I Love Other Peoples Vacations – Dingle

I Love Other Peoples Vacations – Dingle!!

The challenge of “living” on vacation, – as it could be said that we do, is the difficulty in maintaining balance. At first it really is a vacation but soon one discovers that sampling ice cream and pasty at every shop as one tends to do on vacation is not sustainable. Additionally there are other considerations such as paying bills, buying groceries and preparing meals of course but on our boat we have the very real and added responsibility of home schooling. While some cruisers are maintaining a work schedule and certainly that is more difficult than what we are doing, we have to maintain a consistent discipline if we are to keep from gaining 20 lbs or failing to prepare Jack for his future. As we work to maintain some semblance of a schedule (exercise most days, no dessert unless the weekend, school everyday from 8:30-12:00) when friends come to town, the whole thing goes straight out the window! Such was the case last week with Janie’s visit. And with her visit came the very full week that follows.

Before I get to it, I have to give a giant shout out to Dermott O’Sullivan, owner of O’Sullivans pub in Crookhaven, Ireland. While traveling between Kinsale and Dingle we decided at rather the last minute to anchor out in Crookhaven. I had read that Mizen head is a stop not to be missed and a recommendation by Tina Jones (Ocean Pearl) together with a quick calculation of time/speed/distance and we learned that it really was convenient. Upon arrival we took the dinghy into town (with winds blowing 20-30 knots and outside temperature about 55 and water temp. 60) to check it out . It was adorable and tiny! Year round occupancy at 45 people and containing exactly 2 pubs and 1 small store, we thought that the entire town must be in O’Sullivans. The menu was very simple with basic sandwiches and soup. There was 1 hot entree offered, roasted vegetable quiche sort of thing which was delicious and Jack and Alec were both very happy with their choices. At the conclusion of our meal, Alec asked the gentlemen attending to us how one might go about getting a car or taxi to Mizen head. Dermott chuckled saying “there are no cars or taxis Mate – we have 45 residents who live here. Take my car, It’s summer and I ride my bike everywhere!” So the next morning, we arrived ready for whatever the day may bring -and Dermott was right there, keys in hand, with instructions not to miss 3 Castles which is at the tip of the next peninsula beyond Mizen head. He again assured us that he wouldn’t need the car all day and “Have fun”. Preparing to back out of the space Alec looked back and discovered that Dermott’s dog was still back there- not in the back seat but the hatch area. After a very long laugh, I returned to the pub to ask Dermott if he wanted us to walk his dog? We all had a good laugh and a very apologetic Dermott asked his loving companion’s forgiveness and we were off. We really did love our day spent in Crookhaven. The visit to Mizen head was as interesting as it was reported to be and 3 Castles was great also. We discovered also that Crookhaven is the site of the first Marconi radio transmission from Europe to North America so there was a lovely opportunity at education as well. All of this wouldn’t have happened without the once again kindness of strangers. Those of you who read the blog last summer will remember that on at least 2 occasions someone had just handed us the keys to their car. We have been offered meals, directions, cars, cocktails, and incredibly generous and constant gestures of kindness. Not a day passes that we don’t feel in some way the beneficiary of this amazing benevolent kindness that seems to follow us. We said “so long” to Dermott and his girlfriend and enjoyed another meal at O’Sullivans and we were on our way. I have a little locker on board which houses small gifts for just this purpose. We arrived a gift in hand and we would have filled up the gas tank had we seen one. Some Euros left behind in the ash tray served this purpose and was a simple and nice way to say thank you. I also had some simple notecards with our boat name made up before we left. Im always grateful to be able to reach in and grab these ready to go gifts and notecards.

Following in the gentle wake left behind by other cruisers is perhaps the nicest aspect of this type of travel and Jennifer and James Hamilton and Braun and Tina Jones have clearly left behind wonderful impressions. Since we have arrived only a month ago, we have been approached by 2 different people who met the Hamiltons 2 years ago when they passed through. The tone of the meetings indicates the wake they left behind and new friends who want to offer every help and consideration. Last year we followed in the Ocean Pearl steps and received every courtesy due to their connection. It is a conscious effort and indeed a pleasure to be sure that we are the same stewards of this good will. Arriving in Dingle involved making new friends including Nole, grandfather to 16 children and 5 grown adult children, he has a boat in the same marina Gratitude spent her time. Nole not only took us step by step through the stops going forward but he also took us on a 3 hour narrated ride through Slea Head route showing us more than we could have ever dreamed from even the most experienced tour guide. Refusing all offers to join us for dinner, we were only able to share a small gift for his kindness as well.

