on a website called   It is a wonderful site when you have internet connectivity. When we first arrived in Alderney we were watching a Gale that was modeled to arrive on Tuesday the 15th.  It has been very interesting watching the models for the Channel Islands area as it seems they are usually wrong more than 2 days out.  In this case they did not go wrong on the Tuesday gale and we had a good force 9 with gusts over 50 kts.  Another was predicted for Thursday too, but this second one never showed up.  Last week we woke up to 30+ knots in Jersey and the models had been predicting a nice 15-20. 

The reason for my keen interest in the weather models over the two+ weeks we have been here, was to find a good window to cross the Bay of Biscay.   The bay has a reputation for being a nasty stretch of water, but I think this is a bit exaggerated.  I feel the North Sea is a bit more to my disliking.  I now understand why my impression is that sailors from Norway are so hardy!   Passage planning books recommend actually waiting for a window to cross the Bay of Biscay from Falmouth, uk.  This makes a lot of sense as Falmouth is actually west of the North West point of France that defines where the bay starts.  Such a starting location also provides the ability to leave on the back side of a low in a NW or just about anything that does not have a S. component.  If you look at where the Channel Islands are, we are 130 nmi East of this same point in France, so we need something not out of the West for the first day and then something not out of the South for the next two days and also not too much wind.  Watching the models, for most of the time it always looked good 5,6,7 days out for a crossing, then it would change.  Usually the models would change and show strong westerlies.  Well we just left and this time the models did not change for 6-7 days.  When that happens you feel pretty good that there will not be any surprises during the passage too.  We will start out as a ridge of high pressure approaches the area, with winds light from the north, then shifting to the East for the transit down the bay.  Now we just have to get all the timing right with the tides and figure out what time we can get out of the marina (they have a sill with a gate that is raised to keep 2 meters of water in the harbor at low tide; one can only enter and exit a few hours both sides of high water.  

Well our first repair quandary.  Refrigeration.  When we were in Finland our refrigerator stopped staying cold.  We got someone out to recharge the Freon.  We had this done once before in the summer of 2014.  We again sniffed for a leak, but could not locate one.  Our hope was that the fridge would keep working the rest of the trip since we got a yr plus out of the recharge last time.  Well it got warm again in about a month or so.  We have since just been using ice.  For about a $1 per day we can keep the fridge cold and we still had a freezer that was working very well (and we could keep additional ice in it for longer trips!)  We are deciding when to get it fixed before the transit to the Caribbean, and thinking about where.  Well unfortunately it appears the Freezer is now not working as well as it should.  It is slowly getting warmer.  Not a good sign.  Maybe it just needs to be defrosted, but I don’t think so.  It shows the same symptoms of the fridge – it just all of a sudden started getting warm and never turns off – which is very noticeable given it draws about 10 amps.  I think the best option will be to just replace both units with something new, as they are a side entry and really not that efficient.  Also after recharging both with Freon and finding the leaks, probably a new one would be more than half paid for.  Also unfortunate is that my subscription to practical sailor expired a couple of weeks ago. 

Update:  Freezer started working again!!!  We turned it off for a few hours and when we turned it back on it was working great.
 Is it a red moon when the earth eclipses the moon?  Jill tells me it is a blood moon. Well we were surprised to observe a wonderful celestial event.  The lunar eclipse.  We had a very fast passage across the bay of Biscay and our estimated arrival time was around 0100.  We do not like to enter unfamiliar harbors at night.  But in this case we were expecting a full moon, clear skies, high tide (springs to boot) and the entry looked very deep and easy.  We even confirmed with our weather planner that we should not expect cloud cover at time or entry.  Well as we are approaching I look up and the moon is half gone.. I could still see the "darker" part very clearly, and realized it was an lunar eclipse.  How beautiful, but also what terrible timing!   It took a good while for the full moon to be covered and I think it was still partially covered before sun rise (not sure went to bed)  Tried to take some pictures, but low light, long exposure times on a moving boat - not going to happen....   I did get this picture after we pulled in.  We did slow down and arrived around 5am.  winds died and we just slowly sailed in at 2-3 knots for the last few hours. 

Blog from Channel Islands, England:

Today is Monday, September 14, 2015. Happy Birthday, Dad!!!  We have been in the Channel Islands for about 10 days now and are loving it! We left Cherbourg and got in to Brayce Harbor, Alderney, about 3 ½ hours later.  The wind was making the mooring buoy pretty choppy, but we were somewhat sheltered and happy to be there.  I can’t remember if I wrote about this before, but we are being very careful about the days we spend in the Schengen Zone. The Schengen Zone essentially limits the amount of days an American citizen can be in many of the European countries without a separate type of visa.  Most European countries are included, but Great Britain is not.  So staying in GB doesn’t ‘count’ against us for the days we can spend in Europe. 

Alderney is a lovely, quiet island.  It was evacuated during WWII, so the island has an incredible amount of German forts and bunkers.  The Germans just went crazy building forts.  Some are privately owned and are closed, but others are open and you can walk around in them.  We were only there for a couple of days, but we enjoyed walking around the island, eating wild blackberries, and meeting people at the local yacht club.  We also walked into town one evening to see the movie Mr. Holmes, which was playing at the movie theatre.  It was a small theatre, but had very good acoustics.  I really enjoyed the movie, since I am a huge mystery buff and I think I have read all the Sherlock Holmes mysteries several times.  It didn’t have quiet enough action for Oliver, though!

We found this fellow's hand while hiking on Alderney.  Someone had a sense of humor while building the stone wall!

I really wish I were a better photographer to capture the beauty of the places we've seen.  But I never can capture it!  Another beautiful view while running on Guernsey.

I liked this bench in Guernsey.

Last Friday we came to St Peter Port, Guernsey. I have to be upfront, I LOVED the book, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society.  This book, probably 10 years old, is about the German occupation of Guernsey during WWII.  The Channel Islands were the only British land that was occupied by the Germans. The parents had 24 hours to decide if they wanted to evacuate their children to England.  Can you imagine having to decide in 24 hours if you should send your children away for years, without any idea where they would go and if it could possibly be more dangerous than where you were?!  Such a hard decision and such a difficult five years for the islanders. 

Yesterday, Bob, Leslie and I went to the Occupation Museum here in Guernsey.  It was very well done and had so much information.  I think life was very tough for the Islanders.  They were completely cut off from all news and communications unless they had hidden wireless radios.  They didn’t have enough food because they had to turn over much of their fishing and garden harvest to the Germans.  I know that most of Europe was in this same situation or even worse. We’ve done some nice hiking and visited some nice areas of the island. I’m going to let the kids tell their hiking stories today.

I am normally a Chesapeake Bay blue crab kind of girl but we had to try these ginormous local crabs.  Luckily we have Old Bay with us!

While we were hiking on Guernsey we found this neolithic burial ground.  Can you imagine!  It was a circle of stones surrounding a burial chamber around 4000 years old.

I'll let Caleb tell about this hike we did.  Only accessible at low tide.

Two days ago the Crazies (my sister and brother), the Parental Figures and I went out to the coolest place ever, in my opinion, at least. The place that I am talking about is different because it transforms into an island when the tide is high, but when its low tide you can actually walk to it! This island is called Lihou (Take a wild guess at the rest of the name) Island. The day we went the wind decided to blow 30 knots and we were at risk to leave with only 4 mouths left to feed as Oliverri could be blown off the island! Anyway, I absolutely loved this island. The only thing that I still need to do is convince Dad to buy the one House on the Island for me. Maybe bribery will work. (Note from mom:  The house Caleb is talking about was an old Monestary.  The house was in good condition because you could rent it out overnight, but the rest of the island had tons of ruins.) Anyway, the Crazies had a rough walk up to the island as just everything seemed to go wrong for them. The older Crazie accidently dropped her jacket in the water and the younger Crazie bird was antagonised by a unknown outside source. That outside source must have done a number on him as he never recovered until the Great and Holy Writer of this Blog Post made him happy again. Anyway once we got to the island I loved it. It was amazing! It was essentially isolated from any outside sources. It had ruins, and a path around the entire thing. As we walked around the island my love for it increased. The island was about an acre around the entire thing. Anyway, we completed our walk without anymore hiccups. We got back to the bus stop and proceeded to wait for an another half-hour with no bus in sight. FINALLY, a bus actually came and we went back to the boat after another cool trip.

Same low-tide hike

From Leslie:
This blog entry is dedicated to Margaret Kato and Alan Romack…

Hello! Today we went on a hike, and I’m going to tell you all about it, (even if it bores you to death)… We took the bus to the starting point of our hike, which was the entrance to a hotel. Which if you followed the path a little farther down, you eventually got to a beach. At the beach, which was a rock beach, we looked in a little opening in the cliff wall, and began our hike back to the boat… There were like 80 stairs that we had to climb, and it made you out of breath for, like, half a minute. Then there was a really pretty view that reminded Mom and me of Hawaii. There, Mom saw a white and black thing she thought might be a seal and since I need my glasses to see I couldn’t see for myself. We did some more walking until we came upon a stairway and so as any adventurous people would do we investigated. We climbed down multiple flights of stairs to get to a big rock and immediately saw 2 things. One: a black and white buoy that I realized must have been what Mom had seen and a split in the rock that looked like a small cave opening. We (obviously) went to explore the cave and it was super cool. It was dripping with water and on the walls had some weird red jelly things, barnacles, and seaweed on them. It turned out to have 2 openings and there was another smaller not as cool cave that we also explored. Then we did some climbing on the rocks and climbed back up the agonizing stairs. While we climbed, we ran into a woman, a young girl, and their big, happy, golden dog. They were nice and we exchanged a few words, then we continued up. We walked some more until we came upon “Bluebell Forest”, which got its name from the tons of bluebells that grow there in the spring. We walked some more, until we came to 4 mansions, alike in many ways, lined up side by side. Then we walked a Tadus more and came to a battery which I had already explored so after a quick detour I continued the walk. I now knew where we were so I walked quickly back to the boat and made popcorn, (Which I am very good at, all of you who just take out a Jolly Time microwave popcorn bag and stick it in the microwave can’t talk.). Now I am here writing this blog entry for you that was not as excruciatingly boring as it usually is when I try to write one…

This is a salt water swimming pool we found.  The water was freezing cold, but it was cool to see. Originally I understand they were built by the Germans and one of the pools can have lap lanes and water polo games.  Kind of fun.

This is the same photo as above at high tide.  There are about 30 ft tides here.

September 6, 2015: Enroute Cherbourg, France.

As always, so much has happened since I updated the blog last time. When we left Holland, we were originally planning on going to Oostende and taking the train into Brugge.  We were concerned about being stuck in Belgium due to expecting unfavorable winds and thought we should get further south and out of the N. Sea, where is seemed after watching for a couple of weeks had gale after gale to the north and large uncomfortable seas.  I emailed a friend of mine named Frederic Jatiere, who I thought lived in Calais.  Frederic was an exchange student at our house for a month when I was in high school.  We really enjoyed having him come, and when I was an exchange student in France the next year I spend quite a bit of time getting to know his family and traveling around on some weekend trips with them.  Frederic wrote back that they actually live a out 30km south of Calais in a town called Boulogne-sur-mer, and why didn’t we come there as there is a nice harbor and Calais isn’t that nice anyway!  So we did.   

Bob’s note: It was about 50nmi beyond Oostende, and we had planned a late departure from Ijmudien so with now 165 nmi to our next port we really needed to press to get to the next port before dark, or we were going to be spending the night bobbing around outside the harbor.  Also due to the audible, we did not plan all the tides for the trip and hit the Dover Strait at full Flood – so about 3.5 kts going against.  Though we did get to see the white cliffs of dover from 20+ miles away while dodging ferries as they cross to Dunkirk and Calais…  Actually they are very well behaved and all maneuvered around us while doing 25kts giving us plenty of berth.  The only exciting traffic we had was in an area called Maas Center where three traffic separation schemes come together and there are over 250 ship movements through the area each day.  At the center is a one mile circle that all ships keep the port, so it is like a big traffic circle.  We were fine with all the large ships, as a nice gap opened up while we were passing through, but somehow I found the pilot area, and they kept driving around at 25kts and seemed to be driving at me more than once.  There were so many ships that if I scanned out too far on the chart plotter the plotter would crash – I assume due to trying to calculate too many CPAs or just trying to render or plot all the data coming across from our Icom-M506 via the NMEA2000 connection.  

It seems like our normal underway involves everyone except for Bob and Caleb getting seasick, taking meds and a nap, and waking up feeling better.  Thank goodness for the patch!  Anyway, our first day in Boulogne was exciting for Leslie because she got to go to school for one day with Frederic and Peggy’s daughter Constance.  I think it was only the second or third day of school in France, and Leslie had a great time with kids asking her questions and eating in the school cafeteria. I will let her add her 2cents here.   Bob and the boys and I spent the day exploring Boulogne. Such an interesting town.  It really began as an ancient Roman city, was used by all subsequent kings and emperors including Napoleon.  We toured the crypt of the ancient cathedral in the old town, and it was amazing to see roman bricks and artifacts “recycled” in subsequent walls or buildings.  Sometimes the drawings or words on the Roman blocks were upside down, as if the medieval builder said “hey, that block will work here, just shove it on in there!”  The cathedral was beautiful too.  Boulogne is the largest fishing port in France and was a major ferry terminal in the past as well, so the sea is very important. One of the things I have always loved about the chapel at the Naval Academy was the nautical theme of the windows.  It made me feel like God would really protect us in the dangers that we would face in the Navy or Marine Corps.  The cathedral in the Vieille Ville (old city) gave me the same feeling.  This photo is of the large stained glass window over the Alter.

There was something I also loved in the center square of the old town.   An old parking lot had been converted into a garden and I understand that every year there is a new theme to the garden design.  This year the theme was a French artists drawing of the seven deadly sins.  So the garden was divided into seven plots and each plot represented one of the sins.  Everything from the landscape colors and types of plants to the “furniture scenery” was geared towards that sin.  It was so well done!  I absolutely do not have a green thumb, but some of my friends that do (Cecilia, Heidi!!) would have really loved seeing how the design was shaped by the sin it was representing.  I have a picture of Caleb in the “Laziness” garden, since that was what he said he identified with.

We also saw an interesting exhibit on “hybrid animals” in literature.  I don’t really care about the animals, but the exhibit had some old bibles and books that were from about 900 or 1000 ad.  They were really well preserved and the calligraphy and the drawings were exquisite.  Every letter was perfectly and evenly formed and the animals were colorful and so intricate.  It really showed how monks could spend days or months on one page.

One of the places I visited with Frederic and his family 20 years ago was Bruges, Belgium.  I remember thinking this town was completely unique and loving it.  This region of Belgium is Flemish, not French, and it has a really interesting architecture, language and culture.  I really couldn’t wait to show Bruges to the family.  I just hoped it was as cool as I remembered. Thankfully it lived up to the challenge.  We started off by climbing 366 steps to the top of the Belfry.  There were around 30 bells that were played almost like a player piano.  We were at the top right at noon so we were treated to a 15 minute concert of bells before the 12 hour chimes.  It was really cool and a great view of the city as well.  Bruges is all water canals as well, so it’s neat to see from up high.  No visit to Belgium would be complete without “des frites”, and the kids gave the fries high marks.

We took a water canal tour.  This was a short 30 minute ride, but I love seeing things from this perspective.  I love finding doorways into houses from the water and other things that show how integral the canals were for this way of life.  I bribed Oliver that I would buy everyone ice cream after if he could be silent for 30 minutes.  I wanted to listen to the commentary and I can’t hear with him chattering away all the time.  He did it, though, and everyone was happy! Lastly, in Bruges, we went to the coolest thing called the Historium.  A completely interactive, virtual reality type experience that puts you in the Middle Ages, which was the heyday of Bruges’ world importance.  You put on a headset when you enter and you follow the storyline of a young painter’s apprentice as he travels through the seven guilds of Bruges trying to find a young girl and a parrot he needs for his master, Jan van Eyke’s painting.  As you go through the rooms listening and following the story there are sounds, smells and things to touch.  In one scene snow falls and in another you smell the rotten sewer and the floral bath smells.  It was so cool and we all loved it.  After you finish the guided story part there is a room where they tie in the fictional story with the actual people, artists, etc.  Bruges even had a “waterhalle”, which was an indoor market where the boats could come right up to the dock and unload.  Now that is filled in, but how cool is an indoor water market?! I completely recommend this experience for anyone visiting.

Oliver’s note:  There is a place I went to that was special. It’s called Brugge.  We went because it’s a really cool town with cool architecture.  We went there in a car on Friday, September 3.  My whole family went.  First we climbed to the top of this really tall tower. It was a bell tower.  Mom and I got there just as the special twelve O’clock routine started.  It was really cool.  Then we went to a museum about Historic Brugge.  It has this story where this guy was trying to get stuff for his famous painter master.  He loses both things, one was a parrot, the other was a girl.  After that we went on a boat tour. So the guy took us two direction.  The first direction we went to was a row of cool houses and cool architecture. Then we saw the lock but then we went back.  But while we were going back we saw a couple kissing!  The driver honked at them and they looked embarrassed.  Then on the other side they took us through some cool houses but the big thing there was the Swan Park. There were at least 30 swans there, all curled up!  A lot of people were looking at them.  One flipped upside down and then came back up.  There were also seagulls.  Then we went under a bridge that I could touch the top of the bottom of the bridge.  Then we turned around back and got off.  Then we got ice cream from an ice cream shop! Then we got back in the car and went back.  Those are the things I did in Brugge and I think YOU should go one day!

When we got back to Frederic and Peggy’s house we ate Raclette for dinner. This is a traditional French dinner that I love!  Essentially everyone has their own small frying pan. You put meat, ground beef and/or cheese in the pan and melt it or cook the meat.  Pour the melted cheese over boiled potatoes and there you are.  Really fun and tasty too.  One thing that made me laugh was the ideas my family had for the raclette.  Definitely not traditional raclette:  “Can I fry an egg in there?”  “I can put bread and made a grilled cheese!”  etc.  Awesome. Saturday rolled around, and Bob and I were really debating whether to go to Paris or not.  On the one hand, I really want to go to Paris and show the kids.  It is 3 hours away from Boulogne and it would only be a day trip since we were planning to leave on Sunday.  I don’t even know where to start for Paris in One Day!  There are just too many things to see and do.  We would have so much travel time and only get to see one or two things.  Plus I was just tired and didn’t want to get up at 4 in the morning to get there.  We may end up going later this month, but I actually think it may fall into the category of “you can’t do everything.”  That’s ok.  It let us have a very enjoyable, relaxed last day in Boulogne. We went to the Saturday market where we bought some fresh fruit, veggies and yogurts.  Delish.  We loved spending time with Frederic, Peggy, Alexis and Constance.  And of course, Toby, their Guinea Pig.  I think we will have to get a pet when we get back!  We did some touring in the afternoon, visiting a local fort where we got a private tour by one of the historians.  Very informative.  The children ran around like crazy playing tag or monsters, or something like that.  I’m always glad when they can really run and play. Anyway, we loaded up our things, had a nice dinner in a local seafood restaurant and headed back to the boat to get ready to get underway.  Here we are almost to Cherbourg.  We are looking forward to seeing some of the WWII beaches and possibly driving to Mont St Michel. I’ll keep you posted. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015, Alderney, Channel Islands, UK

We arrived Monday, early afternoon, to Cherbourg.  It was about 26 hour sail from Boulogne, and went smoothly.   When we got into Cherbourg, we immediately rented a car. Bob had researched either taking a WWII guided tour or hiring a guide, and both were outrageously expensive.  So we rented a car so we could do the tour ourselves. That first afternoon we loaded up the car and drove to Mont St Michel.  It was about a two hour drive from Cherbourg, but we thought this island church and village would be great to see.  I had been to Mont St Michel about 25 years ago.  Wow, that makes me feel so old!  Anyway, because of the shifting sands and winds, when I went before the water didn’t circle the mountain.  The parking lot went right up to the entrance.  Although the water rose, it never surrounded the village creating an island. 