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Ok so back to Janie! Before she got here it rained, rained rained. Not a bad thing since we like to clean and organize and do as much as possible so that when company arrives we can play play play. Well the moment she boarded a plane in Orlando, our skies here in Dingle cleared and it was sunny the whole time she was here. The greatest concern that I had was the trip to Skellig Michael which is highly dependent on calm weather. The previous week involved the cancellation of all tours for at least 3 days due to the precarious landing site and open ocean crossing to get to the island. The poor souls who had booked tickets several months ago are simply refunded the money and out of luck for visiting Skellig. In fact, several weeks ago I started trying to get a ticket for Janie to join us but no luck – she was able to get on a boat to see the island but she couldn’t get a landing ticket 😦 This is the good and the bad news for this incredible place. Speaking personally, its only good news. The very wise powers that be in Ireland limit the number of visitors by permit. On any one day no more than 180 humans may land on the island. On average, weather prohibits the landing of boats 2X per week so this further limits the impact. There are roughly 10,000 nesting Puffins who are in residence between the months of April and July. At any time now, they will all take flight and go to Canada until they return here to the EXACT same nest next April. They don’t nest in cliffs as many other sea bird species but rather they burrow in land, so humans could inadvertently step on a nest if they were to wander from the path. Further, a low weight baby Puffin would be unable to make the trip to Canada when the group leaves. This is such a fragile and important spot that it has been designated a UNESCO Heritage site. It is one of the most amazing sites I have ever experienced and if I had a larger readership I would probably omit talking about it at all for fear of any further exposure. By comparison, when I visited Machu Picchu in the mid 1990’s there were roughly 200,000 visitors per year. In 2013 there were 1.2 million tourists. There was a 700% increase in the annual number of visitors between 1980-2013 (according to machupicchutrek.net) If one has been there, you know how fragile and precious this sacred place is. My feeling then during that Machu Picchu trip was exactly the same as my feeling last week visiting Skellig Michael. Sacred is not too strong a word. Leaving by boat and making a slow trip around Little Skellig (pictured below with a lot of white – both birds and guano) and after having witnessed this amazing place, I was moved to tears in the same way I am moved by music or great art. It was as though I was in the presence of the most holy and divine here on earth. I was touched and moved very deeply. What a gift being able to see this place was. The only birds on Little Skellig are Gannets. Little Skellig plays host to a colony of over 70,000 of the species, the 2nd largest colony in the world. The Gannets will stay until the beginning of September when they will return to North Africa for the winter.


So what makes this so special apart from the ecological standpoint is that this was previously a home and monastery for Christian monks between 600 AD and 800 AD. The monks typically arose with the sun and spent their days building these magnificent beehive like structures in which they lived, worshipped and ate and are still standing today nearly 1400 years later. These monks suffered at the hands of vikings as well as a very difficult life of self sacrifice and later eventually left the island to live amongst their orders on the mainland. There are 2 lighthouses which have been in service with a keeper until I think the 1930’s but now they are automatic electric and the island is now in service to education and the tours that are operated in which we participated.

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Clearly that was the highlight of the week but other fantastic experiences for all of us included: A trip to Kingdom Falconry here in Dingle. In residence are multiple Owls, Falcons and Eagles.

We spent a day in Tralee, the capital city of Kerry County and we spent a day riding bikes at Killarney state park where we saw deer and a Franciscan Friary from the 16th century.