Beginning about 10 years ago, the French government decided to study and create a reclamation plan to adjust the water, sands and surrounding flatlands.  So now it surrounds at high tide!  We had a really good time. The Abbey was closed since it was late, but we enjoyed walking around and climbing the stairs and the street.  In fact, it was very nice being there with fewer people, since I remember the main street in the town being jam packed with people.  When we went it was calmer with only a couple of restaurants and stores open.

Tuesday morning was the beginning of a busy day.  After a nice run in the morning, we set off to visit the American WWII sites.  We began with the American Military Cemetery at Omaha Beach, went to Point Du Hoc, Utah beach and Ste Mere Eglise (Church). I am going to let the kids write what they experienced or felt at these memorial sites.  I will only say that is was incredible to see the sites of these amazing military achievements.  I don’t know of any family members of ours that were involved in D-Day, but I was proud to be an American at those sites. I kept imagining what it would be like to be living in one of the occupied villages and have the Allied troops come through and liberate your town.  After 4 years of living under Nazi rule, to be free again.  We saw hundreds of bomb craters, dozens of bunkers and the cliffs that the two Army Rangers scaled to disarm the German machine gunners.  What bravery and sacrifice.   I will also mention that I just finished reading a book called “The Last Seven Months of Anne Frank”.  This author found and interviewed 6 women who knew Anne Frank, either from childhood or mostly in the concentration camps.  These women recalled their memories of Anne as well as their own survival experiences.  Unfathomable.   Reading these accounts after visiting her house in Amsterdam and seeing the Normandy Beaches have really been eye-opening to me.  I’ll put in the kids’ accounts now.  Yes, these blogs from the kids are done as part of their home schooling composition. 

                  The World War Two (WWII) Monuments that my family went to see yesterday were very saddening and increased my patriotism. First, we went to the Omaha Beach Military Cemetery (Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial). I wish that we had gotten a picture of it because of the unbelievable size. I walked around the entire cemetery and it took me a good 20 minutes. It, well, it makes you kind of question your worth. It makes you ask yourself what exactly YOU have done. It was humbling to put it in the most obvious sense. Although, Humbling just doesn't do the Cemetery and all the people in it justice, but it’s a start. It also made me feel like my country was absolutely amazing. We came in and liberated France. People who for 4 years woke up every day hoping and praying that someone would come along and save them. People who on June 6th 1944 woke up to being completely free. It's a great feeling to think that my country saved hundreds of thousands of people from being stuck under Nazi rule for the rest of their lives. In addition to the Allied Forces some of the civilans took an active role in freeing France.  

               One of those people was my French teachers Grandmother, My French teacher is actually from France. Her Grandmother lived in Occupied France but worked in Free France (For lack of a better name) as a teacher. Every day she would cross the border to go to work. After a while a someone (a friend?) came up to her and asked her to deliver a letter to someone on her side of the border. She did and proceeded to do this for a while longer. Eventually the person told that she was delivering coded letters for the French Resistance(I think that was the name) and that if she wanted to get out of this all she had to do was ask. She decided that she would join this group and continue to take letters. So she did, but eventually she was caught! The Germans then put her into a death camp located somewhere in Occupied France! Mme Schuster's Grandmother was then left in the Death Camp for a time that to her must have felt infinite. Suddenly, one day her ENTIRE Camp was forced to start marching, they were being forced to march out of France for one day for reasons unknown at that moment. After a short time the reason became evident as the Marchers began to hear explosions! They were bombs! Something was happening! D-Day was coming - No, It was here! The Germans started fleeing for their lives, leaving those that they were supposed to be marching into Germany on their own. Mme Schuster’s Grandmother then dove in to a ditch on the side of the road and started praying that a bomb wouldn't hit and that the Germans would forget about her and the other People that joined her in the ditch.                

When the bombs finally stopped falling they started to walk back the way they had come, back onto the road. Hopefully this time they would be walking towards a more preferable fate. After a short time walking they saw people. People in with guns and hats and loads of them. The only people that they had seen like that were the Germans. Reflexively they recoiled, some might have tried to run, but others may have seen them for who they were. The Saviors. The people who had come across an ocean, who had lost hundreds of their own in the fight to free France and to liberate her people. The people who would come and save Europe in every way that they possibly could. The people who may not have seen all the same horrors but horrors equal nonetheless.                                

Who are those people you might ask?              

  The brave soldiers native to Canada, Great Britain, and the United States of America who gave their lives to save France and Europe. The same men who are buried in the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial.                     Thank You.

September 2, 2015, We are back underway in the North Sea, surviving rough seas and chop.  It seems like so much has happened in the past week or so, and I am behind on the blog!  We pulled into Cuxhaven, Germany, and were pleased to be in a marina and town we were familiar with.   We knew where the beaches, restrooms and chandleries were, and the kids knew where to go in the morning to get the brotchen.  I’m not sure if I spelled that right, but the brotchen are Germany breakfast crusty rolls, and it was the kids’ job to go the bakery in the morning.  Cuxhaven became somewhat of a working port for us.  We did school, laundry and maintenance.  We played on the beach.   It was a shock to us, coming back to the world of tide and current. The Baltic has almost no tide or current, so we got used to being able to come and go depending on the winds, not the tide.  In Cuxhaven the tide is great enough that at low tide the beach become mud flats for about a mile, all the way out to the deep water channel.  Then the tide comes roaring back in and the beach “jumping off platform” is floating and deep.  Crazy!

We had a surprise visitor one day, too.  Dave Hopkins, one of the incredible Crazies running group and an accomplished triathlete, was in Copenhagen having just had a Personal Record at Ironman Copenhagen.  He was in Germany doing some family genealogy and stayed the night with us.  It was so nice to see a friendly face from home.  Dave and I had a nice run in the morning and he had to hurry to catch his train in Hamburg, but I’m so glad we got to see him!

We were waiting for the winds to become favorable.  When they did, we headed to Helgoland. This is a funny island about 30 miles offshore that is an independent territory of Germany.  At least that is what we read. The big thing about this island is that it is tax free. For us that meant refueling at a cheaper rate, for all the thousand tourists it meant beer and cigarettes.  Our transit there was awful. The seas were so choppy and rough that Oliver, Leslie and I became seasick.  Poor Bob handled all the sailing that day because we were no good.  It was pretty late when we got in, so we made a quick dinner and went to bed.  The next day we weren’t leaving until the evening, so we spend the day exploring.  Helgoland used to be connected to the land and the language and heritage are similar to the Frisian Islands, not Germany. It was owned by several countries over the centuries, and used extensively during WWII. You can take a walk along the cliffs, which was very interesting.  I will include a picture of the cliffs.  In case my officemate Dave Tillman is reading this, Dave, I thought you might be interested to know that it was on this island that Heidelberg first developed Quantum theory! Pretty good claim to fame, right?

Anyway, good thing we only draw 1m draft, since the refueling pier got to about 1.4 meters at low tide, which is of course when we got there!  We escaped with fuel and hull intact, always a good thing.

The next two nights and day were spent sailing to Amsterdam.  We had decent winds and were making good time.   We had been debating whether to sail all the way in to the city, because there are several ways to sail there, but we weren’t confident we would find a marina.  One marina that had been recommended was completely booked.  We decided to berth at Ijmuiden, a marina right at the entrance to the canal leading to Amsterdam.  This worked out fine.  The marina was protected and we could take the bus for one hour into the center of the city.

By the time we got settled in the harbor, paid our respects (and our Euros) to the customs/immigration folks and the marina folks, we caught the No.82 and headed into Amsterdam.  What an unusual city!  First we were amazed by all the bikes.  Tens of thousands of bikes!  They had bike lanes everywhere and even traffic lights and multiple story parking garages just for bikes. People rode around everywhere on their bikes while talking on cell phones, shopping and taking kids to school.  It was cool, and crazy and I never quite got used to the right of way situation with the bikes and pedestrians.  There were two things I wanted to see in Amsterdam and we were able to do them both. The first was visiting Anne Frank’s house. You can tour around all the rooms they hid inside and read all about her, her family and the situation for the Jewish population of Amsterdam at the time. It was very sobering and eye opening to hear and see how they lived and hid. I asked Oliver at one point if he could be absolutely silent for all day, every day for several years and he replied that he could if he had to, but I have my doubts!

We also took a canal cruise.  We were a little disappointed in this due to a lack of information.  We wanted to hear more as we passed by the sights, but since they were saying everything in 4 or 5 languages they had to keep the commentary short.  The canals were interesting though. Some were very narrow and low clearance. Our driver hit the side of one of the bridges and it was very startling!

The second thing I wanted to do was visit the Van Gogh museum.  When I was in Fourth Grade, I had a teacher named Mr. Fichter.  He loved art and owned hundreds of prints of paintings.  Every day he would introduce one picture and we would learn about the artist, the location, time period, whatever was interesting about that painting.  On special Fridays he would have Art Wars where we would identify the picture and/or the artist. The winner would be able to keep one of the prints.  As he was retiring that year, we played the game often and I still have 5 or 6 of the prints that I framed and still have hanging in the house.  He really instilled a love and appreciation of art in me.  Ever since I learned that the Van Gogh museum was in Amsterdam, I wanted to go. 

I scored some major points with the family by getting tickets in the museum that let us bypass the long entry line.  It was so awesome to walk right in.  They must have known we were coming ;)  The boys have stated emphatically several times that they don’t want to go to art museums, but I dragged them to this one anyway.  Oliver still didn’t like it, but I’m pleased that Caleb really enjoyed learning about his life and how he worked. Leslie, Bob and I loved it.  Coming out of the museum we all shared a warm, fresh stroopwafel.  For anyone who doesn’t know, these are thin, crispy waffle wafers with caramel in between two.  So yummy!  Everyone also enjoyed climbing on the huge I Amsterdam letters.  I’ll add a picture of that here as well.

Now we are back underway, heading south.  It is about 5:30, pitch black and lightning-ing.  Not so fun with this rain, but the seas are calmer.  We were planning to sail to Oostende, Belgium and go into Brugge, but we are concerned about getting stuck to far north.  So the plan now is to sail to Boulogne, France and stay until the winds are good.  Happily, that is another town where we have friends, the Jatiere’s, so I am hopeful we can see them! 

Oliver’s note: Mom forgot to tell you that she got SSSSSSUUUUUPPPPPPEEEERRR freaked out! I will tell you about when Caleb Leslie and I went out so far in the mud flats that we were five feet away from the channel marker. So mom came down and tried to talk to us but we couldn’t hear her from out there. So the people called us in in German then in English and we came back in. When we met up mom told us how far we were and how scared she was and all dat jazz. She told us if we went a few feet more we would have been sucked into the channel where it dropped and got deep again! So that’s how we almost died on the boat trip. Ps the next place I went to I got electrocuted.  

Saturday, August 22, 2015:  Enroute Kiel, Germany and the Kiel Canal

Almost a week has passed since we left Tallinn and most of it has been sailing.  Right now we are quickly working our way back across the Baltic to Kiel, where we will go back through the canal to CuxHaven, Germany.  There is a storm coming to the Baltic, expecting to hit 35 kts by Tuesday and last all week, so we are trying to push through so we are out of the Baltic before the storm hits.

SCHOOL!!  The big news for us this week is that we have started “boatschooling.”  This is taking some serious getting used to on all of our parts.  We are using a curriculum that has every day planned down to what math problems to do, spelling words and geography.  I am very impressed with the curriculum, to be honest.  The kids have quite a bit of work to do. Some of the subjects are really interesting.  Leslie has done a lesson in Art History, Caleb has read some Jack London and is about to read some Sherlock Holmes tomorrow.  Leslie and Oliver are doing Singapore Math.  For anyone familiar with Singapore math, it is a very well respected and challenging way of learning math taught throughout the world.  Since we haven’t done this in our schools, they are definitely being challenged for math.  In general, it takes about 4 -5 hours each day.  Caleb loves being able to just work along at his pace, and has found his niche doing schoolwork in his stateroom.  I will check all his work and make sure he didn’t miss any main points or activities.  Tests will be coming soon so we will see how that works next.  Leslie tends to delay the start interminably, but will work steadily by herself.  Oliver will complain about the amount of work he has to do but cheers up very quickly!  We have done 4 days as of today, and Bob and I are still figuring things out. This curriculum is supposed to not need internet, but is seems like some of it does, so we’ll see how that works.  We picked it specifically because we wouldn’t have ready access to the internet!

 When we left Tallinn we had really good winds and made it to Klaipeda, Lithuania by early morning on Wednesday, Aug 19.  We found a spot on the pier very quickly right across from a ginormous cruise ship.  We certainly got a lot of interested people from the cruise ship, since it seemed like many of them were Americans.

Klaipeda was a pretty nice town.  We didn’t stay long, we packed up our beach gear and headed across the ferry to the Curonian Spit.  The Sand spit.  Over the years the sand has been blown around by the winds and shifted into dunes.  You take a ferry about five minutes across the river onto the spit and walk about 1k to the beach.  This was a beautiful white sand beach, maybe the most beautiful I’ve seen.  The water was clear but cold and the sand was so soft.  We spent the afternoon there, relaxing and playing.  Only disappointment to me was that I forgot I was wearing my sunglasses when I dove in the water.  Whoops.  Sunglasses gone.  The southern shores of the Baltic are also famous for amber washing up on the shores.  Leslie and Bob combed the beach for the mineral and came back with some possibilities.  Aside from the kids’ disgust with “Turkish Toilets”, we had a nice day. 

Klaipeda is getting well known for the city’s sculpture gardens.  Oliver and I walked through one and Bob toured another.  I will freely admit that I like art to look more realistic.  I don’t like sculptures that look like a 6 foot triangle and have the title “Hug” (Hug?!) but there were some very creative art pieces throughout the city.  This is a picture of one of my favorites, this ghost climbing over the bridge railing.

Almost all the marinas where we have stayed have had relatively clean water.  Sometimes some algae or stagnant water, but Klaipeda Harbor was horrendous.  The water, especially in the corner of the marina, was fluorescent blue, about the consistency of sludge, and bubbling.  So gross.  A dead fish lay in the water that had been so discolored by the toxic water that it had blue patches all over it. Bob and I immediately decided we were not taking any fresh water from this marina. 

Since we planned to leave Thursday at 1200, the next morning was somewhat relaxed and I slept in until 8:30.  Bob is beginning to wonder if I am the same person who normally gets up at 4 or 5! I actually think the night watches and overnight transits hit me harder than they did when I was in the Navy.  That morning Oliver and I went for a short run and scoped out the downtown area.  Very nice downtown with a beautiful theatre and central square.  We found all the amber merchants and the café with really good coffee and free wifi.  We needed to be able to take care of some business and finance matters, so thankfully that was taken care of.  Getting underway was uneventful and we headed to our next port, Gdansk, Poland!

It was an overnight sail to Gdansk and we arrived early on Friday morning.  This was a very interesting approach, because we sailed down the river about 1 mile before getting to the marina.  This marina was very central downtown, which has its pluses and minuses! As you are traveling down the river, you pass a huge shipbuilding/loading/factory time areas.  Some of them have clearly not been changed or even used since Poland was under communist rule.  We were wondering what Gdansk would be like.

Suffice it to say that I was shocked!  Gdansk is a beautiful medieval city, where much had been rebuilt in the old styles.  There are many beautiful old churches with bells ringing, a ship loading and offloading crane from the early 1500s, and a lively atmosphere.  People were so friendly and it looked like a young crowd of people.  It was also very inexpensive, which is a nice change!  1$ for museum entry?  Ok, I’ll take it!  We went to the amber museum, which had amazing household goods, decoration and other things made out of amber.  They also had a special couple hours where an amber expert would be demonstrating how to identify and polish amber.  Leslie brought her stones with her; he looked at them closely but none were amber.  Sad.  Then he gave her a small piece of amber she could wear as a necklace, so she was very happy about that. 

We also toured the crane. This was an engineering marvel, with two sets of “hamster cages” where men would run in the cages, turning the wheel and raising or lowering the crane hook.

One thing I really liked were these small replicas at all the major historic sites. They are exact scale models so blind people can “see” what the churches or old buildings look like. What a great idea.

This is the only place I have been to in Poland, but we recommend it!  We all felt that we certainly could have stayed longer. Bob wanted to go the European Solidarity Museum and I was interested in the Archaeology museum.  Oliver wanted to ride the Ferris wheel and Leslie wanted to shop! Caleb did some kayaking around the downtown canals and thoroughly enjoyed it. Ok, the kids are up now.

Hey Oliver taking the podium now. Guess what? Mom let us have ice cream for breakfast. I know. Awesome.


  I have been forced to write this in a highly stressful situation where if I didn’t I would have been put under incredible mental attacks from the mother. I have also been instructed to sing the boats praises and to not insult the cublings: My response went something like this: “Mom, I will do whatever you want me to.” While in my head I was thinking: “NEVER! YOU DON’T CONTROL ME.” I’m here though so you can see how that went. Now, let’s get down to what I’m here for the Great, Amazing, absolulutly AWESOME, boat trip.                                   The time that we spent in Estonia and Finland have been really cool. I met some great people in both countries, and became a celebratory member of the Armanto Family AND I found where when I am rich I will have my summer house. When we were in Estonia I learned how to do something in soccer besides kick the ball as hard as I can in the direction of the goal and Oliverri(I think I spelled that right?) is going to need ankle braces because I think they’re broken  permanently. Also, sleeping in a really nice bed that doesn’t rock or sound like a air horn all night is pretty cool. My thanks also go out to Kirsi and the Rohde’s for allowing us to stay in your houses while we were in your countries, Anyway, I think I have written enough to survive till tomorrow. Everyone have a nice day and appreciate the fact that your face can’t look like this; [ENTER THE ONE PIECE PHOTO THAT CALEB TOOK]

Monday, August 17, 2015:  Underway from Tallinn, enroute Lithuania.              