I love this quote!!!
And finally we enjoyed several talks, meals and experiences with a dear dear friend who came to spend her time off with us. Thank you Janie xo It was so wonderful spending time together. We love you.
So…. whats next. Well, I hate to say it but all of this fun has left us bereft of time… again. We have decided that though we had planned to visit Scotland and even traverse the Caledonia Canal, it is all going to have to wait. We have more friends joining us in London on the first week of September (can’t wait to see you Tracy and Jennifer!) and with tickets bought and reservations made, we just have to admit defeat and head in that direction. Leaving at the next weather window opening will hopefully get us close enough to make it without rushing and also allow us to enjoy (weather permitting) the Scilly Islands and some of the Southern English coast that we were thinking we might have to rush past on our way South. One of these days Im going to get the hang of this cruising thing 🙂 I just get to a place and find it so lovely it is hard to imagine liking any place more! The reservation awaiting us in London is at St. Katharines Dock located in the heart of London right at the Tower of London on the Thames. It simply doesn’t get any better than this! Thank you Braun and Tina for prodding us into making this reservation way back when! We can’t wait and we have been reading up on what to do for the month we are in residence! We have tickets in hand to see Hamilton at the Victoria Palace Theatre (for the girls coming to celebrate my birthday) and plan to purchase tickets for the Lion King to bring Jack. Other than that, Im open to suggestions!!!!

Thanks for reading and sending lots of love

xo
Laurie

Hitting the Trail – Leaving Kinsale, IR

Hitting the Trail – Leaving Kinsale
Kinsale was the perfect landfall locale and counterpoint to 3 weeks in the Azores and nearly another full week underway. All of us loved the Azores but honestly felt like the food was a little less than our perfect. Kinsale offered restaurants and provisions that no foodie on the planet would turn up their nose to. Ireland, famous for their butter (and all of the yummy things one makes with butter) and meats as well as seafood and fruits and veggies with everything in perfect season as we arrived in early July, made any weight lost on the passage across the Atlantic quickly found in the first week here. Below are some pictures of the English Market in Cork. This was the absolute coolest place for someone who loves food as much as I do – I was in heaven. I couldn’t decide what to prepare first and poor Alec was laden with packages on the 40 minute bus ride and 15 minute walk home.

 

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The gracious reception at the Kinsale Yacht Club was so very much appreciated. To a one, the members and employees treated us as friends and it was such a lovely spot to relax and rejuvenate. Located right in the heart of Kinsale, it is a short walk to countless pubs, shops, restaurants and transportation. Below is Richard, the dock master who was helpful and friendly and we are enjoying a pint at the Yacht Club. If you plan to come this way, there is no better place to stop. paul@kyc.ie For Paul Murphy who can arrange dockage.

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Other highlights of the time here and of importance to anyone following in our wake – As I mentioned in the earlier post, Customs was a breeze – so much so that when I offered them the “cat” paperwork, the official said “Oh we don’t worry with that…”. Hmmm. Not long after that I asked a local vet if we could get a pet passport and his reply “Oh if they are indoor cats and not really going ashore you don’t need one”. It was tempting to let it go at that but after a few emails back and forth with Jennifer Hamilton (Dirona) she got me thinking. So I called and emailed the contact that Jennifer had and while we should have contacted Ireland Agriculture within 5 days PRIOR TO our arrival AND they should have been inspected upon arrival, they arranged (and very pleasantly I must add) to have them inspected anyway (nearly 2 weeks after our landfall) the following day. Below is the picture of the inspector who arrived, inspected the cats’ chip to confirm identity and inspected and stamped the paperwork, enjoyed a cup of coffee and some fun conversation and he was gone. We now have 4 months to obtain their passport for free movement around the EU which we will need to do here in Ireland or Scotland at the very latest. Doing it in England could risk invalidating the paperwork if they Break out of the EU (Brexit). This is crucial actually. In Sweden and Finland (at least) they would not be allowed in even on the boat without it – which I didn’t know but Jennifer shared with me. Both of these destinations are on the plans for next summer. Additionally, if the cats get sick and need to go to the vet, or if we all needed/wanted to travel back to the states, they need the passport. If you have animals that you plan to cross with – email me and Ill share the info that I have learned along the way. Despite the hours of research I spent on this – I learned so much more “doing it”. Thanks Jennifer for continuing to be a source of both inspiration and information!!!!

Other “housekeeping” items tended to during these 2 weeks included getting fuel. The crossing by the numbers –

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Atlantic crossing by the numbers (Stuart FL- Bermuda, Bermuda- Horta, Azores, Horta-Kinsale, Ireland)
Engine hours: 517 hours
Fuel consumed: 3350 (Engine Only)
Fuel consumed Generator: 500 est. With constant use
Nautical Miles Traveled: 3968

Roughly 360 meals were served out of our incredibly efficient galley on the 22 days at sea.
On the homeschooling front we have made some progress and continue to learn more and more everyday. Sometimes, as in most things, it feels like 2 steps forward, 1 step back. For us, when I look at the past month since Jack came aboard, I have seen a really big change in just this short time. When he arrived, he spent hours talking about Minecraft (something we know absolutely nothing about). So – interesting thing here- Jack isn’t allowed video games – at all. He played Minecraft with a school friend on the school bus going to a field trip several months ago. Most of his friends play Minecraft and so in an effort to be a part of the conversation at school, Jack, being the incredibly resourceful person that he is, has bought tons of books (many with his own money) to learn about Minecraft. Now keep in mind – this is a fictional VIDEO GAME. Crazy! But it has it’s own vernacular and rules and intricacies that Jack really wanted to be able to share with his friends. So he showed up and spent an entire evening talking non-stop about MINECRAFT. Alec and I were freaked!!! What the heck has happened to our child? So part of what we are managing with this homeschooling thing is just changing the conversation from what he is comfortable with (Minecraft with his friends) to Ancient Greek history with us. Funny right? Actually what I believe and hope and pray is that by doing this, we will all start learning about something of value that we can all share and talk about. But the crucial element that Im learning here is that Rome wasn’t built… ya you get it. This is just going to take time and now that we have a month behind us, I can see a difference. After talking about Ancient Greece and listening to pentatonic Greek music yesterday as part of his home schooling, Jack spent the next hour building Greek God legos on his own play time. Progress… and a little dividend. Thank you God!!!

Next stop – Crookhaven!!! We are underway as I type this. Crookhaven wasn’t even on our short list a week ago when we were plotting and planning the next stop – and then I got an email from Gratitude’s former Mom and Dad, Braun and Tina Jones. They could not have said enough about it and Alec and I remembered reading their blog also. We looked into it and in fact Crookhaven is the perfect spot – distance wise – and in terms of things that we wanted to see. Crookhaven it is! I love the generosity with which information is shared by other cruisers and the blogs are such a great way of sharing it with more and more travelers.

2 weeks in Kinsale:
The Storm Plates were taken down and windows washed: YAH!!!!!!!

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Irish Trad dancing and music

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The Charles Fort

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The James Fort

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Cannonball Race

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Best Dinner in Brunos

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The Crossing is COMPLETE!!!

Im paraphrasing a friend who posted on Instagram yesterday that he could remember the time when he doubted his abilities – doubted his dream of becoming an orthopedic surgeon. He went on to say that essentially the antidote to that doubt was to do “one small thing” in pursuit of the dream. What a powerful thing that was to hear because as I sit here in Ireland living the result of this huge dream that no one could argue was the result of Alec and I continuously and daily putting one foot in front of the other in pursuit of the dream – and sometimes “doing one small thing” was as simple as reading the blog of someone out there doing it – I am overcome with doubt that I have the will, the knowledge or the ability to home school our child. A new dream, a new goal, a new challenge.

Also yesterday I read that to become basically proficient (not fluent) in Portuguese all we must do is spend 15 minutes per day for the next 80 days. One small thing – but over the course of 80 days, we should be able to order dinner when we arrive in Portugal and get directions to the shop that sells 9V batteries – and I will have taken one more small step towards achieving a dream of having an educated home schooled child. I have read a few more chapters in Charlotte Mason’s bible of homeschooling and bought a few more “quality books” to arm ourselves with at least a few more tools and Ill finish just one more short 15 minute class on Portuguese after I finish this blog. One more small thing… so now you know what is weighing on me most this week…