  Underway, shift colors!  But wait, where is Magnus to ring the bell and make the announcement?  Mag is one of the three great Rohde boys, and we are so happy to have had a wonderful time staying there and playing with them.  It was Mag’s job to ring the bell when we got underway and he did a fine job of it! Ok, now I will backtrack a little to where I left off from Wednesday afternoon. 

After a really hot, sunny day, the skies opened up and the rains came down, just in time for Jurgita and I to go to her core class with 21cc, the triathlon club in Tallinn the Rohde’s belong to.  As everybody knows, it makes for way better stories to do your workouts in pouring rain, and this was no exception.  The class was really fun, and very similar to the core classes I did in Columbia, with one exception:  stairs!!  There were 41 steps up the stadium (believe me, I counted), and we did several exercises where we hopped on one leg all the way up, and did the other leg the next time.  Man, these springing drills were hard, and I was clearly the worst!  Proud to say I held my own in the planks and pushups, though.  The final drill was Jurgita and I taking turns carrying each other piggy back up and down a wet, grassy hill.  It was hilarious to say the least.

One of the big jobs Bob and I had to do in Tallinn was restock provisions.  We were really low, and groceries have been so incredibly expensive.  Thankfully, Estonia was a welcome change in grocery prices, and made even better by using the Estonian “Costco”.  Bob and I took a couple of hours on Thursday morning and refilled the dry goods.  Shopping can be a challenge when you can’t read any of the languages on the labels (Russian, Estonian, Finnish, Swedish)!  Good thing there are lots of pictures!

Thursday afternoon was a fun one.  We took all the kids to the Kalev Spa Waterpark.  This was a low key indoor facility with a 50m lap pool, 3 slides, several hot tubs and saunas.  To the delight of my kids, all can be used.  They get so frustrated when hot tubs or saunas have 16 and older rules. In Finland, people take babies into sauna with no problems.  Jurgita and I swam some laps and the kids played. Then we all soaked in the hot tub. Heaven!

Friday was another awesome day.  Chris and Bob went on a bike ride early in the morning, and I know Bob really enjoyed seeing the sights by bike, including the TV and radio tower. It’s amazing how tall this tower is, especially when you see it from sea.  Bob just told me all the Russian countries have a similar tower and it was used during the Russian occupation for "communication".

After they got back, we loaded up all the kids and food on the boat and got underway, enroute Naissaar Island.  This island was a Russian army base, and has tons of old land mines lying around, old falling down barracks and warehouses and a short train you can ride on. It was about a two hour sail over there.  This was how the trip over went!

Quickly applying anti-seasickness medicine to the invalids, we waited for it to kick in!  When we got to the island, all seemed to be recovered except Jurgita, but she was feeling a little better.  The kids immediately ran to the beach and started catching fish and jellyfish. I think they could have happily stayed there but we dragged them off the beach to hike to the land mines.  The land mines were cool to see, but I think the kids weren’t so excited about the rest of the hike because we were walking on a dirt road and they were getting hot.  Everyone perked up when we got to the train, though!  No matter how old you get, riding on an open top train is always cool. 

The train, the train!

Oohh, I forgot to mention we were interviewed by an Estonian newspaper before we got underway this morning.  A reporter and a photographer were interested in this crazy American boat that came all this way!  They were very nice, and we gave them a quick tour and told them about our trip. The article came out yesterday, but I haven’t translated it yet. I’ll keep you posted on what it says!

Last week, when I asked Jurgita if she knew of any races in the area while we were there, she mentioned the Estonia Ironman on Sunday, August 16.  This is a full iron distance race about 30 minutes outside of Tallinn. She and Chris were planning on doing the swim and bike, but not the run, as part of their training for upcoming races.  Chris offered to turn his individual entry into a relay, and I could run the marathon!  This sounded like a blast, but staying in top shape for a marathon during three months on a boat would have been hard.  Banking on years of endurance base, got it!  Saturday we spend the afternoon checking in, prepping bikes, and going over schedules. In addition to running the marathon, I was going to be Super Sherpa for Jurgita and Chris.  The bike course was 8 loops, so I would be able to help give them water, gels or bars each 8 times during the ride.  It’s a different world being the support for a race.  Many thanks to everyone (Heidi, Laura J) who have helped me.

Sunday morning was beautiful for racing. Sunny, cool, probably the day would hit a high of 70 or 75. Both Jurgita and Chris had great swims and were on the bike very quickly.  I hopped in the car, drove to the support point and spent the next four hours watching them rock the bike course.  I got back in the car, drove to the run transition point and got myself ready to run the marathon.  Chris came riding in and I was off!  The run course was also 8 loops.  The first 2k of each loop was beautiful, through a park and on some trail. The next 3.5k of each loop was still pretty, but more road running.  I don’t want to turn this blog into a race report, but it was a really fun race.  Such nice, talented athletes doing the ironman and really friendly support.  I could tell I was undertrained for a fast marathon, but I kept a fairly steady pace and we finished in third place!  And the name of our team- All this way by boat!  Such a great name.  Chris handed me an American flag right before the finish and I ran through the finish line carrying it.  A great day. 

What was Bob doing during this day?  He had ALL SIX KIDS and they spent all day at the beach.  I think all 10 of us had great days!

Today we are off, leaving shortly after noon.  Our next stop will be in Lithuania, and we are on our way out of the Baltic.  Still 600+ nm to go until we are through the Kiel Canal, but we are on our way south.  We had an incredible time in Estonia with the Rohde’s. I can certainly see why they like living there but I am looking forward to having them closer when we are all back in Maryland.

Wednesday, August 9, 2015:  Tallinn, Estonia.

Wow, are we having an awesome time visiting the Rohde family in Tallinn, Estonia!  We arrived in Tallinn on Sunday to an incredible welcome, complete with homemade signs with our new boat motto, “No turning back now!”  It was so cool to see Chris, Jurgita and the boys on the pier.  We were happy to refuel, refill the water tanks and tie up at a great location only about 1 mile from their house.  Thankfully, they were so patient while we buttoned up the boat and packed bags.  Oliver and Cameron have always really enjoyed each other’s company, so it was really fun to see them pick right back up where they left off 18 months ago.  And, of course, I really missed my crazy-in-an-incredible-way Lithuanian friend Jurgita!  I have to mention, too, that they live in a really cool house right on the Baltic, such a great location and house, and I slept SO WELL!! 

Monday was a lazy morning. I think all the kids slept as well as I did and we were lounging around eating pancakes, drinking coffee and talking about our plans for the week.  I started off the day with a nice run along the water, and Estonia has some really nice trails along the beach and paved bike and running paths along the water. So pretty and we really lucked out with the weather.  Hot and beautiful.  We’ve had some pretty chilly weather so far, with sunny days intermittently, but never really warm enough to swim.  But now it is hot and definitely swimming weather.  The five of us decided to ride bikes down to Old Town Tallinn, about a 40 minute ride.  It was a very nice ride down there.  It seems that when the weather is nice, everyone wants to be outside riding, running or sunbathing.  Cross country skiing is hugely properly here, and people train in the summer by either roller blades or small skiis with wheels underneath.  Some of them are incredibly fast and strong, but more on that later!

Old Town Tallinn was a very picturesque, medieval town.  Jam packed with tourists from the cruise ships it was somewhat hard to move around, but we locked up the bikes and had a good look around.  Lots of people dressed in medieval garb, and really interesting churches and towers you can climb and get a good view.  I’m glad we saw it, but since several members of my family prefer quieter places, we probably won’t need to go back there again. J

That evening Jurgita and I went for a nice bike ride.  She had an easy 60 minute spin on her schedule and so I joined her, huffing and puffing along!   She has an Ironman Triathlon coming up and will rock it.  It was really nice and like old times, riding and chatting with her.  So great. While we were riding we heard a sliding sound coming from behind us, we looked back and there was a completely kit-ted out roller blader. He was drafting off of us, but clearly strong enough to pass us!  Which he proceeded to do after saying hi, racing off ahead of us like we were standing still! I wish we could have gotten a picture.

Tuesday was another great day.  We went on a bog walk!  This was like nothing I have seen before. In a huge national park about an hour from Tallinn, they have all these natural bogs, with unusual plants and trees.  You can take many different trails through the bogs, and we did about a 5k loop.  During the actual bog part you are walking on planks very low to the ground, so the water skims the sides of the planks in some places, and is very muddy in other places.  Really neat landscape.  We didn’t know that there is one deeper pool in the middle where you can swim.  We weren’t prepared with swimsuits, but who needs swimsuits!!  The kids all jumped in in their clothes and had an awesome time swimming around. How often can you swim in a bog in Estonia?!

In the evening Chris, Jurgita and I went for an open water swim session in the Baltic. We happened to run into Chris’ coach, who is a pro triathlete.   I really enjoyed talking with everyone, hearing about triathlon in Europe and life as a Pro athlete.  Swimming was really nice. I have done almost no swimming in the past year, really focusing on running, so I am really enjoyed my short open water swim.  I have some new triathlon goals so I’m looking forward to getting back my distance in the water.

Today, Wednesday, we had a great day!  We trekked out to Rakvere Castle. This is a fortress from early 1100 AD timeframe and was crumbling in some places, pretty well intact in other places.  The greatest thing about this castle is the amount of interaction you have with the “castle actors”.  For example, one medievally dressed man came and asked if we wanted to see what the prison was like.  Of course!  So we climbed down a narrow dark staircase and we went into the prison.  The guard informed us that we were in trial for espionage, and probably we would die, so have a nice day.  A few minutes later the executioner entered!  He was dressed head to toe in black, covering his head and face as well, and came in sharpening his axe.  Whoa! He came right up to each of us, stared at us while sharpening the blade.  Little scary!  Then the guard came back and luckily for us, we were allowed to live!! We were only sentenced to a year or ten of hard labor.

There also was a torture chamber, a fun haunted house, and swords you can hold and pretend to fight with.  Rooms talking about alchemy, and even sex in the middle ages.  The “knights” fired a black powder cannon at noon and the kids got to shoot a bow and arrow, for a small additional fee!  Leslie seemed to be a natural at archery, so maybe she’d like to continue when we get back.  This really was a fun, interactive castle and I’m so glad we got to see it!  

August 9, 2015, Leaving Finland, enroute Estonia Wow, where to begin?!!  We have had absolutely wonderful days, summer has arrived in Finland and everyone is out enjoying the warmth.  Let’s see how this blog goes…I may start with just jotting down highlights and see where it takes me!
 Bob wants me to be sure to mention the Finnish rabbits that are the size of small kangaroos!  They are a hazard when riding your bike in the evening for sure.  The funny thing is that the first night we were in Finland we saw these animals and I couldn’t tell if they were big rabbits, small foxes or even odd cats!  Turns out they are rabbits that are the size of a fox.  Awesome!

1.      Heidi and Jessica’s trip out to visit us in Finland was an incredible time.  I can’t tell those wonderful women enough how much it meant to me to see them and how much I value their friendships.  They arrived late night (or early morning on august 5 and Bob and I picked them up from the airport in our rental car.  After a few short hours of sleep, we were up and in Helsinki to visit Soumenlinna, the Finnish Fortress.  This castle, entirely on a couple of islands, was very different that other castles we’ve visited.  It wasn’t one large surrounding wall with the buildings inside. Instead, it was a dozen or more small enclosed fortresses, with huge cannons, a church that was a functioning lighthouse as well (the only one in existence) and some interesting museums.  Like many things in Finland, it has turned over control several times between the Swedish, Russian, German and Finnish rulers.  It was nice and warm, so many people were sunbathing and swimming off the rocks.  We also walked around the outdoor market, which had some nice warm wool cloaks and hats. Hard to imagine when you are sweltering in the summer that you would want them, but it’s been pretty chilly so far around here.  Anyway, Heidi, Jess and I came back, and “went to Sauna” at Kirsi’s house.  I put that in quotes because that is how the Finnish say it.  The water was freezing cold, but the sauna was nice and hot!  Awesome!

2.      On Thursday, Heidi, Jess and I went to Nukkia National Park, where we had a great 3hr hike in the woods, picking blueberries and trying to stop Heidi from eating wild mushrooms.  Jess is a nurse, but luckily we didn’t have to call on her poison control skills!  One funny thing was as we were taking the buses back to the boat, I put the route into Google Maps for the connecting bus stop.  Google routed us through the mall, back in a circle to a spot about 100 feet from where we started!  I can only imagine that some mall advertiser paid for Google to arrange that little detour….

3.  What were Bob and the kids doing during our hiking, you ask?  They took a trip to St. Petersburg, Russia.  There is a ferry that leaves Helsinki, arrives in St.P in the morning, tours all day, and travels back to Finland overnight.  This worked out great for them.  Bob will hopefully include some more details about the tours, but I know they saw the Summer and Winter Palaces and many churches. They only details I can get from the kids include the delicious croissants at the breakfast buffet and something about Bob in a kickline with the dancers during the evening show??? Hmmm….

4.      The Queen.  I can’t talk about Finland without mentioning her.  The Queen is the title we have given to the woman who runs the marina.  She is incredibly nice, always inviting us into her camper to show pictures, her photo albums, etc.  She doesn’t speak any English, so we use a lot of sign language!  A very funny and warm lady, she was very helpful to us in finding some boat supplies and laundry machines.  She had never had an American boat in this marina before, so she gave an interview to the newspaper and Finnish TV!  They were going to interview us as well, but we were too busy doing stuff, so they did the articles from photos and the Queen’s interview.  I’m looking forward to seeing the article.  Last night, right before we left, Bob, Kirsi and I went to the Queen to pay our bill. She invited us in the camper and had champagne for us!  So nice.  She also hand-knit “magic socks” for us that she said would keep us safe across the Atlantic.  Beautiful socks!

5.      We rented a car for a couple of days and went to Western Finland, where the Armanto family grew up.  Leslie and I walked around a lovely seaside town called Naantali. Naantali is famous for Moominworld. The moomins are somewhat like the Smurfs, characters based on books that have become beloved by Scandanavian (and Japanese) kids.  Moominworld is very much like the Enchanted Forest would have been like for those of you in Maryland, a park where you play in the Moomin world with the characters, etc.  I had great fun going there about 20 years ago. Leslie and I were going to go, but we decided instead to walk around the town and gardens.  Very pretty place.  Bob and the boys visited Turku Castle and the Maritime Museum.  Bob said one cool thing was that the water lever has dropped so much over the years that when they built the castle it was on an island and the water went right up to the edge of the castle.  Now there are several hundred meters of land all around where they water used to be.

6.      In Turku, we had a lovely dinner with Riita, Kirsi and Jussi’s mom.  It was so nice to see her again and I’m really glad we were able to make it out there.

7.      The last couple of days have been really nice.  We have been relaxing on the beach, renting a canoe and playing lots of volleyball.  We had so much fun the other day watching Oliver play volleyball with a bunch of Finnish teenagers, all bikini clad and clearly set on teenage “courtship” rituals!  Oliver has no fear, just goes up to them, asks to play with them and has a great time.  We could all learn from his courage to go up and talk to people, I think.

8.      Yesterday, we took everyone out on the boat.  It was really nice.  We just went out for a couple hours, sailing around some of the islands.  One thing Kirsi really like when she lived in the US was Mexican food, so we came back to the marina and made a Taco Fiesta!  Very fun.  I also make my mom’s world famous Buttermilk Pound Cake.  This cake always gets inhaled and yesterday was no exception! 2.     

9. I also have to mention the other hike we did at the same national park. This was a little different…About 10 minutes into it we lost Leslie.  She had gone off the trail briefly and had gotten back on a little later, but we didn’t know she was back on the trail.  We split up, with Bob going one way to look and Caleb and I running the trail the other way.  Just when we were about to call the police, Caleb and I found her at the end of the trail.  She wasn’t lost at all, she was having a wonderful hike and didn’t we see the notes she left us on the trail written in blueberry juice?! 3.   

 10. Jussi and Annukka welcomed us to their summer home as well. What a nice day, jumping on the trampoline, picking blueberries and eating in the sunshine. I  have enjoyed running in all these different places, exploring the trails and getting lost a bunch. 4.    

Let’s see, what else am I missing?  We have done so much, from playing floorball at the sports center with Valtteri to hiking to just enjoying the sunshine.  Now we are on our way to visit the Rohde family in Tallinn, and we can't wait!  Finland has been awesome and I think everyone is ready to build a summer home here.  Bob wants to come back in the winter and go skiing and go to the ice hotels.

A huge huge thanks from our family to our Finnish family, the Armantos! I have always thought of you as part of our family and I'm so happy that our kids get along so well and are continuing the traditions. Kiitos!

Saturday, July 25, 2015, enroute to Espoo, Finland
We left Stockholm at 4am yesterday, in order to have daylight both leaving Sweden and arriving in Finland.  There are too many rocks, narrow passages and unfamiliar islands for us to navigate at night.  So as I write this we have been underway for about 25 hours, we should arrive this evening.  A big low pressure system has been developing over the western Baltic and pushing towards us, so we also have been watching this closely so as not to get caught in it!  We had some 25kts of wind yesterday, but now we only have about 10 kts.  Around midnight tonight the front is supposed to be awful, but we will be safely tucked in Finland by then!  We’ve been playing games, sleeping, and making cinnamon buns to occupy ourselves

Friday, July 31, 2015:  Espoo, Finland

We have had the most wonderful week so far with the Armanto family.  For anyone reading who isn’t familiar with this, when I was 5 or 6 we hosted a foreign exchange student from Finland.  Kirsi lived with us for a year and we loved having her.  A couple of years later, her younger sister Hanna came to the US and lived with her own host family, but we got to see her.  A few years after, when I was about 14, their brother Jussi came to live with us.  We just love this family, and we have visited them in Finland and they have come to the US!  This is why Finland was a definite place to visit on our trip.  When we arrived in Finland, thankfully Jussi was there in his little boat because Bob and I couldn’t figure out which of the marinas we should go to, and there were a couple of choices.  The marina Kirsi found was perfect, with a guest pier about 10 feet from the clubhouse and 1km from her house.  This week we have been combining some activities with sleeping in.  Most days people get moving around 10 or 11 am!  Very late for us, but we are also staying up till 11 or 12 because it stays late so long.

We have been here a week, and had such a good time I’m trying to remember all the things we have done.  Kirsi lives in a beautiful suburb of Helsinki called Espoo.  It was very quickly obvious that this is the where all the coolest people live!  Espoo is right on the water and has tons of walking/running and riding trails that go along the water or inland.  It has been nice to find some beautiful places to run. I’ve felt very tired lately, so I haven’t had great runs, but not due to location.  We spent a great afternoon on an island close to Kirsi’s house. The island belongs to the city of Espoo, and there are BBQ fires, big sports fields and picnic areas on the island.  Lots of wild blueberries, Frisbee golf and beaches to boot!  We took our dinghy over there and had a full-on grill!  It was delicious and fun to enjoy the afternoon playing volleyball, soccer, and taking walks.  Kirsi took the kids on Tuesday to a Finnish amusement park, which you can imagine was a HUGE hit!  They absolutely loved it.  Being in one place for a two weeks gives us a chance to do some boat repairs, and everyone has been very helpful with locating parts or Jussi, Annukka (Jussi’s lovely wife), Bob and I did some boat-part shopping and walked around Helsinki while the kids were at the amusement park. 