But back to Ireland! We arrived just 1 week ago after a perfect and uneventful 6 1/2 day passage from the Azores. We left with marginal seas but the trade off was marginal seas initially with a longer period of predictable weather on the other side. This is a trade off I choose routinely. Safe but uncomfortable ALWAYS trumps the unknown. We love having the professional services of the weather router. I really thought that once we got better at predicting our own weather we would do so but to be honest, this is likely to go into the budget as a line item for any passage involving more than a couple of days. The truth is that while we are decent at looking at weather and interpreting what will happen next, we aren’t professionals and this is something that we really need to get right. We availed ourselves of this service the entire crossing and Commanders Weather did a magnificent job literally giving us coordinates to navigate to which would thread a needle between 2 areas of low pressure. We could simply not have done this on our own in the mid-Atlantic and we wouldn’t really have wanted to try. We were at sea for 23 days and in that time we only encountered less than PERFECT sea state for probably 4 days. It was for that reason that when Commanders Weather suggested another week in the Azores, we didn’t think twice about it. There were several boats leaving for Europe that day but we opted to wait another week and we didn’t regret it. Such is life when you are retired and on no schedule anyway right? Especially with Jack aboard. Speaking of Jack, we had been told by a few people that we should get some Stergeron for sea sickness now that we were outside the US. Most of us had been using the Scopolamine patch and had been enjoying good enough results but Jack can’t take it as it isn’t prescribed for minors. We got the Stergeron and cut it in 1/2 for Jack. We left the Azores and all of us felt crummy once we passed the lee of the islands. The Azores are made up of 9 islands – Horta is a part of a grouping of 5 islands and they all seemed to provide nice seas until we got around the last of them and started making a path for Ireland. Then the ride deteriorated over the next 12 hours. Jack had the Stergeron and did magnificently – no sea sickness whatsoever and he had no side effects at all. Poor Sally – ironclad tummy that she has, got sick. I felt lousy even with the patch – so did Alec and Michael. Several days later after being advised by Commanders to expect a worsening sea state (6-8 foot seas with 4-6 seconds) we all took the Stergeron and we all felt fine in the worsening sea conditions all with NO side effect. If you are outside the US and you can get some – Stergeron is the bomb!!!!

50 days after leaving Stuart, FL, we arrived in Kinsale Ireland. While underway, we celebrated Jack’s 9th b-day (4 July).

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Also on that day we had a record number of whale sightings – no less than 14 with a large whale doing a dive just to port and another whale LITERALLY going under our bow! She came from the Starboard side, went under the bow and came out the port side mid-ships. We had hundreds of dolphins come to visit us and we have tons of footage.

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If I can get a youtube video up I will do so because not only are the dolphins jumping and playing in the Gratitude bow wake, they are squeaking and talking so much it was extraordinary! On this leg we had only Sally, Michael, Laurie, Alec and Jack so we all had more watches than before. Sally and Michael were an incredible help to us keeping 2 full watches per day per person and Sally fixing dinner while I was on watch – again, the pre-cooked meals are absolutely the way to go here!!! With only 4 of us on a watch we needed more hands on deck but we worked incredibly well together.

Arriving in Ireland – to say that it was an amazing feeling just wouldn’t do it justice. You can all pretty much imagine what this was like. Following the stunning Southern Coast of Ireland we were escorted the entire way by dolphins. Hours and hours of dolphins… Then…

We were hailed by the Irish Navy:

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And then we were hailed by the Customs and Border Patrol. The customs folk boarded us as we were headed to the dock and had all of the required paperwork completed before we even had the lines on the dock! The easiest clearing ever in the history!!! This was particularly helpful as Sally and Michael had a booked flights out in 4 days so they wanted to hit the ground running to see as much of Ireland as possible. So it was with mixed feelings we said so long to our wonderful and amazing crew who were with us from the first – Sally and Michael Hastings. You guys were amazing and wonderful and the list goes on and on… We are so incredibly grateful to you for accompanying us on this adventure. It isn’t everyone who could live with us for 50 days in 64 feet of space but you guys did it with patience and tolerance and we so very much appreciate you both.

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So 1 week ago we landed in Kinsale, Ireland and in that week (after doing 1,000 loads of laundry and answering a million emails) we got caught up on boat chores, we have tried out 1/2 of the bakery’s in town with several more to go. We have walked to James Fort built in 1602 and Charles Fort built in 1678 – both very cool destinations a short walk from Kinsale but across the harbor from each other. Yesterday we took the bus (1 hour away) to Cork and did the city tour there. Kinsale, Ireland is a charming town filled with little shops, restaurants and pubs. There are lovely flower boxes and wild flowers everywhere. Dripping in charm. Cork is a little like New York City. It has lots of shopping and great restaurants but a little too “big city” for our taste. Happy to get back to Kinsale, we are making our plan for our Northern trek. The plan is to find the right weather for our Western passage along the South coast of Ireland from County Cork to Country Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula. Im sure we will stop along the way but Im not sure if it will be Lawrence Cove, Baltimore or or further North. The weather will play a huge part in this – its not called the “WILD ATLANTIC WAY’ for nothing. We are going to make our way North on the Western Coast following the famed Wild Atlantic Way but not certain which stops we will make.

We have a reservation (made several months ago and the first one available) to go out to Skellig Michael. This is a spot of amazing sea bird migration and may include puffins – the tour books say until early August. The huge claim to fame recently is that it is the site of the filming of The Last Jedi and it is a UNESCO heritage site but it has become so popular reservations are nearly impossible to get and the only reason we have them is that Jennifer Hamilton on Dirona suggested we do this several months ago. The Dirona blog is one that we follow and is a tremendous source of information and Jennifer has been incredibly generous sharing her wealth of knowledge with us. But back to Skellig Michael, There are 2 islands, Skellig Michael and Little Skellig the later which is mostly impossible to board. The history of the Skellig islands dates back as far as the early pre-Celtic tribe in 1400 BC but more “recent” history dates with the occupation of Skellig Michael by early Christian monks in the 600-800 centuries. There were numerous Viking raids on the monestaries yet many of the bee hive like structures remain. There are some 700 stone steps to climb to the top to view the monasteries – we haven been hoping that it isn’t too much for Jack. Mostly though we are excited to view the seabirds who make Skellig this honeymoon haven of choice (the nesting seabirds who visit only to hatch eggs) include Puffins, Guillemots, Razorbills, Fulmars and Kittiwakes and only stay until their chics are 6 weeks old at which point they must fend for themselves – the entire group of birds then flock back to sea as if by unanimous decision. It is our fervent hope that they are still there when our tickets allow us to go – July 30th. Due to the fragility of this site, the number of visitors is carefully controlled and due to the difficulty in approaching – any weather at all makes this impassable roughly 2X per week. Pitty the pour souls who tickets in hand get cancelled at the last moment with no chance of seeing the islands on their visit. Long story short, the Skelligs are on the South West coast so we will likely have to drive here or take the bus or train since waiting here until the 30th with cause the loss of so many other sites.. I hope that we will be approaching Scotland nearing the beginning of next month.

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Well, thats all for now. Thanks again to Sally, Michael, James, Bernie, Elizabeth and Janie who all helped us so much in the realization of this magnificent adventure. You guys are the best! and we love you tons!!!

 

The Azores

Memories from the Azores

As I sit here trying to recall the memories of our stay thus far, I am struggling to remember the day that we arrived – actually, Im struggling to remember what day it is today, and this has been the case since we left. It almost feels as though the calendar has, for us, fallen away and with it, all of the items on it. From the “to do” list of items left on the complete by dates to the wonderful activities that we write there designed to enhance our lives but in actuality mostly result in yet one more item on the list and the attendant several things that accompany it. A perfect example of this is Father’s day. I had dutifully purchased most of the cards for most of the events that we knew were coming up and for which we would need presents. Some of these include Jack’s birthday (4th July) and Christmas – these of course, were the most important gifts to be purchased. There was also Alec’s birthday which occurred on the Florida-Bermuda leg. But while I had purchased a card for Father’s day, I had forgotten a gift. I was vaguely aware that Father’s day was approaching and I had it in my mind that I needed to prepare for it but I had totally and completely forgotten that it was Sunday much less Father’s day the day that it occurred. Such is life on the boat (Sorry Alec). But the really wonderful thing is that for me at least, it was the most wonderful Father’s day ever and if it was Mother’s Day, it would have been the most wonderful of that too. Recognizing that it was Father’s day, we let the Dads on board (Michael is still here) choose the movie. We let them have first dibs on dessert. We had a wonderful meal and thanked God for their presence in our lives and Alec, Jack and I spent hours playing monopoly on the salon floor. We were together, We were grateful, and we celebrated a very wonderful day together of family.