As always, finding the library is a big hit. The library in Espoo is in the mall!  What a great location for a library, so you can run errands and read books.  They had a great selection of English books, so we came home with a big stack of books and a promise to return later next week.  We had to tear ourselves away from the library to go to Heureka, which is an incredible hands-on science center.  Really a fantastic place for kids and adults!  Wednesday, the city of Espoo had a beach day, about 1km away. They had all sorts of games, sports and activities for kids to do. It was a little bit chilly for the beach, so I think it wasn’t as crowded as it would have been, but still fun.  Jussi and Annukka’s son Valtteri is 12 years old, and just a great kid!  Our kids have enjoyed having him around so much.  He rode his bike to the beach and he and Caleb did some SUP.  Of course, they decided to swim afterwards, with their sweatshirts ON, so we had some cold, soggy kids after that!  I have some funny pictures of them “sumo-wrestling”.

For Leslie and Oliver, one of the highlights of Scandinavia is the CANDY!  Every grocery store, even small ones, have pay-by-weight candy walls.  Candy buying is serious business, and so all the kids came home from the store with an impressive assortment of all kinds of candy.  Leslie and Oliver stick with the gummies, Caleb goes for the chocolate and Valtteri seemed to like the caramels best.  Very fun for all.

Yesterday we got some culture….Jussi, Annukka, Valtteri and the five of us went down to Helsinki to go to the National Museum.  This was a really interesting museum, given Finland’s history with Russia and Sweden.  I think my favorite part was the traditional Finnish clothes and the shoes made of woven Birchbark.  Really cool. I think I need a pair of them.  We also went to the sports museum.  I think it’s always amazing to look at old sporting equipment and clothes.  They had a ski in the museum from 400 BC!  Can you imagine that?!  Finland has a unique sport called pesapallo that is similar to baseball except the pitching is different. 

Unfortunately, I learned that Lyme’s disease is prevalent up here as well.  Why did I think it was just the US? I found a tick on my leg about a week ago, and two days ago the area had a big rash.  Again, things were made so much easier by having friends here, so I was able to go to a clinic and get the antibiotics very quickly.  Not what I want to have to do, but better than getting Lyme’s, right. 

Going to post this now, but we have lots more fun things planned in Finland.  Heidi and Jessica will be here in a couple of days and we want to go to visit the castle!  Can't wait!

Today is July 23, 2014.  I'm updating for the past week or so, with input from Leslie and Oliver today!  It will start a week ago and work up to today. I hope you are enjoying our crazy adventure.

Saturday, July 18, 2015, anchored in Solberganaset, Sweden: This is a beautiful, completely secluded and protected natural harbor.  It was used as a stone quarry for about 50 years, (I think).  It feels like we are in the middle of nowhere, but there were actually signs and information panels written in 4 languages explaining the history of the quarry. It seems they stepped up production in the 30s when Hitler ordered his victory signs to be made from these stones, but as he began losing and cancelling his orders, the quarry business dropped as well.  But there is a very nice hike around the quarry and the inlet explaining it all. I also found wild raspberries and blueberries!  I ate the raspberries, but I will admit to being cautious about the blueberries. I am not the most knowledgeable outdoorsman, although I like hiking.  I have always gone by the “don’t eat smooth berries” rule, so I touched the blueberries, crushed one, and smelled it before I decided they were safe!  One popular saying among cruisers is that cruising is “Just fixing your boat in foreign ports”.

 As we left Kalmar yesterday morning our instruments stopped working.  We quickly realized that this happened when auto pilot was engaged, and they worked properly when hand steering.  Bob spent most of the day troubleshooting, and I drove.  Hand steering really stinks when you are used to using autopilot!  Anyway, Bob narrowed down the problem but wasn’t able to fix it, so we will try to locate a Raymarine repairman in Stockholm.  There are supposed to be several there. Our transit to this harbor was our first venture into the Swedish archipelago.  Bob and I were nervous, because there are rocks everywhere and very narrow passages.  Everyone had assured us it was worth it, just make sure you have good charts and good instruments. Ok!  The approach to this natural harbor had about 3 180deg turns, weaving around buoys and some passages with a couple of feet to spare on each side.  Crazy!  We obviously made in here safely, but I am not upset that the way out is easier.

Sunday, July 19, 2015, anchored in Loftahammer, Sweden:

Transiting out of the harbor was pretty simple and uneventful, I am happy to say!  Also, happy to report that Bob fixed the autopilot, it turned out to be a problem with the breaker, so some of our time at sea yesterday was spent recalibrating the autopilot.  It was a pretty long day with not much wind, with the exception of one squall coming through!  It was an eventful 15 minutes though.  The entrance into Lofthammer was a beautiful trip through forests, some cliffs and red rocks.  The channel coming in was nice and wide, with the exception of the supernarrow entrance to the bay.  We anchored in a nice open area and, first order of business for me was to row to shore and go for a run!  It was a nice run on roads, trails and sidewalks, and I scoped out the grocery store for the morning. 

We are trying to plan our next few days, arriving in two days in Stockholm. 

Monday, July 20, 2015:

Today has been another day transiting up towards Stockholm. I’ve been getting comments that my writing is boring and you would rather have the kids’ input, so I’m trying to get them to write!  I know they have a fun perspective and write about things I don’t.  We’ve been having squall after squall today, punctuated by periods of bright sun.   Not every day on the water will be steady wind and sunny skies, right?   

O mans blog You will not believe me in what happened yesterday..  

 Wwwwwwweeeeeee wwwweeennntttt tttttttoooooo thhhe amusement park. Sorry about that, must have been the aftershocks of the fun house. Before we go on that journey I must tell you two things, no three maybe four. Okay everyone is holding 2 kilos of candy or cheez doodles. Secondly there is a ride that is the tallest swings in the world. Now getting into the story we came in and instantly saw the Insane and the line was only ten minutes. Now press the pause button so I can tell what the Insane is. It’s a roller coaster that spins upside down while you ride it. We came and unfortunately it broke down before we rode it so that was sad. So we went to the line for the eclipse [the big giant swing] the wait was 45 minutes but we got in line any way. After 45 minutes of boring waiting we got on. It took you very high then spun you fast. I screamed” I can see our boat from here”. So after that we split ways I went to the fun house, Leslie went to the G Force spin thing and Caleb did the drop of doom. The fun house was awesome with spinning rooms moving bridges and other cool stuff. Then because they had not rode it yet I went to bumper cars. Yikes bring a doctor[jk]. Then we went to the fastest coaster there the jet line it goes 90 kilometers per hour I sat in the front. We rode that twice. Then we went to the wooden coaster the twister. It was kind of rickety kind of not. After that we went to the inverted one. It was very slow probably because it was a family coaster. Then Caleb and I went on the flying carpet for mom and managed to squeeze in another jetline before it closed at 11. So that all folks        
Good by!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Leslie’s Blog: This Blog Entry Is For Miss Debra Washington, For Encouraging Learning…  

The day before yesterday we went to the Nobel Prize Museum. It was really interesting! Apparently the man who created the Nobel Prize was born in Stockholm, Sweden with the surname of Nobel, (duh!), and Caleb claims he knew that because the Museum was in Stockholm, Sweden, so where else could he have been born? Albert Nobel grew up in poverty, but later in his life invented dynamite and another more expensive kind of dynamite making him Super-Filthy-Stinking-Rich. When he died he left 200 million to 300 million Crone (Crow- Nah) or dollars, (I don’t remember), to make the Nobel Prizes. In his will, he named multiple Swedish Institutions to judge who was worthy of a Nobel Prize, either for the Peace, Literary, Chemistry, Physiology, Physics, Economics or Medicine, by making a discovery or improving something or for an invention. He stated that any person of any country could win, why he did this? Nobody knows but a thought is that because he lived in many different countries he knew that everybody was worthy, not just Swedes. Another thing we don’t know is why would a man who invented Dynamite, which is a weapon of destruction, want to give all his money to reward people for creating, and healing, and peace? People think that it is because he felt bad about all the people who had died, due to his invention; which makes sense to me.

Fun Facts: For about 20 years A. Nobel lived in Stockholm, Sweden, then for about another 20 years he lived in Paris, France, then St. Petersburg, Russia for about 20 years, then he returned to Stockholm. He lived from 1833 to 1896. He lived in a time where 5 Crone (50 cents in American Money) or 5 dollars would buy a horse, (I’m pretty sure it was Crone, but not certain).       Thank-you! 

Jill’s blog : Thursday, July 23, 2015:  Stockholm, Sweden.

We’ve had a wonderful three days here in Stockholm.  It’s a great city, very cosmopolitan and international, but still feels like it has a unique character. We are on one of the three main islands, about 20 minute walk from the downtown.  One nice thing is that there are tons of museums (and the amusement park!) on “our” island. We got in early afternoon on Tuesday and spent the afternoon walking around the city.  We also toured the Nobel museum, as Leslie said.  Really slick place, talking about all the Nobel Prize winners, their backgrounds, achievements and advice for the world.  I had no idea how much I would enjoy this museum, and the kids enjoyed it as well. 

This is an unusual site from our transit up!  House being towed along the archipelago “Super highway.”

Yesterday I went on about a 2 hour run, which felt great, and we started off on our day!  The kids really wanted to go to the aquarium, so we started there first.  It was a fun museum, and if you are there in the fall you can actually see the salmon swimming upstream inside the museum. The have salmon that return there every year for breeding.  After the aquarium we went to the exhibit I really was excited about.  If you are ever in Stockholm, absolutely go to Skansen!  This is hard to describe, but it is a huge park, an open air museum really.  The idea is to understand how Swedes lived in history, all over the country.  So they have hundreds of real size houses and communities, describing farming, fishing, Sami (Lapland), village artisans (with real glass blowers, potters, shoemakers, furniture makers, etc) doing their art with ancient tools. They have real bears, reindeer, lynx, otters, seals, wolves and wild boars to see, folk dancing and music.  If anyone is familiar with Hawaii, it is like the Polynesian Cultural center for Sweden.  I absolutely loved it!  There were so many interesting time periods and animals, I didn’t know reindeer have fuzzy antlers and both male and female reindeer have antlers.

Sorry to be so long winded!  You probably guessed that we went to an amusement park afterwards!  Big highlight of Oliver’s day.  In my opinion, the funniest time was when Caleb was on the huge “demon drop” ride, and didn’t know that the ride would tilt so the riders are facing the ground instead of the horizon. Ha! So he was like 200 feet in the air, already scared and then the ride tilted DOWN!  Oh my goodness, I could see his terrified face as he got closer.  Hopefully he won’t read this…

Today Bob and I went to the Wasa Museum. It was good, but to be honest, this is the third ship we have seen that was raised and restored.  It was unusual in the vibrant colors that the ship was painted.  We were laughing because a nice guy we met at one of the anchorages this week mentioned how Sweden celebrated a ship that sunk on its maiden voyage because of poor design (Wasa), cities that burned to the ground (Stockholm), and other disasters caused by inbreeding, or poor decisions! 

This afternoon we walked around, went to some small (free) museums and played on the playground.  Getting ready for an early morning departure to Finland. Very excited to get there.

July 16, 2015:

Okay enough boring stuff from mom let’s talk with the o man.

So now we are in Sweden blah blah blah if you want to hear about the castle boring parts you are in the wrong place. I talk about good clean[not] fun. So the day we got in we just settled in and went to a castle. If you want to know about the stuff in the castle that not in my blog because I never went in the castle[hee hee]. So I did the fun stuff by becoming a knight by beating a person in a duel and doing challenges .After I changed and got ready to become a knight. So a princess came and made us become what we wanted.

Then we went to the beach and jumped off the pier. It was cold. Then we went back to the boat. The next day we went to a museum[ again read moms blog]after we went to another beach but this one had three diving boards. The lowest one was 5 meters tall. Second was 7 last was ten. Yes ten meters Olympic height. I jumped off all of them twice. It was super fun. Sorry about that. Back to the story so then we went back to the boat and Caleb made dinner[bleh] [jk] it was good and that’s the end of the story.   Ciao!

Ok, this is Jill again.

 Lest you think everything we do is sunshine and roses, let me tell you I just finished hand washing a load of underwear and socks.  One thing that I definitely took for granted before we left was having clean laundry all the time.  About 30 seconds to load the washer, another 30 to load the dryer, and there you go.  And with all my workout clothes as well as 5 people, the laundry really adds up.  Now, in order to keep costs down, we try to wear clothes more times before washing and to handwash things.  So we are in Kalmar, Sweden, in an harbor downtown not unlike Ego Alley  in Annapolis, and I have underwear hanging from the lifelines!  Oh yes, Honu Kai is a class act.  We have showers and bathrooms on the boat, but in harbors we try to only use the marina facilities to keep our tanks empty and keep the water use down.  On occasion this has meant a ½ mile walk to the bathroom each time!  Ok, moving on…

We got into Kalmar early yesterday morning.  Bob and I were pretty tired, but we rallied with an early lunch and headed out to Kalmar Slott (Kalmar Castle).  This is an amazing castle, very different from the English castles we have seen.  The architecture is different, with a real moat and secret passages.  The picture attached here is of some wood paneling on the wall in the Queen's bedroom. One neat thing I learned is that they believed each person’s soul would be found in his nose.  The Queen’s bed was framed in heavy wooden carvings of figures, royal symbol and decoration, but almost every carved face had the nose cut off. This was supposed to prevent any nightmares sent by the souls of the people carved in her bed!  The central courtyard was devoted to the ‘barn’, the kids.  The challenge was for each kid to complete a series of tasks and they would be knighted.  It was so much fun, and as Oliver said, he was completely happy doing those challenges all day.

We had a restful afternoon at the beach since the weather was beautiful and watched an International sandcarving competition.  Very impressive. Today, July 16, we all slept in and I had a pleasant run through beautiful countryside.  We toured the Kalmar museum, which was very well done, with exhibits on famous Swedish illustrator, the raising of the wrecked ship Kronan, and a photographic history of Sweden in WWII.  This afternoon will probably be a highlight of the trip, because we found a beach with a swimming platform.  As Oliver said, the platform had three levels; high, higher and too high.  Those Academy folks reading this may remember the 10m board and the anxiety/excitement about that.  I’m glad I did that when I was young and fearless, because it was scary!  Of course, the boys jumped right off, no fear.  Leslie took a little more time to jump, but she was a champion, too.  Bob and I went off the bottom and the middle.  There was also a nice beach and lap swimming area, but the main attraction was the platform. 

Tomorrow we are heading up to an anchorage about 40 miles north.  We will take a few days to get up to Stockholm and I’m looking forward to the beautiful scenery.  I understand why most American sailors tend to go to the Caribbean, but Scandinavia is so incredible for the sailing community.  A super short season, but everyone makes up for it by thoroughly enjoying the long, warm days and good food.  One custom I absolutely love is blankets in restaurants.   Since the mornings and evenings can be cool, the restaurants hang warm fleece blankets over the chairs, and people drape them over their shoulders.  I love it!

Saturday, July 11, 2015:  Enroute Bornholm, Denmark.                 As I write this, we are on the way to Hasle, Bornholm, Denmark.  We had a wonderful last day in Cuxhaven.  The weather was terrible, rainy and windy.  Everyone was still holed up in the marina, nobody coming or going.  Oliver and Karl had a great time running all over the playground, and I believe there was a championship whiffle ball game with Caleb and Alice against Oliver, Karl and Bianca!  It made such a difference for our kids to meet this nice family on their own adventure.  They are heading down to Portugal before crossing the Atlantic and were so nice to talk with. Bob and I also got so many good tips about sailing a catamaran in the Baltic.  Later that night all the kids watched a movie and we got ready for our 6 am departure from Coxhaven. 

L’s notes: Now I have 2 penpals , Swedish girls Bianca and Alice Hedensjo.  They’re awesome!                 The wind had not died down any by the time we left at 6am, still about 25kts steady.  We had an easy departure from the marina and made our way down the river to the start of the Kiel Canal.  First thing to figure out was the lock.  We had never gone through a lock before.  We read all we could about the procedures, and the whole thing went smoothly.  We didn’t have to wait at all, tied up on the pontoon inside the lock, waited about 5 minutes for the lock to drain and reopen, and we were off into the canal. 

The canal itself was very peaceful and quiet.  A nice path runs alongside both sides of the canal, and we sometimes saw people riding bikes or running.  I told Bob I should have ridden my bike to Kiel and he could have picked me up when we got there!  Huge cargo ships take the canal, as well. It is incredible to see these massive ships in such a narrow space.  When two ships have to pass they keep one of them back, tie it to stanchions in the river, and the second one passes. Then the first can continue on. They also have turn bearings and ranges marked and at least 6 or 7 ferries that cross.  One ferry that was really interesting was the bridge at Grunental.  This was built in the early 1900s and is a rail bridge on the top, with a car ferry hanging like a tram from the top of the bridge.  The “tram” drives across the river and the cars drive off the other side.  I’ve never seen anything like it. One more lock on the way out, and we were through the canal.  It took us about 8 hours to get through.  We were required to motor, but we could motor sail if we didn’t exceed 8.5 knots. So most of the time we had the jib up to catch the following wind and we made 7.5-8 kts.

After we got out of the canal the fun started!  So many boats, ferries, pleasure craft and kite surfers in Kiel.  We went to the marina we had selected, but very quickly realized there were no slips available.  We considered our alternatives, looking at other marinas and debating just continuing on to Bornholm.  That’s one nice thing of being self sufficient.  We did find a nice marina, tied up and were eating dinner around 7:30.  Next time we realized we can anchor right outside the British Kiel Yacht Club.  I had a nice run in the evening, and we all had an early night to bed. Today we got a late start.  I went for another run and returned with fresh Brotchen (sp). The kids have really embraced the fresh bread tradition of Germany.  Ok, I love it too.  Now we are heading to Denmark, next stop will be Hasle, just north of Ronne.   Monday, July 13, 2015:  Haslehavn, Hasle, Bornholm, Denmark We had a very uneventful transit to Bornholm.  Unfortunately, we had almost no wind, and the wind we did have was right on the nose, so most of this transit was motoring or motor sailing.  Oh well, it was beautiful being in the Baltic, and the water just so smooth and clear.  We sailed overnight and got into to Hasle about 5:30 pm.  We found a nice big spot along the pier and we were greeted by a fair on the pier, complete with techno music, bumper cars and fireworks at dark!  Oliver loved the music and we got settled in and walked around.  One interesting thing for us has been figuring out the logistics of each area.  In England, every marina or harbor monitored a VHF channel, and when we called ahead, they would assign a mooring buoy or pontoon spot to us.  Then we would either go ashore and pay the harbormaster or the harbormaster would come around and collect.  We have found that in the Baltic, everything is done by machines.  If there is a harbormaster, he or she may be around for a couple of hours and they don’t monitor any VHF.  You come in the marina, and sometimes there are colored plaques by each spot. Red= owner is temporarily away, don’t go in there, green=good to go.  So you go in the spot, tie up, and go to the automatic machine.  The machine takes the credit card or cash and pops out a ticket you hang on a lifeline, as well as any WIFI codes or bathroom key/codes.  Everywhere is slightly different, so we just try our best each time!  Today everybody slept in, even me.  I didn’t get up until about 8, and the kids were asleep until 1000.  Crazy!  The day is half gone by then!  Anyway, I went for a run, found a nice beach and tried to navigate around the area.  I went to the grocery store to try to get fresh bread for breakfast.  Found some, but not the same as in Germany, where you could even rent a bike for 1Euro to go on a “Brotchen run”.  Not even kidding!  Bornholm is kind of the beach/family kind of island.  Tons of families here with kids, and everyone rides their bikes all around.  They even have a swimming area in our marina, complete with diving platforms and swim lap lanes.  The water is kind of cold, but not as cold as in England.  At least that is what the kids told me, it was way too cold for me…

Bob and I rode our bikes the 5 or 6 miles down the Ronne, the main city.  Our main purpose was to go to the Chandlery there, because we hadn’t anticipated needing the Denmark courtesy flag, so we didn’t have one.  In case anyone reading this doesn’t know, good seamanship etiquette dictates flying the courtesy flag of the country you are in on the starboard halyard, while one’s country flag is flown from the stern.  We had such a nice ride there and back. There are bike lanes everywhere and people are very used to and accepting of bikes. This evening we had a rare treat and ate in a restaurant!  Seriously, we never eat out because it can cost an arm and a leg, but Bornholm in known for its herring and other fish dishes, so we found a buffet at a campground that had local dishes and more familiar ones.  Wow, we hit the jackpot!  The food was good, lots of fish as well as pizza and fries, roast pork and sauerkraut and prime, and the campground had an incredible playground with air-powered trampolines.  The place was teeming with kids, and ours took no time to make some friends and jump on the trampolines.  It really is amazing to me, just recording my own thoughts here, that we find kids over here 9, 10, 11 years old, who can already speak fluent conversational English.  They understand idiomatic expressions too.  Whether it is school, movies or a combo of both, it really works.  The only kids I know in the US who can speak another language at that age come from a household where it is spoken regularly. All right, signing off for now. The marina here has WIFI, but we can’t use it because you have to have a phone that can receive a text, and we don’t!  The tourist office a short walk away has really good wifi, so I may be able to post this before we leave tomorrow, but I’m not sure yet.  We will be here most of the day tomorrow and we are leaving tomorrow evening for Kalmar, Sweden.  Working our way north!  

July 8, 2015, Coxhaven, Germany                 I feel like much has happened in the last several days.  We got into Dover Saturday afternoon.  We had a very easy sail throughout the day, but the wind and current picked up significantly during the day.  As we were entering the Dover harbor we had about 4 knots of current upstream, 22-25kt winds, and the waves were crashing off the seawall.  I was driving while we were taking down the sails, and the boat’s heading was at least 45 degrees lower than the entrance angle, just to make it into the harbor!  Once we got into the harbor, things were much quieter, but so far this was one of our more adventuresome entrances.   
We tied up alongside the pier and took care of the usual logistics, checking in with the marina and buttoning up the boat.  We hightailed it off to the castle, since they closed about three hours later.  Dover Castle was a great castle as well, with secret passages, underground tunnels and even an ancient Roman Lighthouse.  It’s amazing to think that people have been climbing the same tower stairs that we climbed for a thousand years.  I think we have seen enough castles for a while, though.  We all agreed that our favorite so far is Pendennis Castle.  Maybe it was because it was such a beautiful day, with gorgeous gardens and nice people.  Maybe it was because it was the first one we visited.  You always remember your first…;)

We were up at 3am Sunday morning to ride the tides out.  We had an uneventful crossing, which is what you always want, right?  Our route had us essentially paralleling all the traffic separation schemes, so we almost never had any contacts that affected us.  The wind was on the lighter side, but we had some very nice steady reaches all the way across the channel and north into the North Sea.  All the while we knew this storm was forming up in the Northwest and would be bringing rain and 50 knot gusts, 30-35 knots steady.  The kids have been taking more interest in the sailing, which is great!  They all “stood night watches”, which meant they stayed up with Bob or me during our night watches, and kept us company.  Leslie and Caleb were very diligent about checking their sides for contact. We also saw huge wind farms, right in the middle of the sea.

We pulled into Coxhaven, Germany, about 10 am on Tuesday, July 7.  Storm was predicted to hit later that day, so Bob and I were glad to have beat it.  It was a little unusual because we didn’t know where we were going and the Yacht Club didn’t monitor a VHF channel, but we needed fuel anyway, so we tied up to the fuel pier while we figured out where to go.  This Yacht club is a very friendly, low key place with a playground and all the usual amenities, like laundry, showers, etc.  They also fly all the national flags of the boats in the harbor, so we were representin'!  On a walk the first evening we found a great beach with a diving platform a hundred feet off shore and a live band. 

The next morning, the storm came in, gently at first, then BAM!  The kids and I took another walk yesterday. The water here close to the shore is so shallow that at low tide you could walk a mile off the beach and only be knee deep!  We may or may not have had some mud fights!  Tons of people were walking on the mud flats, flying kites, looking at shells, etc.  Later that day, the winds picked up and the tide came in.  This time the water was flowing over the breakwalls and covering the roads and bike paths. Of course, this is when Oliver and Caleb wanted to swim.  I let them swim, and they had fun, but I was nervous about it.  They are both strong swimmers, but the sea is always stronger.  They had fun and we walked back to the boat. We’ve also met some nice people, especially a family from Sweden who is on their way down to Portugal. They have an 8 year old son, and he came over yesterday to play legos.  He and Oliver have already planned a full day today of beach, parkour, movies, and monopoly.  Bob and I started planning ports and anchorages for the next two weeks, and I think we have some nice places planned on our way to Stockholm and Finland. 

Saturday, July 4, 2015: Happy Fourth of July!!! 

As I write we are sailing from Brighton to Dover. On Thursday we left Portsmouth at about 7am.  Gosport Harbor, actually, across the river from Portsmouth.  We had a really nice time in Portsmouth.  I just realized I didn’t mention Wednesday.  We were up early, walked about 30 minutes to get to the Explosion Museum.  Oliver said to me, “Mom, this is going to be boring, no kids are interested in explosions.”  I turned to him and said “what!!!, what kids are NOT interested in exploding things!”.  This museum used to be the weapons factory and depot for the Royal  Navy for about 200 years, closed down in the 70s.  It was really well done, with lots of interactive games and movies to watch, as well as tracing all the types of bullets, ammo, missiles, torpedoes and guns for three hundred years of naval warfare. What’s not to like about that! 

We took the ferry to Portsmouth and the kids wanted to go back to Action Stations. This time they all made it to the top of the climbing wall, wohooo!  We took a harbor cruise, since it was a nice sunny day.  Bob took the kids back to the boat, and they relaxed, and I walked around the Mary Rose. This was a wreck from Henry VIII’s fleet that had laid underground in the harbor for about 400 years, before archaeologists discovered it.  They brought it up exactly where it was found and created a museum around the wreck. Really cool.  They recreated all sorts of things, like they found skeletal remains around the medical room, and they were able to take the bones and realize that the ship surgeon had been wealthy, educated, broken a bone when he was a child, etc.  Some things are amazingly still intact, even things like shoes and leather book covers. I guess they were solidly under the mud, and weren’t subject to all the water flow and damage.

When we got to Brighton on Thursday afternoon, we weren’t sure what to expect.  The sail there had been pretty easy, with light winds and some patchy fog.  I had done laundry the day before, but I didn’t dry the clothes to save money, and I figured I would hang them over the liferails.  Which I did, and I’m certain the harbor enjoyed seeing all of our “unmentionables”. The boys and I took a walk from the harbor down to the Brighton Pier, which is very much like a Coney Island pier, or Ocean City boardwalk.  Tons of stalls selling hot fried foods, arcades, and amusement park rides at the end of the pier.  It was about two miles each way, and the kids enjoyed seeing all the arcades. Luckily I didn’t bring my wallet or any money, so no temptation.

  I went for a run that evening, and had a wonderful surprise. I was on my own, slogging along, feeling tired, when I saw a group of women running opposite me.  I debated whether to go up and try to join them, since it can be hard to just go up to strangers like that. I am so glad I did. They were a wonderfully friendly group of women and we ran together for several miles.  My legs felt lighter and springier after running with them as well. So, thanks again for the great run, ladies of Brighton!  It also made me miss the Crazies, and Liza, Heidi, Richard, Chrissie and Cecilia!    Can’t wait to run with you all again.

Yesterday, we ventured forth on an adventure, to rent a car and drive to Dover Castle.  A strong Noreaster was forming over the channel, predicting 50 kt winds on the bow for our crossing.  We really wanted to see Dover Castle, so we made a car reservation to drive the two hours there.  Bob left for the car rental place, about 2.5 miles away.  I left with the kids shortly after, we were to meet at the car place.  Unknown to me, Bob got an email saying sorry, we actually don’t have any more cars.  I had a vague idea of the car agency location, but nothing more than that.  So we walked for about three miles to get there, didn’t find it and it was about 85 and sunny.  Kids and I took refuge in a coffee shop with free wifi, (thank you Costa!) and Bob and I were able to send emails.  About one mile and 25 minutes later, we met up with Bob, hot cranky and hungry.  Oh, and the kids were too.  Sorry for the long drawn out story, we found a nice park, ate our lunch, played at the playground and skatepark, and walked back to the marina.

 Caleb’s astute observation was that Brighton was like a small town that had turned into a city, but didn’t realize it yet.  An early dinner, a last minute provisioning, and two games of war with Oliver were on tap for the evening (he won the second game, but I am suspicious…) We had an early 5am underway time, 2 hours after low water, to make it to Dover today.  We will see the castle today and tomorrow morning, and head across the channel tomorrow afternoon.   Next country will be Germany! 

Below is a special entry by...the one and only LESLIE!!

Please note that if Caleb is allowed to be realistic, I can be too.

Hi, I’m Leslie and I’m here to give you all the grit, slime, and grime you’ve been waiting for about this stupid boat trip. Here is my version about how all this started…

 You are now entering memory lane aka how my life was ruined… About 16 Years Ago…

Bob: “ Hey Jill, I just had a great idea; how about we have kids and then in about 16 years subject them to a year of torture and not showering nearly enough on a boat!”
Jill: “Wow, Bob; you’re so smart! And I have another idea to make it better!”
Bob: “What’s that, Jill?”
 Jill: “We should write a blog and then force the kids to write in it too!”
 Bob: “We are so doing that!”

 About 3 Years Ago… Bob makes kids look at many boats to see which one suits our family… (I only said I liked certain boats if (they had televisions.)

 Seller: “Okay, so one Dean Catamaran coming right up!”

 Bob: (smiling uncontrollably), “Thank you sir!!!!!!” (Bob walks out of office and starts dancing and repeating over and over,) I’VE GOT A BOAT!!!!!!!!! WHOO HOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Freaking out passerby)

(Over the next 2 years Bob forces kids to go along with him and his wife to the boat, boat talks, get boat equipment; and just obsesses over the boat in general.)
¾ of a year later Bob leaves to start the boat trip taking my favorite blue blanket with him… Bob: “Bye Kids! Bye Jill!” (All the while I’m struggling not to cry and not to shout out “Please don’t leave and start this darn boat trip!”)

About a month ago… Caleb and I: Yay a 6 hour plane trip! (Note the sarcasm)

Oliver: Grumble…grumble Me: Mom, it’s not too late to back out!! Please!

London, England…
The Suh’s were very hospitable and nice; and I loved their 2 little daughters. (By the way, The Olaf Game is freeze tag, creative right?!) We had breakfast and I had a croissant and then to my displeasure my father made tuna. (Which I do like but, it is my least favorite of the fish) Then, we went on a bus tour. London smells like urine and has trash everywhere, (which can be said for any city) So, I really didn’t like that part but, the city itself was very cool, and as a plus we were there on one of the Queen’s birthdays. (The Queen has 2 birthdays, her real one and her weekend one. I think.)  So they fired sixty cannons, (or something like that) for her. (At first I thought the bus had either hit a pothole or was being shot at.)

 Then we went to a bunch of other places. (Did I mention that my father is obsessed in castles, I mean anything historically important?) All I want to do is go to 6th grade with the rest of my friends and be normal…                 

Help save a poor homesick girl by raising money for her to go back to Maryland, U.S.A. and even volunteer to host her for a year. Bring a sad girl home.                                                                       

Tuesday, June 30, 2015:  Portsmouth, UK. Today is our second day in Portsmouth. Actually we are across the river from Portsmouth in an area called Gosport. Leaving Yarmouth, we had some spectators, wondering how we would turn this big old catamaran 180 degrees in a very narrow harbor with boats doubled up on all three sides!  We can twist on the spot because of our two engines, so it went off without a hitch. (Thankfully) We sailed over from Yarmouth on Sunday, and had favorable current but light winds.  We did get to see some of the cool Around the Island boats returning home, including one of those foiling catamarans.  Very cool, and so fast!!  These boats, and the J boats, always have a chase boat following them. The J boats because they don’t have any life rails, so the rule is they have a chase/safety boat.  This cat was fun to watch.

We are docked now, in a normal slot.  Normally we are at the end of a T dock or on a longer pier because of our 24ft width, but they were able to fit us in.    We had a relaxing evening and planned for the next few days.  We are faithfully watching the weather and tide windows, because we will go next to Brighton, and on to Dover and Ramsgate.  We need to leave on the 8th or 9th of July to make it through the Kiel Canal at the right time for the currents. Portsmouth has some great historic sites, including the USS HMS Victory, the USS HMS Warrior, the National Submarine Museum, and another museum called Action Stations!  That is the British Navy equivalent of General Quarters.  We bought a pass that allows access for one year to all these sites.  On Monday, Bob and Oliver had a special outing.  They went to a place called Beaulieu, site of the National Motor Museum and World of Top Gear.  My race car fanatic had a wonderful time, and I will let him tell you all about it!  Just to give you a taste of sometimes how we have to make things work, we rented a car since it is extremely difficult to get there using public transit.  Bob and Oliver took a ferry across the river, walked three miles to the car rental agency, drove to Beaulieu, and reversed the process in the afternoon.  We are all getting our walking exercise in!

This is straight from Oliver’s journal. Don’t tell him I have it.  (jk)  I woke up early today to go to the Motor Museum. I got ready and then took the ferry across the river.  After that we walked two long miles to get to Enterprise, there we rented a car and went in a circle until we did things right.  Dad made us stop at the marine superstore, where we bought a Fender Step and some other stuff.  Then after another forty minutes to get to the museum we got our tickets and went in.  First we went to the On Screen cars exhibit, where I saw the Harry Potter Flying car, and some other ones from movies I don’t know.  But that was the best one!

Then we went to the World of Top Gear.  (BBC!!)  It was hilarious because they had a limo with bowling and an archery range, and a car/submarine, a car/cottage, car/houses, and double decker cars.  That was funny, and just to get it out of the way, we saw a hilarious video of Top Gear Studios later in the day.  It showed us how they did car ski jumping and stuff like that.  After Top Gear we went to the Motor Museum.  They had the first Bugati, two McLarins, and speed records.  They had rally cars, Ferraris, Lotuses, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang!  My favorite car was the V12 Jaguar racer.  That was a great day and I don’t know what else to say!!

Caleb, Leslie and I had a nice day as well. I started off the day with a run, and we went to the Submarine Museum. You can tour the HMS Alliance, a WWII Royal Navy diesel sub.  Since I have spent some time in subs, it was somewhat more familiar to me, but still cool to see the old diesel. They had a great interactive exhibit in the museum where you can do things like decide which propeller design and hull shape is the quietest, how you maintain the right oxygen level, pressure the Turtle, and was actually used in the Revolutionary War, to try to blow up a British warship in a US harbor.  The unfortunate soul who was pedaling inside the Turtle didn’t get close enough to be successful, but he was still very brave in my opinion!  That afternoon we wandered around the shops, read in the library, and Leslie and I finally had our cream tea.    Very nice, calm afternoon.

Today, Tuesday, we tried to get an early start across the river.  That didn’t happen, but we did make it across to the Historic Dockyard around 1230.  The first thing we did was called Action Stations. This is an absolutely wonderful museum for kids and me too!  Highly recommended.  Basically it was hands-on athletic kinds of things to show people what it is like to be in the British Navy. There is a Helicopter Simulator, machine gun games, two climbing walls, a chemistry lab, to name a few. There is an entire upstairs but that was closed for a conference.  We had plenty to do downstairs anyway.  The climbing wall was 28 feet, and it’s amazing how high that seems when you are up there!  Of course, Caleb and leslie were wearing open toe shoes, and I had sneakers, so the three of us were doing the Great Shoe Swap so we all could climb!  Caleb stuffed his feet in, Leslie had a tiny bit to spare and finally I got my running shoes back.  I would like to state for the record that I was the only one to get to the top!  Leslie was very close as well.  First I did the medium level one, and the instructor told me to get to the difficult side.  I got about ½ way up there before I slid down.  We could have spent all day there, but Bob and I wanted to go see the HMS ships.

The HMS Warrior is from 1860.  She was a steam powered sailing ship that was well ahead of her time for about 10 years.  Then she was outdated and turned into a service vessel, for about 100 years.  Very beautifully restored, and it was neat walking around and seeing the 10 boilers and all the coal they used.  600 men on board, most of them used for coal carrying and line handling.  Talk about strength necessary. 

Bob and I went next on the USS Victory, Lord Nelson’s flagship from 1760.  This was all original plankwork, and the ceilings were less than 5 feet high.  Crazy.  There were guns and cannons everywhere you turn, even in the staterooms and wardroom.  We really enjoyed it. 

Sunday, June 28, 2015: Yarmouth, Isle of Wight, UK. On Thursday, anchored outside of Poole, we had a beautiful morning.  I went running, swimming and the kids had a great time exploring the chalk cliffs called “Old Harry’s Wife”.  Great name, right?!  Of course, as soon as we set sail for Yarmouth, the fog rolled in.  Pretty thick. We discussed heading back and anchoring, but we decided to keep going.  It was fine, there was very little traffic that day. Sunny again by the time we had pulled into Yarmouth, and they are such nice people at the marina.  We pulled into a walk-ashore pier spot, which is always nice. 

Friday and Saturday were jam packed with activities!  Isle of Wight has a great bus system, and we bought unlimited 48 hr passes, so we were mobile.  The first stop was to Carisbrooke Castle.  One of the things I’ve loved about these English castles is that people are really free to run around, climb the towers and the walls, and people bring their dogs.  I feel like in the US, if we had a castle, the tour would be strictly monitored.  This was an amazing castle, really felt like Cinderella’s castle on a hill, with a moat and towers where Bob and I were imagining fending off our invaders with hot oil or pushing off the ladders.  We had a picnic lunch and headed out to the Osborne House.