We had another equally jarring realization yesterday when Jack, talking with a new friend, discussed his age. He said he was 8. His new friend (9) commented that he seemed like he was 9. Jack replied “Thanks”. As I overheard this exchange, it dawned on me that in fact, Jack was nearly 9 and would be so in 2 weeks. It sort of shocked me that all of this time passed without me even being vaguely aware. In the airline business the passage of time was very much marked by “bid sheets”. The schedules that we would bid for and which dictated most of what would rule our lives for the next month. Im sure that most businesses have a similar predictability and order to the passage of time. After we retired, we “fell into” a new ordered schedule – that of the school and church calendar with the attendant dates to be scheduled including the numerous birthdays, holidays and celebrations. It is odd to me so soon after we left (only 1 month now) that these “hard and fast dates” on the calendar have become so quickly superfluous.

But back to our time here. For starters, we are extending our visit here as the weather doesn’t look suitable (to our comfort anyway) for the next week or so headed North. When we arrived and before Jack and Janie got here, Elizabeth had hoped to climb Mt. Pico. Sounded good to me! Lets go! So before Jack and Janie got here, we took the dinghy over to Pico and had a hike. HA! So we thought! So this trip highlighted 2 very large shortcomings of mine. 1) Im not a great researcher. Im more of a jump in and figure it out kinda person. 2) When a challenge is dropped in my lap, I lack the forethought to do the aforementioned research and I lack the prudence to drop out. So there we were, at about 5K feet with 3K feet to go to the top when Alec, Michael and Sally, having none of my issues with dropping out, bagged it. If I have issues with completing tasks I set out to complete, Elizabeth has issues with being a “spoil sport”. A perfect storm:-) To say that this was a harrowing climb would be an understatement. We took 3 hours to complete the climb to the top and another 4 hours to come down. During that time and for the final 30 minutes, it was a scramble over rocks with us clutching the side of the mountain wondering whose idea was this anyway and would I end up on one of those stretchers carried off the mountain. We each fell no less than 12 times and we were so delirious we were laughing though nearly all of it. A taxi returned to take us back down to the marina (Alec, Sally and Michael had enjoyed a lovely lunch and day in town waiting for us) and we came back and soaked our feet in the 65 degree water off the swim platform of Gratitude. Our bodies felt very battered and bruised but our spirits could not have been higher having accomplished the climb.

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Other highlights of Pico are for one, the vineyards. A UNESCO heritage site, the acres of vineyards are the result of volcanic rock being piled into little plots. The rocks needed to be cleared anyway but they serve the important purpose of protecting the precious vines from the wind and cold.

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We continue to enjoy the good fortune of arriving in towns with holidays. Espiritu de Santo or the feast of the Holy Spirit is celebrated widely on these islands. At home we celebrate the Pentecost at the same time but here it is a much larger celebration. A very religious people having experienced pirates, volcanoes and earth quakes, roughly 90% of the inhabitants are Catholic according to the driver we had. The celebration lasts for several days and is spread out over the island each Parish having their own party. The custom is for a family or group of families from the parish to make several loaves of bread which they then share with everyone along with a bowl of soup. This is given freely and generously to anyone attending the celebration. The bread is amazing. It is more like a sweet bread -think Bahamian – to all of our boating friends. The first picture is taken during the day in Pico and the second picture is taken after Janie, Lizzie Sally and I decided to get off the boat while everyone was headed to bed to enjoy our local celebration.   Notice the baskets of bread – artfully displayed in each basket with beautiful handmade lace doilies.