This estate was built by Queen Victoria, because she loved the island and wanted a quiet place to relax with her 9 (!!) children.  She built a palatial summer retreat on miles of shoreline and they spent their summers there.  I could have spent the entire day at Osborne House. Prince Albert, who was the “stay at home Dad”, built the kids a cottage similar to what he had growing up, designed as a Swiss Chalet.  This was the kids’ playhouse, where they learned life skills like cooking, gardening, cleaning.  Well, maybe not the cleaning. The Prince gave each kid an identical plot of land and identical seeds to grow, and he would pay them the going rate for their harvest.  Leslie said “wow, it’s like he was a real dad!  That sounds like something our dad would do.”  Of course, their cottage was as big as many people’s homes, but it was still well designed. I could understand why they would love having a place where they could get messy and garden, cook, and play at the beach. Queen Victoria had a bathing machine, essentially a carriage that drove in the water so she could swim unseen. This was not unique to her, though, we saw the bathing machine, and next to it was a photo of a beach with at least 25 of these carriages (complete with horses), just standing in the water. I assume each of them had a probably fully dressed woman swimming underneath!  How times have changes.  Queen V. would not have been amused. We topped off our day with Fish and Chips (but no vinegar…)  Loved by all.  It was nice not to cook.  We are trying to keep our expenses down, since we want to enjoy the whole year, so that means not eating out very much.  I am trying to balance that with experiencing the local foods.

Saturday, I had a wonderful run along the coastal path to the Needles.  This is a breathtaking spot of chalk cliffs with an amazing view.  The kids and Bob took the bus there, and I ran and met them there. We were lucky that Saturday was also the Annual Isle of wight Around the Island sailing race.  Over 1800 boats, which makes it the 3rd largest race in England, behind the London Marathon and another that I don’t know.  This race is challenging because of the incredible current, which can run up to 6 or 7 knots.  Passing around the Needles, many boats were raising their spinnaker, so it was an incredible sight.  Yesterday afternoon we went to the beach, Sandown beach on the eastern side of the island.  Very nice sandy beach, the water is still very cold but we had a nice time.  The highlight of Oliver’s time he talks about below.

Oliver’s notes: Mom forgot to state that we saw a limited edition Lamborghini Gallardo, that there were two of but one got destroyed in a car crash. And I got to sit in it. another thing I am dealing with is lunch. I will say this outfront I hate parents are bugging me when I have slices of plain bread and carrots .but I dunno maybe if we got a meat I like like bacon or steak I would eat it it’s that simple. Well maybe not because each sandwich would cost at least ten pounds. But it would be worth it! Not.

24 June 2015, at sea heading toward Poole, UK:
It's been a few days since I' ve written, so since we are at sea for most of the day, I will use
this time to catch up!  We spent a day or so in Plymouth, largely disappointing, to be honest. The
marina was wonderful, with free hot showers, so we all enjoyed that.  I did have to remind Oliver
that showers are more than standing under the hot water, though, soap is a critical factor!  We
took the ferry over to the Barbicon, which is sort of the downtown Plymouth area, with tons of
cafes and restaurants.  We wandered over to the Drake memorial, kids climbed around the citadel
walls and we watched some lawn bowling. In the afternoon we spent most of the time at the library!
 Bob wanted to see the Plymouth museum, but the kids wanted a chill afternoon, so we just sat in  
the public library and read.

The next morning I went for a  nice run along the southwest coastal trail, before we headed out.  
Sometimes the trail is hard to follow, because there are many turns and it goes through towns, but
I guess as long as I am still running it doesn't really matter, right?

We sailed to Dartmouth on the 21st, a very nice broad reach and we were making about 9 knots.  
Dartmouth is a little up the Dart river, and you have a great view of Dartmouth Castle when you
enter.  Can really understand why the castles were built right on those cliffs, they would
certainly strike fear in any invaders.  We tied up to a floating pontoon by early afternoon.  
Later that evening we went onshore in Dartmouth.  I really like this town!  Of course, it being
Sunday afternoon, all the shops were closed, but it looked like a neat village.

Monday morning was raining and chilly.  We walked over the hill to get to Dartmouth castle, about
a mile or so.  I don't know if Joni, my kettlebell trainer, is reading this, but I was thinking
about you this morning.  Joni tells us how as a culture, we have gotten away from the functional
daily movement that our ancestors used to do. The walking, the lifting, turning, holding, etc.
Instead we do our few hours of exercise and sit the rest of the day!  I can tell you, Joni, that
we are not doing that!  We walk everywhere, lift, carry, and reach all the time.  
Dartmouth castle was interesting.  We heard many of the same things we've heard at the other
castles, as far as the guns and the defenses.  One interesting thing is that all these castles
were built around 1200 or so, but have been used all the way up until WWII.  So there are
sometimes more modern guns or torpedoes that the castles has been upgraded to fire.  The
archaeologists don't know whether to make the castle historically accurate to the 1500s, because
they would be taking out changes made in the 1800s.

It got sunny later that day, so we got our baseball stuff from the boat and found a nice park,
Coronation Park.  We got some unusually looks and smiles as Bob and I crushed the kids in a
whiffleball game!  

One place I really wanted to see in the area was Greenway, Agatha Christie's summer house. I love
mysteries, and Agatha Christie is the queen of mysteries.  Well, Agatha and Dorothy L. Sayers,
both of them. Greenway is about 4.5 miles hike through the woods from Dartmouth, or you can take a
steam powered train or ferry.  Leslie and I decided to walk.  The boys were going to a nearby
beach.  We had a very nice, hilly hike, up and down cliffs.  Greenway was great!  Agatha Christie
and her family were huge collectors, and they had so much stuff!  I think if they hadn't been nice
collections, they would have drifted into packrat status (just my opinion, though).  She had been
a concert pianist, but was too shy to play in front of people, so they had a nice Steinway piano.  
They invite anyone to play, just don't play chopsticks!  There are also beautiful walled gardens,
with flowers, vegetables and a tennis and croquet lawn.  

We had a nice hike back, making for a great day of hiking and the boys met us back at the boat.
They had had a nice 5 mile walk to the beach, which was a couple of miles longer than they
expected. They compensated for this by getting ice cream....
We've been having some problems with the dinghy motor.  First there was a problem with the gasket
on the fuel connector into the engine.  We replaced the gasket first, then the connector.

Hopefully all our problems are done now.
We left bright and early this morning, before 7, for about 13 hours of sailing until we anchor
near Poole.  We "set the fog watch" early on, because it rolled in pretty quickly.  That meant I

was sitting on the bow with a foghorn and we had the radar on.  By mid morning the fog had burned
off and the wind picked up accordingly, so now we are sailing and making over 7 kts.  Tomorrow we
will head into Portsmouth, just in time for the Armed Forces weekend, so we are looking forward to
that. Caleb is our new master helmsman, so we are very pleased to add this skill!

Caleb's Addition: Mom really needs to redo 1st grade because apparently she cannot count. When
the score is Kids 6 and Parents 3 the KIDS won. We are not playing golf.

20 June 2015, Kingsand, UK:
We left Fowey pretty early yesterday, around 8 am.  We had a nice, easy downwind sail to the

Plymouth Bay, about 20 miles.  Directly inside this bay is a smaller bay to the left.  We had been

recommended this spot as a wonderful place to anchor, so we decided to anchor overnight and go

into Plymouth today.  We anchored on the south side of the bay first, but it didn't seem secure,

and Bob and I were very concerned about dragging.  We decided to go to the northern side of the

bay, and since the wind was more northerly, this proved to be a great decision.  We immediatly

were anchored securely, and the kids had fun swimming off the boat. Of course, the water was about

55deg!  Crazy cold.  Take your breath away cold.  I took Leslie and Oliver to shore later and we

took a short hike.
Ok, Leslie wants to make sure I tell you about our criminal activity!  We set off on our hike to

visit some ruins we could see from the shore.  When we got up there, we found that the ruins were

barracaded by the government from entry.  We ran into a maintenance man who told us if we just

rounded the corner, went under the barbed wire fence and around the side, we'd find some lookout

bunkers that nobody, even the locals, knows about.  So that sounded good to me!  We tried, went

under the fence, and were in grass cow fields with knee high weeks and prickly things.  We were so

scraped up!!  We did see the bunkers, but they were so overgrown that we didn't go down there.  We

backtracked, all the while hoping the farmer (or the bull) wouldn't find us!  Made it back under

the fence and took stock of our wounds.  An adventure!
Today, after a run on shore, we motored up the bay into Plymouth. It is a little after noon, we

are tied up at a pier, and we are about to head out to see The Hoe, the main sites to see in

Plymouth.New paragraph

Today’s entry is equal parts Jill, Bob, Caleb and Oliver.  Note when reading Caleb’s blog:  He doesn’t like big cities.  Enjoy!  

Hey Yo this is O; just kidding. Hi this is Oliver and I want to say that this part of the trip has been awesome. I am interested in cars [like McLaren’s Lamborghinis and Ferraris not the movies] and in London I saw 2 Lamborghinis and four Ferraris so all you car fans out there you should really someday visit London.            Ciao!!!

Thursday, 18 June: Jill’s blog:  We sailed from Falmouth to Fowey yesterday.  It was a nice easy sail, took us about 4 hours.  We were expecting about 15 knots starting at noon, but it didn’t really pick up until later after we had arrived.  We had some nice downwind sailing, with lots of pleasure craft out. We got to Fowey in the late afternoon.  Tied up to a floating pontoon, paid our fees and we were off to explore the town.  There were some nice shops and bakeries, and we tried a Cornish pasty.  Ours was the traditional steak, potato, leek and was fresh from the oven.  Bob and I thought it was pretty tasty.  Today we set off to explore the ruins of St Catherine’s castle and Readymoney beach.  Another of Henry VIII’s castles!  The walk was beautiful along the cliff to the castle.  The beach was nice, the water was very cold but the kids enjoyed climbing all over the rocks.  We met this woman who had lost her engagement ring in the sand.  I felt so badly for her!  We helped her look but weren’t successful.  She was going to come back with a metal detector so keep your fingers crossed for her.  Tomorrow we are off to Plymouth, so we’ll update you more then.  Caleb entered a blog below.  Kind of out of chronological order but still fun to read!

Thursday, 18 June : Caleb’s blog: This is abuse! I am being forced to write this! Send Help! The School year has not started yet, It starts in August. August 2016.  Ugh, Well what happened over the 4 days or so I have been on the boat, you ask? I, Caleb Robinson will give you the true scoop and not that honey coated stuff the others have been saying:               

 Day 1: London 1on 6 hour plane ride? THEN you get in a car for over hour to go 2 miles. I repeat TWO miles. THEN when you wake up you could eat croissants?(We got them from a place called Pret a Manger, If you ever find yourself in the horrible city of London I recommend them)                

Day 2: More London                               
                            So after our drive and the sleep and the yummy croissants the controllers ordered us to march out of the apartment we were staying at(Thanks again Mr. and Mrs. Suh) and to go onto a bus. When we got on the tourist trap bus that drives by all the really expensive places we then had to listen to a lady who seemed like she was not being paid enough for this job or listen to a lady who seemed like she was walking on clouds.                                        
        Kill me now              

  Day 3:  Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock Tick Tock TICK TOCK looks at 1000 clocks. “It’s only been 1 minute?” Nooo!                             
   I have stood in the middle of the world. Actually that’s probably a lie but don’t tell anyone. On day 3 we had very nice breakfast at my great Aunt Dana’s house. The pancakes were very good and didn’t taste like whole wheat (I’m looking at you dad even though you made them) After we ate we drove all the way to Greenich? Greenwitch? Greenwich? So, If someone could explain why it is spelled like a Sandwich that would be great (I mean are you supposed to eat it?).  Then we got an audio guide and walked around like a bunch of idiots who can’t hear what anyone else is saying or doing and just listening to the voices in your head. That was cool and all I guess. After that we left our Grandmother to fight for herself in the London River. I have no idea if she is still alive.

What happens next Caleb? Tell us tell us!


 Enters mental asylum. 

 One more thing: I have nothing against the city of London or any of its inhabitants.

Another One More Thing: What you just read was all a lie. There was this one guy who looked at me strangely in the street. I have a problem with him.

Third One More Thing: qnps ws  gzxw kus wnatqq

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Well, I realized it is ten times easier to type the blog as a word document and copy it over later, rather than type into the blog directly. Not that it makes any difference to read, but I have lots I want to say and this is one way I’ll get it on paper.give you the real scoop

After our really long drive into Cornwall, we finally reached the boat. We slept really well, and woke late. We decided to walk to Pendennis Castle, a local medieval “keep” that was one of Henry VIII’s castles, and used from Tudor times all the way to WWI and WWII. This castle was made of stone, with a moat and a tall turret. Of course, several gun decks from the beach all the way up to the top. Really cool. I felt that at any moment the medieval soldiers would be banging their tankards of beer in the mess and listening for the invaders. There were beautiful lawns surrounding the castle and the weather was sunny and warm, so the kids had fun running around the lawns. Oliver challenged Caleb to a run around the moat, each starting in an opposite direction and seeing who would be back first. After about 40 seconds, Oliver decided he was tired, and instead was going to climb the wall of the moat. And…the guard told him to get back down. Surprise, surprise! Caleb ran the whole way around and came back about 15 minutes later, thank goodness.

Today, Tuesday, was another beautiful day. I started off early with a great run along the Southwest Coast trail. This trail goes 650 miles along the coast. In some places it is really rugged, with just a narrow trail; in other places the trail goes through coastal towns. I am a little “Crazie”, but I didn’t go the entire 650 miles! I just had some wonderful runs along the trail, and met a couple of nice runners along the way. One woman I met was originally from Manchester (England, England, across the Atlantic Sea….:) ) but had been living in Cornwall for 20 years. She was doing her last long run before a marathon next weekend. Hmm, wonder if we’ll be close.

Anyway, we took the dinghy across the bay to visit St Mawes castle. Another really interesting castle. It struck me that even though the castle has been used for several wars, we still don’t know exactly how all the rooms were used. Probably by necessity, they had ingenious ways of creating drains, steam/smoke exhaust, etc. Fresh water pumped on the North Side, latrines on the South!

We had local Cornish ice cream, too. Clotted cream vanilla flavor. Kids loved it. Their ice cream tastes mostly stick to vanilla, but the clotted cream made it creamier, a slightly different flavor and almost orange in color. Cool.

We came back to the boat and made pizza for dinner, requested by Leslie. This is a big process, involving making the dough, letting in rise, etc., and finally making 4 or more small pizzas. Our oven is about the size of a 9x11 pan. And our family can down some pizza! Have to figure out a more efficient way.

We are off to Fowes today. Pronounced Foy. Will update more after.

Tuesday, 16 June:  Falmouth, Cornwall, England

This will be a quick recap of our last few days.  We had a nice time in London.  We rode the double decker buses, explored the Tower of London, took a boat tour, and walked around tons!  The good news is that we only lost Oliver once!  Of course, it was on the super crowded Tower bridge, but luckily, we found him about15 minutes later. 
On Sunday, our second day in London, we had breakfast with Bob's Aunt Dana, who has a houseboat in London.  A very cool boat, in a great location, and she is selling it, so if you are in the market, let her know!  Then we spent the afternoon at Greenwich.  I loved the clock museum, because I have always liked clocks.  We took the obligatory Prime Meridian picture, and spent some time in the Maritime Museum as well.

After that we began the drive out to the boat in Cornwall. It took nearly 7 hours!  Seriously, the longest drive ever.  I felt like we flew into D.C. to drive to Boston!  Anyway, we all were relieved when we were at the boat and asleep. 

We have had a wonderful couple of days in Falmouth.  We've explored Penhallow castle, and running around the shops.  I will write more details later tonight, but right now I am sitting in a bar with a pint!  And...the boys are wreaking havoc with the playstation they have here in the bar.  Shocker, right?!  Tomorrow, we set sail and head to Fowey. ( think that is how it's spelled, it is pronounced Foy.)  More later!

Saturday, 13 June- written by Leslie, age 11.

Me, the American foreigner that is here to give you the good and the bad about London, England. First, there is a LOT of traffic. It took us three hours to get to the place we were staying, after going to a different address the first time. And London is like New York and Tokyo combined, (not that I’ve ever been to Tokyo, I just suppose that because it has all these electronic billboards). It is this hustling, bustling city. Meaning both the hurrying and the stealing of the money. You have to PAY to use the restroom! But, it is also really cool; we rode on double-decker busses, went to Greenwich, (ger-ehn-ich) where they have the prime meridian, which is the point of zero degrees longitude. We straddled the line (one foot in the east, one in the west.

We were staying with this extremely/ incredibly nice family. The Suh’s have two little daughters, Hannah who is three, and Samantha who is 20 months old. Mrs. Suh is so nice, just like her husband Rob.

In the city I felt so out of place because, 1) I didn’t have a British accent and, 2) everybody was wearing leather, jean, or work jackets. I never got to ride the subway because I supposed that it would be boring; but you never know. My brothers have been annoying the heck out of me because Oliver has been repeating everything and singing the same song 24/7, and Caleb has been making snide remarks. We are all very tired.

We got Indian food at a restaurant, but it was too sweet for our taste. Guess what! We were in England for the Queen’s birthday, so we heard cannons and planes used colored gas to form the colors of England in the sky. First we thought there were potholes that the bus kept running into, then we realized it was something else. We went on a boat ride with a live commentary from this man who said they would accept tips, girls’ phone numbers and and such. It was very interesting. I really miss Maryland. But, I can tell the boat trip is going to be okay.

Friday, 12 June:departure day from the U.S.!  This is Jill, and we are waiting at Dulles airport for our flight to London, set to leave in an hour or so.  The past few weeks (months!) have been a whirlwind, getting the kids, the house, work, and all the logistics set to go.  The kids have been really helpful, getting things ready and accepting things like nachos for dinner! Oliver has been happy because he's had pizza much more often than usual.
Last night we spent at a hotel close to Dulles, had a nice swim with Laura Lampel and Lindsey and a fun dinner after.  Thanks again for driving us down there in all that rush hour traffic.  Thanks to Heidi for lending me her car after mine died last month!  Thanks to all the teachers, colleagues and crazies who have really supported us through the planning.
One last HUGE thank you to my parents, Tish and Roger, and Bob's mom, Carol, for everything!  Watching the kids, cleaning, helping pack, we could never had done it without you.
On to London, and the adventure awaits...

Wed 10 June 2015 Still a couple of days before I (Bob) need to head to London to pick up Jill and the kids so I ventured off on my own today to visit a very good friend from the US Naval Academy, Tracey (Moys) Delk who met Andrew Moys at Monterey while active duty in the Navy.  Andrew is still active duty in the British Navy and works at the local Air Station as a METOC officer in Cornwall near Helston.  So to get there I decided to take the bus as where they live is only 12 miles from Falmouth…  So bus stops here are called a Moor.  What I learned is that generally the buses show up late, if at all, and get you somewhere even later.  Luckily I called Tracey right before I got on the bus, because Google sent me on a different route that included over a mile of walking.  We actually met in the town of Porthleven, a very interesting port for primarily fisherman.  Also was the location of a very large storm where waves destroyed the harbor protective wall and waves were crashing against the rock 30-40 feet into the air.  If you google Porthleven you will find pictures of it.  Andrew was about to go into work but had time for a bite and chat at a local shop, and later I met both of there two adorable daughters at the school up the hill.  They are in the middle of building a new house and are excited to move in a couple of months!

Final leg across the Atlantic!  The Azores to Falmouth, England.  May 29, 2015-June 6, 2015. (Blog entry thanks to Carol Robinson, Bob's mom.  I really appreciate it, Carol!)

On board:  Bob Robinson, cousin Duncan Robinson, mother Carol Robinson and friend and Duncan’s uncle, Frank Hill. 

With four people on board,  watches are 3 hours. Each evening at 2200 Bob is in contact with Chris Parker in Florida by ham radio to get updates on weather forecast for the next few days and advice on what our headings should be to avoid high winds and the doldrums. *Starting on Sunday, May 31 each afternoon we played bridge for about two hours, just before dinner.  Whoever was dummy worked on preparing dinner and was on watch to check for boats.

Winds and currents were favorable on this trip, enabling us to be on reaches most of the way.  On starboard jibe, off the wind, we have “music”.  The main rubs against the shroud and “plays” a low sound similar to a bow on a bass, back and forth.  Does not happen on port jibe. *Though there were high rollers of at least 8 feet, Honu Kai is a stable boat, no tipping over of glasses or items falling from one side to the other.  The water rushing between the hulls can bounce and make banging noise but soon this just became part of the trip. *Anytime we hit over 9 knots, we would hear a very low hum. Highest recorded speed was 13 and the currents into Falmouth can be quite strong with a 13 ½ swing from high to low tide.  Our entrance was perfectly timed with the current helping us speed in.

Sighted:  whales, dolphin, tuna jumping out of the water, gannets sky diving for food and another flock of birds sitting on the water that then flew around en mass and then flew away.  We could not determine that bird: grey on the back, white breast, streamlined body and v-shaped wings.

Total travel time: 7 days and 18 hours; Total distance 1203; ran motor 57 hours of those hours ~two days of motoring at the beginning of the trip and the rest motor/sailing.

Friday, May 29, Left Angra do Heroismo, Terciera at 1510

No wind, well 3-5 knots on the nose and going 6 knots. under power/sail.  Large rollers, not deep just long-from the side of the boat causing a little side-to-side rock.  Expecting larger rollers and waves as the winds come in tomorrow.
 Chris Parker’s forecast is no change from yesterday’s forecast of no wind for a day and then westerlies. 2200 sunset.

Saturday, May 30 Low winds until mid-morning 0837 Unfurled the jib; moved us .3 knots faster. Whoa! Just saw 8 vs. 6.9 -7.1 before unfurling the jib. 0930  Put up the blue and yellow spinnaker and furled the jib. Wind off port stern sailing on broad rollers at 6-8 knts.

 Had beautiful sunset in the west just as a white moon was rising in the east, followed by overcast skies.  Wind has switched to the WNW as forecasted and we are on a broad reach but still need to power sail for a while.  Spinnaker up all day and moving 6-8 knots depending on the gusts.  Red sky to the west and bright moon to the east…no need for lamp to read sails.  Wind clocking as forecasted.  We are on auto pilot-apparent wind, so the boat is shifting by the wind and then we are correcting to be closer to the wind but still can fly the spinnaker.  

It’s very peaceful, what I so enjoy with night sailing.  Following waves, nice breeze and the water rushing by.  The sounds are different on a cat with waves periodically banging into the internal sides of the hulls.  It is much more stable, though the swells make for some rock and roll.   Dinner was fantastic:  shrimp, Cajun rice and beans with sausage (Bob using a pressure cooker) plus stir fried cabbage, zucchini and carrots (Frank)  

Sunday, May 31-High of 72 degrees, low 65.  Started day with spinnaker until 0900. Winds died, motor sailing and Chris Parker has instructed us to stay south of the 44th latitude to avoid a storm that is coming down from NW.                                                                                                                   
There were four boats crossing ahead and behind us.  Decreases the monotony.   As Bob said tonight we cannot complain about the food.  Tonight it was tacos, guacamole, rice, black beans, peaches and  mango sauce.   

Monday,  June 1 Sailing with jib and main, tried the spinnaker but the angle was not right: too downwind.  At least 6’ rollers with whitecaps; wind ranging from 10 kts to 18 kts.  At one point the boat was surfing and going 11 kts.  But mostly 6.5 kts to 7.3 kts.  We are heading  ENE to stay below the 44 degrees latitude, where there is a low with forecasted 20 kts winds and 30 kts gusts, which we want to avoid.  Still expect no wind the last day or two and have talked about going to Ireland and wait for the wind.
 Even with the high rollers and whitecaps, Honu Kai rolls some but it’s a nice ride actually.  Nothing falling off shelves; glasses on the table stay in place, showers are possible…

 Duncan saw two tuna jumping and changed the fishing lure  to octopus.  We have yet to catch anything. Having cod from the freezer instead.  

Wind picked up saw sailing speeds of 11kts.  1600 reefed main and jib, winds 19-26 wing and wing; 1800 jibed onto P with jib reefed on S side.  Moving 8.  We had to stay below 44 latitude until 1800 to avoid high winds; now we can go north.  Have to be above 50 by Tuesday to avoid another front but then could be in little air.    1930-2230 on watch, low clouds, no moon, no sunset, 6’ rollers, wind 19-23 kts; sailing on broad reach with speeds ranging from 7-10.9kts, depending on the rollers and the waves on top of the rollers.  Saw a huge flock of birds that were resting on the water and then took flight on all sides of the boat, swooping down close to the water.  At first I thought they were seagulls, but they seemed too big and their wing span seemed too long.  After about ten minutes they disappeared.   
Temperature dropping at night all of us bundling up, socks, hats, foul weather gear.  66.9 degrees at 1900.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015; High of 71-low of 61 Duncan baked brownies!

Front came in: reefed main, furled jib due to winds 18-23 kts. After front went by, kept reef, unfurled jib 2/3rd, going 7-9 kts on the rollers that are much higher than yesterday, maybe 8 feet.  Tried to take pictures to show the height.  Got a picture of the carrier and a big wave. 

  1330 “FISH!”  All hands jumped into action.  Duncan reeled the tuna in with Bob’s coaching (from information that he and Duncan had read in The Cruiser’s Handbook on Fishing by Scott and Wendy Bannerott AFTER they lost a fish on the prior leg:  Give the line a couple of jerks to really hook the fish and the reel in with jerks.)  Jib furled, motor on, slowed down to 4.5 kts from 7-8 kts,  Frank grabbed the gaff.  Fish almost went under the boat, Bob steered accordingly.  Frank hooked the fish and he and Duncan brought it in on the floor under the starboard chair, bleeding profusely (unfortunately from the gaff snag).  Bob rushed to get Caleb’s bat and after working to position the fish, gave it two blows to the head.  Duncan cut out the triangle of the brain, tied a line to the tail and threw the tuna back off the stern to bleed out.  See pictures of the proud fishermen  

1400 still high rollers with one crashing over the port just as Duncan had left it the captain’s seat.  Crisp air sailing with full main and jib off the wind going ~7 knots at 65 compass.  All reading.  Ready for bridge!  Some good friendly games. Duncan winning many bids and making them.  Bob and I won some too, including a double on Frank and Duncan.   Tuna was great, along with semi-sweet bread from the Azores and steamed veggies, just right.   Wind started to die and then picked up.  Went from sailing 7.5 knots, down to 4.5 then up to 8.  Was concerned about a line of clouds but Bob was not, so we kept full sails.  Bob was right, just the evening setting in. Not much of a sunset and the moon came out of the clouds around 2000.  

The surf is still quite high and at the angle we are sailing, they often bang inside and also push the boat up and down.  But for the most part it’s noisy and the boat just rolls up and down.  So different from monohull.     

Wednesday, June 3, 2015; 72 high; 60 low.

 All took advantage of hot water generated from running the motor:  showers!

Duncan discovered broken shackle on main tack.  Bob and Duncan fixed and replace clew shackle too.
Dinner:  During our playing bridge whoever was the dummy prepared the dinner.  Carol was never  the dummy!  Frank cut the vegetables (carrots, potatoes, onions),  Duncan seared the beef and Bob managed the pressure cooker.     

2045  Just opened the sliding door to ask someone to turn on the steaming lights (motor sailing with sails up, going 6.3 knots) and for the first time on the boat there was music.  Not just music but hard rock blasting away.  I immediately asked if anyone was there.  No answer.  Closed the door (no music “leaking” outside), unhooked my harness, went inside and turned on the lights myself.  It’s gotta be Duncan! Wrong!  IT was Bob.  

2100 The moon rose in the east as an orange ball.  Then it disappeared behind the clouds. At 2230 Eastern horizon and the western horizon look very similar.  Perhaps it’s because we are at the 46th latitude.  Days are longer?  The sky just at the horizon to the left is light grey-blue; the sky to the right is light grey-blue; the rest of the sky is cloud covered.  Dry evening, no dew and did not feel quite so cold.  

Thursday, June 4, 2015; High 66*; low 57; water temp 52; rained started in the evening, wet and very cold feeling with 27 knot winds 0825 Position: 47 18.20N 12 04.68W;

  According to Frank, the sun rose around 5AM   Wind going right; on S, just put on barber hauler since we need to stay on this track (77* compass) Note: cannot find the wingding for degrees, so the star will have to do.  

0935  The sun has created a cone of shimmering water with slivers of light painted across the higher mini-crests on the rollers.  Even a photo cannot capture it and if I could only paint it, no one would believe that is what it really looks like.

1730-1900 Played bridge, dummy worked on dinner.  Even Carol participated with boiling the pasta and cutting up the vegetables.  Had pasta salad with green and red peppers, canned corn, ham, onions, cheese and grape tomatoes.  And sweet mini pickles for Bob and me.

 1930 Carol saw a boat speed of 12.8.  We believe it was faster because the history showed 13.  At 27 kts, the guys reefed the main.

 2015 auto pilot suddenly went out.  Boat suddenly headed up from 60 to 160 degrees.  Carol, on watch, jumped up, went to hit standby and it was already on standby.  She got the boat back to 123 and then Bob jumped out of the  cabin, started the motor and got us back on track.  Bob’s guess is that he was talking on the mike plus it was raining and that caused the autopilot to flip off.    With the wind also building, decided that it was a good idea to furl the jib due to expectation of hitting a low with 180* wind shift.  Wind shift came on Bob’s watch around midnight.  He let the boat turn and once it settled down, he jibe over.   Change of forecast: Sailing all the way to Falmouth-no motoring.  

Friday, June 5; 48* 52 N  08* 39W, High 67; low 56*;  anchored at 0943 UTC

Have arrived probably at the bottom of the low with clear skies overhead; Sun rose at 0400; About 150 miles to the Lizard Point. During watch raised the main, kept the jib rolled to just before the first tell-tails. Spinnaker back up at 1600.                                      

 1100  Temp 60, still sunny with clouds on the horizon.  Quote of the day by Duncan: “It’s a sunny day.  We must not be in England.”

 Keep pretty much on rumb line for Falmouth have almost a knot push from currents flowing in our direction.  Bob and Frank worked on figuring out the currents, will not be favorable around 2000.

Saturday, June 6;  High 72; low 56;

 Arrived in Falmouth and anchored at Fishing boats came very close to us several times, such that we had to make small course adjustments using AIS before we even saw the fishing vessels to ensure a distance not closer than ½ mile.   Timed the 13 ½ foot tides perfectly riding them all the way into Falmouth. 

Were boarded by the border patrol as we were entering the harbor and they were leaving to handle paperwork.  They offered to handle the process instead of our having to go on shore to complete the process.  Two stayed on the boat while two in an inflatable followed us and the border patrol cutter stood by outside the entrance to the harbor.  

At noon was the start of Falmouth to Azores race with 60 boats competing.  The Royal Cornwall YC provided commentary on channel 69 and the competitors all had large flags with the race logo flying off their shrouds.  

But that was not the end of the racing for the day.  The gaff-rigged Falmouth Working Boats raced later in the day.  We are guessing they are 30 feet plus the long bowsprit might put them at 40 feet.  One of them is 105 year old. They first cruised around that harbor and then these wooden boats with colorful topsails of stripes and geometric designs in black, red, yellow, turquoise and white, started their race into the harbor and sailed out west out of the harbor.

From Carol on Marina d'Angra, Tercera;

Arrived here at 3:00, after motor sailing most of the way from Sao Jorge.  Checked in, refueled and are docked on a quiet floating dock by 5:00pm.  Frank rented a car and we drove to the PX (Air Force) for two things we could not find at the other islands: humus and sweet pickles.  We bought much more, including fuel for the Coleman stove.   THEN!!! Off to watch the Bull Run on a Rope.  Do the people on these islands just have excuses to have a celebration!?!  Yes, it seems to be the case and have we lucked out!  Anyway.  The bull run event included four bulls with a bull introduced one at a time. Men and boys dressed in white shirts and black Spanish hats hold onto the rope that is tied to the bull.  The bulls have pretty considerable freedom to run up and down the street, banging on the walls and chasing people while the rope tenders somewhat control how far they go.  There were two young men with a red square cloth, a yellow square cloth and a red umbrella that helped guide/attract the bull.  The street doors were boarded up and people hung out of windows and balconies watching and goading the bull.  Some of the boys actually hung down off the balconies, pulling themselves up as the bull approached..     Bob and I were conservative and joined other spectators on a second floor ledge; Frank and Duncan braved the run and were in the street, a very straight street maybe two city blocks long. They participated with a number of other men and boys (no women?), walking toward the bull and running away!   There were food trucks at the ends of the street with beer, sandwiches, etc and hawkers walking up and down the street (safely away from the bull) offering potato chips, popcorn and donuts. A fun, gay atmosphere.   Over about a 90 minute period we saw bull #3 and 4# and then fireworks to conclude the evening's event...well just those fireworks that make a single bang.     Drove back to the boat along the coast and arrived here at 10:15.  All pretty tired.  Plan to spend some more time here tomorrow morning and then leave  around noon for UK.    Forecast from the expert in Florida sees a quiet, uneventful sail for us:  Starting with light air; read motoring and motor sailing for a day+, then westerlies and sailing followed by more motor sailing.   My pictures are before the bull run.  Bob has the ones with Frank and Duncan near the bulls AND running from the bull.     The photo with the milk truck:  We are told that there are three times as many cows as there are people.  We saw very few barns.  That is because the weather is moderate (50-70 degrees.)  All of the cows on these islands are milked in the fields and then the milk is taken to be checked for quality before most of it goes to the cheese factories.  Cheese is made here on the islands with unpasteurized milk resulting in a milky consistency and sharp but yummy flavor. We now have tons of cheese!       Marina Velas, Sao Jorge, May 27, 2015
Left Faial Island and the port of Horta (pronounced or-ta) heading into the wind for Sao Jorge.  Reefed main and ultimately rolled in the jib.  Saw dolphin, whales and one sea turtle.  Arrived at Marina Velas and tied up to the wharf.  Very few boats here though there is the beginning of Horta type boat art on the far wall.   The feel is much different here, a true little village on a steep hill with very friendly people.  Streets and sidewalks are cobble stone, some with white painted designs as we saw in Horta.  Lava stone walls line the roads; plants and flowers divide the plots of land.  We are told that there are 9,000 inhabitants and three times as many cows, mostly milk cows.   Bob and Duncan purchased needed fishing hooks, line, etc.  The grocery store up the hill is a general store selling not only food but refrigerators, ovens, toys and household goods.  It was here that we found a taxi driver who took us to the cheese factory and then a gathering honoring either the Saints/Holy Ghost   Cheese Factory—QUEIJO SAO JORGE Pedro, a 24 year-old native of San Miguel, works at this factory as an intern hoping to be hired by them.  Dressed in white paper robes, blue hair nets and blue shoe covers, we enjoyed an in-depth 90 minute tour of the factory. The process: ROOM #1: 1) milk with a culture added goes into large vats that extracts the whey, which is 80% of the milk.  The whey goes back to the farmers to feed the calves, 2) remaining cheese curds are wrapped in cheese cloth and are put in open ended aluminum cans with the cheese brimming over the top, 3) pressure is applied to the cans to squeeze out more whey. ROOM #2: 1) cheeses are removed from the cans and place on wooden planks stacked on shelves.  2) workers manually turn over the cheese every day.  ROOM#3: 1) two women had bowls of liquid wax solution which they wiped on the cheese with cloths to ensure that mold does not get into the cheese.  2) these cheeses are turned by a fork lift and are set to mature anywhere from 1-7 months. ROOM#4: At the end of maturity, workers carve off any mold on the outside of the cheese.  ROOM #5: 1) a machine slices the cheese rounds into ~20 wedges and cores the center. 2) workers split the rounds and trim each wedge to weigh exactly 400 grams.  Mold on the cheese goes in one bucket; the trimmings go to make shredded cheese and the core goes to restaurants for salads. Though this highly manual process is the same for all of the milk that comes in, at one month independent tasters determine the quality. The cheese that makes the grade continues the maturation process; the other cheese goes to market under different names.  49,000 liters of milk is processed each day.  The final product is a creamy but sharp cheese that is exported all over the world.  Look for Queijo Sao Jorge cheese at your favorite market!   Pedro asked if we have any Mountain Dew.  We did and invited him to dinner.  He was very excited about being on the boat, having a liter of MD and sharing time with us.  He has a degree in nutrition and is thinking of getting a degree in sports nutrition.   Celebration of the Saints or the Holy Ghost We have been giving several explanations for this week-long celebration that is unique to the Azores. The spread is bread, cheese, rice pudding and wine.  A large crown, bowl and scepter are on display at the host location. On this island, each year two families, one from each side of town, volunteer to host the celebration.  This year only one family volunteered.  To cover the costs, the family collects donations from the residents and with those donations purchases and/or makes the food and wine.  This is the second celebration for us and, as in the case on Faial,  we were warmly welcomed with everyone insisting that we have wine and food.  Though a bread, the sweet bread has a taste similar to pound cake and the wine was quite good and most likely home made. The final celebration is at the church with usually a child being crowned followed by a meal with a special vegetable soup.  Any money left over at the end of the week is donated to the church.    

This is one of Carol's pictures from the island of Tercera

The second day in Horta we took the ferry over to the island of Pico. Pico has a 7000ft mountain, with a 5k hike to get to the top.  How hard can a 5k hike be, we thought?  We got to the base of the hike, at about 2000ft, around 3pm.  Told the attendant we were planning to go all the way to the top.  No, we weren't, she said.  It takes 3 hours to go up, and four to come back.  Whoa.  Ok, so we decided to climb for a couple of hours and see where we got. Of course, all the while we were planning on going to the top. Those of you who know me who are reading this (crickets...) will not be surprised by this!  Of course we were going to the top. Those time estimates don't apply to us.  Anyway, we did get to the top. The hike was pretty much vertical climbing up volcanic rocks and scree, so not easy at all.  The trail was marked by 45 sign posts, and you basically got to one post, looked up to find the next, and walked to it. Sometimes the trail wasn't obvious.  At the top, it was beautiful!  When the clouds cleared, you could see forever!  At the top of the caldeira there was one further cone that was beckoning Duncan and me to climb, so of course we did!  I hope I can put one of his pictures up here too.

This is a picture from the top of Pico Mountain.

The first day in Horta we took the scooters up to the volcanic caldeira.  All the islands are volcanic.  Due to the really moderate 50-70deg average temperature, they are extremely lush and lend are ideal for dairy farms.  If I were a cow in the Azores, I would be in heaven. These cows often have entire fields for themselves!  The caldeira had a nice five mile hike around the rim of the crater, so it felt great to stretch our legs and do this hike. 

Bob, Duncan and I had a great few days in Horta and the neighboring island of Pico.  The first day there we rented scooters, only 20euro/day!  (Sorry, Anita, Courtney and Ana)  Duncan was a natural, but can you imagine Bob and I racing around on the scooters!  Especially with Bob's newly grown Old Man and the Sea beard.  Duncan has some great pictures, I hope he can send them to me to post. One of the cool things about Horta was the sidewalks.  All the sidewalks were designed with these white and grey stones, and every block would change whether the design was of a sailboat, a whale, waves, or just a cool pattern.

State building in Horta. I like the architecture.

This is a picture of Honu Kai with our logo in front. You can see how many there are, and some are 30 years old, or more!

This is Jill again!  I think it'll be luck of the draw as to who writes these blogs!  One of the traditions of sailboats arriving in Horta is to paint the boat name or logo on the pier.  Every flat surface of the piers or walls is covered by painted logos. Some of them are amazing works of art!  Others...well.. they are done with more love than artistic skill!  We tried as best we could to copy the great logo that Micah Hirokawa designed for us, and we're pretty happy with the result.

22May 2015 Leg 2: Bermuda to the Azores

Duncan, Bob and I (Jill) left Bermuda at 12:45 on Sunday, 10 May to sunny skies and good breeze.  We raised the sails when we got out of the harbor and almost immediately caught a yellowfin tuna!  Great size and Duncan sliced that baby up into steaks.  I had taken a precautionary Dramamine before we left and I was exhausted with no appetite all Sunday and Monday.  We’ve had pretty good breeze, sometimes 20 kts from the stern starboard quarter, and we’ve been doing 8-9kts for the last day or so.  The seas were pretty smooth, so Bob set my bike trainer up right on the bow and I’ve gotten in a couple of bike workouts in!  Crazy ways to stay in shape at sea.

Day 3 we woke to a morning weather report that a major low was to form on Thursday and that we needed to get south of 32N.  This was a bit of a detour to the south after working to the north around a High just east of Bermuda after our departure.  We had a few days to get south so started a gradual progression to the south while trying to still gain distance to the east.  The great circle route at this point is around 070 and we were heading 100.  That evening a sailboat showed up on AIS crossing ahead of us on a northerly direction.  We hailed them on VHF and chatted.  Boat name was SKYE and they had 6 people on board and had left from the carribean 5 day earlier.  I found this interesting as we were the 8th boat to leave Bermuda for Horta, Azores on Sunday the 10th.  We saw two boats for a few hours the first night and we have not seen any other boat since.  SKYE contacted us later in the afternoon as they had also just received a weather report of strong >30 kt winds from the forming low and that they were going to go south of 32N.  That evening we worked a little more aggressively to the south on course 120 as it looked like the winds going forward would not support sailing so aggressively to the south.  The following morning we downloaded an updated GRIB file and it looked to me that 33N was a good latitude to be.  We chatted with Chris Parker (our weather router) on HF SSB about trying to outrun the storm by running east.  At this point he did not think we would and that we should expect squalls of 40-50 kts Friday night into Saturday.  Well we headed due east and for the next three days we put in 180 days and by Thursday we had delayed when the storm would catch us to Sunday and by Friday it looked like we were going to be able to out run the bad weather.  We continued east with another 175 mile day and by Saturday night we successfully passed 44 E longitude which is where the models predicted the low would stall and we were the winners of the race!  We were all relieved as 40-50 kt winds would not have been fun especially since it was always predicted to hit us in the dark at night…  So Saturday night we plotted a rhumline to Horta – it was course of 079 and we were finally making direct progress to our destination.  In all I hope that the other 7 boats that left Bermuda are doing well.  The normal route to the Azores from Bermuda is to depart going north until you reach 38 deg North then turn east.  If any of the other boats followed this guidance blindly, then they have had a very rough go in the northern side of this pretty big low.   Other thing is Saturday night SKYE is back.  After they worked much further to the south that we did (they seem to be 1-2 kts faster) they are now working their way back north.  We had a CPA or less than 3 nmi.  They report that they have run out of cooking gas (bummer still a week from Azores) and that their fishing has been worse than ours (nothing caught) but they did see or almost hit a whale.  On the boat everything has been very wet the last few days.  Tight reaching with 5-6 ft chop. Lots of hull slap (bridge slap)  sleeping in the forward berths is an adventure.  We are finding all the leaks in hatches and windows.  Fixing them as we can, but some will have to wait until we are motor sailing in calmer winds closer to Horta or in the Azores.  We have been on a Starboard tack since leaving the harbor from Bermuda, so I should say we know all the leaks on the starboard side. All are very minor with the exception of the mushroom vent, which does not have a gasket and leaks like crazy when water comes over the deck (ok maybe a couple of table spoons but more than a small drip).    

 Jill has not enjoyed these choppy conditions the last few days.. She finally took a patch and 6 hours later was chowing down on burritos. Duncan on the night watch, had a Flying fish land in the cockpit next to him.  He thought that this was really cool.  We kept him and gutted him as I had read flying fish are tasty.  Over the next day we found 4 more flying fish, one in the dingy... we kept the freshest one, tried one as bait and the others we threw over as they quite stiff.

We had tuna for breakfast for 4 days... after that we had Flying fish and pancakes for breakfast.  Quite tasty but bony.

Awesome time we had dolphins playing on the bow.

Sunday 5/17  Middle of the day.  We have one of our first interactions with a merchant.  Looked like an Empty Italian tanker.  Initial CPA was 0.1nm (so yes you do need to maintain a watch in the middle of nowhere in the ocean)  So I’m fiddling with the DSC functions on the radio and trying to establish that we will stay north for a starboard to starboard passage when Bam – Fish on…. Awesome but not awesome as we have a tanker bearing down on us.  We are doing 8 kts and we need to head the boat up into the wind to slow it down, which would put us on a course to cross right in front of the bow of the tanker.  We furl the jib and start the engine and put some astern turns on to slow the boat down.  We debate dropping the main, but opt not to….  We then slowly worked the fish in waiting for the tanker to go by which seemed like an eternity.  Finally we get past the tanker, start to bring the fish close to the boat to land it…. And it hits our stern wake, shakes a little and he got away…..  Just a little frustrating.  So after this we got the fishing book out and read “how to land the fish”… there were 4 steps…. 1. Set the hook (nope), 2 reel him in with short strokes (nope – never took rod out of rod holder), slow down (nope we were stuck on a reach doing 5 knots until the tanker went by),  4… well We sorta failed to do any of them…. So we have learned and will get the next one.   This fish took a lot of line after it hit, so we are thinking Wahoo…. Or it was a tuna that we were just dragging along at 8 knts when we caught it.

Tuesday, 19May-This is Jill again.  We only have a couple/three more days until arrival!  The last four days have been really fun.  I definitely felt “subhuman” before I took the patch.  We have lost most of our wind over the last 24 hours, but we were expecting that from Chris Parker’s forecast.  Getting his forecast and recommendations have been so critical. There were some strong lows out there that would have put us in 50kts of wind.  Not so much fun!  So we stayed south, driving east out running the storm.  Bob bought the tracker/text device and it’s been wonderful for all of us to be able to keep contact with folks at home.  We’ve also been having fun chatting and trading weather predictions with another sailboat, SKYE.  Looking forward to meeting up with them in Horta and actually meeting them face to face.

Thursday, 21 May, less than 24hours to go!  The wind has really dropped the last day or so, which we were expecting.  So we’ve been doing some “motor sailing”, which means sailing with a boost from the motor.  Haven’t caught another fish yet but Duncan and Bob are diligently trying.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the Azores.  There is a tradition that all arriving sailors go to specific bar and meet up, so we’ll do that.  Also there is apparently a wall where everyone paints their boat’s name for good luck.  So we will certainly do that, although none of the three of us are artists!  Unless Duncan  is a surprise artist because Bob and I are the worst at art. We did see one Whale it surfaced right next to us twice and we think it was a fin whale, though sperm whales are prevalent in the Azores.

Friday, 22 May.  After going slow for the last two days to time a morning arrival in Horta... we were moored at 0715.  And we had a big breakfast waiting for Customs and Immigration to open.

07 May-10 May 2015  Inport St. George's Harbor, Bermuda
We arrived as planned at 0800 on Thursday 07May.  After clearing Customs and Immigration we met Sandra who helped us with local logistics.  Refueled (ouch!) and then headed to the St George's Sports and Dingy Club (STGSDC) where we moored for the three nights.  Ana Robinson (Duncan's Wife), Courtney Robinson Schick and Anita Robinson (Dane's Wife) all arrived at the Bermuda Airport and the fun began. 
Thursday we provisioned and did some touring of St. George and had a big dinner on the boat capped off with a epic game of Settlers of Catan (which the Captain paired up with Courtney were victorious - mostly due to Courtney's astute play). 
Friday AM was a grand tour of the island.  First stop was Hamilton via bus where a friend of Duncan and Courtney (Jinny) hosted us for dark and stormys (or is it Stormee?) and lunch.  Then Ferry and 1/2 (the first one broke down) to the Dock Yard that was ghost town due to both cruise ships leaving port while we were there.  We stopped by the Oracle Base (this is the team that won the last Americas Cup) where they are setting up camp and getting ready to defend the Cup.  Thanks to Taylor Robinson (sister) who happened to babysit one of the team members (Rome) while training in Australia during her Olympic Campaign.
We took the bus all the way back to St. George and had dinner at the STGSDC.
Saturday started with some boat maintenance with Duncan going up the mast to fix the forward mast head light and replacing a halyard. Courtney was on a mission to get pink sand and so after it was a beach day for everyone but me (Bob) as I stayed at the boat to pay bills and pick Jill up from the airport. 
Sunday is final reprovisioning, top off fuel and water and underway planned for 1200.  A big high is forming just east of Bermuda so day one will take us north until we reach 34 or so latitude and hopefully more wind than we saw getting to Bermuda...

02May-07May15 Leg 1 of the Atlantic Crossing

We left Southport North Carolina at 9:00 am on May 2nd.  Had a nice send off by Jill’s parents, Tish and Roger Dintaman, with clear skies and a forecast of 15-20 knots of wind, we had 3 great days of sailing ahead of us.  We had Bob, Dane Robinson and our cousin Duncan Robinson on board and motored out the mouth of  the Cape Fear river.  Around 10:00 we turned the corner of the harbor and prepared to set sail, waiting for the wind to fill.  Unfortunately the wind didn’t fill day 1 and we had to motor all day.  .  It was a beautiful sunny day with temps in the mid 70’s and was time to break out the fishing tackle.

Bob was able to find a great offshore rod and reel prior to leaving, along with every type of tackle we could need.  Duncan took to the task of getting the lure on the rod and into the water.  We had the bait about 1 boat length behind the boat and went back to looking for wind.   About 2 or 3 hours later, we had our first strike.  Duncan and Bob figured out where to sit and reeled in a 15-20 pound Tuna.  Duncan took out the gaff and pulled the tuna on board, followed by a what do we do now.  Unlike a commercial fishing charter, we lacked the necessary tools to kill the fish and had to improvise.  Luckily Caleb’s baseball bat was on board and Bob was able to subdue the fish.   Fish was then filleted and marinated for Monday’s Dinner. Duncan and Dane were woken up on Tuesday morning to big rollers, as we had made it to the Gulf Stream on Saturday night.  We went to bed on Satruday in jackets and long pants, but quickly realized the temperature had changed.  The water temperature had jumped to 81 degrees and became much warmer.  The wind had also picked-up enough to set sail through the 5-6 foot waves.  We enjoyed a nice day of sailing, with winds out of the Northwest at 15-18 knots.  We made up some time from day 1, doing around 7 -7.5 knots with the Gulf Stream pushing us along at another 1-2 knots.  .  We also continued the task of catching fish, to sustain Duncan’s daily food intake.  We hooked up with our second Tuna, and Duncan proceeded to reel him in.  Unfortunately we were not able to land the second fish.  Weather wise, we had another day of clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid 70’s. Unfortunately the weather pattern predictions did not hold up and we were back to Motoring or motor sailing for the next 3 days.  We continued to have clear blue skies during the day and clear nights with a full-moon to guide us along at night.  We saw Flying fish through the day and a pod of dophins followed us for about 20 minutes.  We also spotted a whale off our port bow one morning.  The last bit of excitement came on Tuesday afternoon.  We hadn’t had any bites for the past couple of days, but Duncan decided to change the lure and try a different approach.  Duncan set the hook and a Blue Marlin jumped out of the water. It was bigger than what Bob wanted anywhere near the boat and after a 20 min fight, including getting the fishing line wrapped around the rudder, the Blue Marline spooked and made another run for it, and broke off.  Bob was happy.
We sighted Bermuda early the morning of the 7th and entered port at 0800.

30 Mar - 03 Apr 2015   Spring Break:  Dad, Leslie and Oliver took the boat down the ICW to Barefoot Resort Marina.  Over a 7 hour trip using both motors the full way.  Seemed that we were going against an adverse current the full way down.  Great week.  Lots of beach, more beach, and a little bit of shopping.  Beach was a little over 1 mile from the marina and Dad Biked, kids scootered to the beach each day.  Temps were in the 80's, though the water was bit cold (kids did not mind).  Rodney and Isabelle Yerger and their two daughters joined us on Thursday.  Everyone went for a short boat ride down the ICW, before we turned around and dropped all the girls off; Rodney and Oliver joined me for the trip back to Harbor South Village Marina.  We made it back in about 6 hours due to getting favorable current almost the full trip and that included waiting on both bridges due to just missing an opening (need to clear traffic) and for another boat to catch up.  Did not enjoy the "rock pile" part of the ICW either direction.  Bumped something on the way south.

New Years 2014-2015:  Due to tax laws in North Carolina, Jill and I decided to take the boat south to South Carolina for a few days and spend some time without the kids!  Boat trip was approx 5 hrs south down the ICW.  This was our first time in the ICW, and I think we would both prefer to be out in the open ocean, sailing!  New Years eve, as usual, we went to bed early. On New Years day we went biking down into the Myrtle Beach area and discovered the Barefoot Resort Marina. (made plans to take kids here for Spring Break) We had dinner New Years day at the local steak house.  We left early at first light on the 2nd with a favorable ebb and were back at our face dock the Harbor South Village Marina by 1145 and home in Maryland by 7:30.

07-09 Nov Jill and Bob trip to Southport NC from Hampton VA:  Weather off Hatteras delayed our trip south a couple of weeks and it was worth the wait (though we lost the help of Sean O'Connor).  Vice 55kts off the east coast, we had a nice downwind sail over 24 hrs until approximately Cape Hatteras, then we motored for approx 24 hours, arriving in Southport NC early the second morning.  Jill's Parents met us at the dock and we were headed back home before noon.   Highlight of the trip was about 40 dolphins swimming with us for a good 30 min.  The pod included two mother's with baby dolphins and it was fun watching the little ones swim and then roll over to feed, all while staying on the bow wake.

10-12 Oct 2014  Started trip south.  Plan to winter in Southport NC.   My brother Dane and Dad joined me for a father sons weekend.  Weather started out with a front passing.  Rain and good 25kt winds from the NE.  Rain stopped by noon and we had excellent down wind reaching for two days.  We anchored off Point Look out at the entrance of the Potomac after 60 or so mile on the first day, and complete the trip to Hampton, VA, mooring at the Hampton YC and met Gary Bodie (old USNA Sailing Coach) for dinner on Sunday evening.

Return to Summit North via Long Island Sound, Stop in NYC.

Land Ho - Block Island sighted at Day Break15-20 August - After getting more familiar with the boat and loading it out while living aboard for two weeks while the kids all attended sailing school at the West River Sailing Club (WRSC), we headed out for our shakedown cruise to Block Island.  Grandma Robinson and Aunt Penelope joined us for the offshore sail to Block Island.    We left WRSC, in Galesville, MD Friday morning and headed up to our home marina, Summit North, on the C&D canal.  Jill met us there so we would have a car at the end of the trip and we were off with a favorable tide early Saturday Morning, up the C&D and down the Delaware River.  The trip was pretty uneventful, and we arrived in the Salt Pond Monday Morning (picture is the sun rising over block island in the distance) as all the weekend visitors headed home.  We lucked out and got a mooring bouy and we were ashore to the beach for showers after a nice breakfast!  Highlights of Block island was a family bike ride around the island and a visit to the beach below the Mohegan Bluffs.

24 May 2014 - First real underway - got the boat all dewinterized and invited Rob and Andi Overton to help us with our first real sail.  We all slept on the boat the night before such that we could leave at first light to take advantage of the ebb tide in the C&D canal and down the Chesapeake Bay.  We moved the boat from Summit North to Pleasure Cove Marina to get it hauled for some repairs.  Winds were excellent out of the NW and we sailed the majority of the way down.  Thanks to Rob and Andi as they helped us to learn more about our boat during the trip. 

Dec 21  2013 - Our first underway:  We tried moving our boat from one dock to another at Summit North Marina.  Well we learned that this boat can not be man handled at the dock the same as the Navy 44's we learned to sail at the Naval Academy, nor does it like to dock with a strong cross breeze blowing us off the dock.  We were definitely some entertainment for a few watching from the hill above....  In the end Leslie summed it up best when she said "at least no one got hurt"....  probably not the best intro to the boat for the kids.

December 2, 2013 - Boat Purchase:  
Well after 2 years of searching, a few boat surveys, learning all about boat financing and insurance - we finally have taken the plunge and taken a big step toward our year+ trip sailing.  The boat is at Summit North Marina on the C&D canal and our first order of business is winterize it.....  who's great plan was it to buy a boat just in time for the winter : )  As the seller walked away after handing me the "keys" it started snowing.  Here is a picture of that day.

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