Without a doubt, a highlight of these islands is the paintings left behind by the boats who made the trip. It is customary after traveling from afar (everyone arriving here has traveled from afar) to leave behind a painting celebrating their journey. This is the one notable exception for most boaters whose motto is to leave behind little evidence of their visit. A further caveat is that doing so will ensure a safe subsequent passage. It goes without saying that this is one superstition nobody wants to ignore. Below is the beautiful labor of love created by Sally Hastings to celebrate our passage. Even though some of our names arrived or departed by plane and others never made it to the Azores, we believed that the spirit of every name represented made this possible for us and deserved a mention on the picture, not the least of whom was the paw prints of our loved Pratt and Whitney who have been real troopers on this passage.

As we move into a more relaxed time on board with guests having departed and most of the touring complete, we find that this time is as special as the sightseeing and excitement of the arrival – just totally different. We are settling into a bit of a routine, Jack with school and us with boat chores and maintenance while we await the weather to depart. One of my greatest concerns was would Jack find companions. As I write this he is currently on a neighbor boat playing with no less than 6 other children from no less than 4 other countries speaking 4 other languages (none of them our current host country tongue of Portuguese). To say it is the loveliest thing ever would be a gross understatement and though this appears last in this posting, it should really have appeared first. Having our child laughing with friends and running up and down the dock exploring independently and joyfully has lifted up the hearts and souls of everyone on board – actually it has been enjoyed by all of the boats in our vicinity with or without children, and has continued to bring to me lessons that I am here to learn.

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As always, thanks for reading and sharing the adventure with us.
Love, Laurie, Alec and Jack

Lessons Learned leg 2

Lessons Learned…

As I sit writing this we are 187 miles from Horta and in the final 24 hours of the 2nd leg of the crossing.  Having a bit more “water” behind us than in front of us, we have had a chance to reflect on things we did “right” and things we may have done differently.  Since I know some reading this are planning this journey next year, I thought I would include thoughts from the crew on what they would have changed.  

So, things that we have done well in terms of preparation:

Pre-cooking food:  It would be easy to forgive a participant in this trip believing that they were going to be bored.  It was absolutely something that I imagined we would struggle with – especially given the frenetic activity level in the months leading up to the trip.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  I have had several days of choosing between a book or a work out not able to do both.  Having pre-cooked most of the dinner time meals aboard, we were able to mostly relax while not on watch and meal prep became as simple as tossing a salad or making a side dish or two to accompany what came out of the freezer.  And as most of you are going to be inviting “crew” aboard, make sure that everyone prepares something (or some many things) to share.  Sally and I both prepared and froze several meals which we were able to toss together in an hour or less and we cannot overstate the importance of a well fed happy crew.  Making sure that everyone has their “comfort” food ready to go is huge.  And speaking of food, this is not the time to try something that you think you may like or may make life easier.  If you aren’t eating it at home, chances are you won’t want it on the crossing.  But the foods that we prepared and froze not only contributed to the well being of the whole boat, they were delicious and satisfying and helped to feed the souls as we all enjoyed dinner together.  An unintended benefit of prepared and frozen meals also includes reducing the waste aboard.  In 10 sea days we only generated 1 1/2 bags of garbage (the small kitchen size) and that is for 6 humans and 2 cats.  Not too shabby.   What I would probably do differently on a crew of 6 is to work out KP duty to the roster so that ALL members of the crew can take a turn preparing a meal and cleaning the dishes and allowing everyone a day or two off.  Everyone on board should be sharing in this responsibility.    Also, plan ahead fruits and veggies leaving the heartier (potatoes, brussel sprouts, squash, apples, pears) for the last week and consuming the more fragile (spring mix, berries) right away.    We managed to eat fresh fruits and veggies purchased from Stuart right up until the last day by carefully planning.  While in Bermuda we bought just a few fresh items which were outlasted by food we purchased in Stuart.  By the time it gets to the shelf in Bermuda, it is already older than food that we purchased at home and brought with us.  Careful planning meant that for the full 3-4 weeks, we had fresh food the entire time.    The Instant Pot proved invaluable in both meal prep and thawing foods already frozen.  Frozen soups and stews could be thawed and heated in 10-15 minutes in the pot with no worries of containers sliding about on the stove or in the oven.  The soda stream was a terrific addition as well as eliminating cans for storage and disposal to which we added some fresh lemon or lime juice.  

In terms of maintenance:  When I asked Alec what he was glad he took care of his response was:  Glad that we went system by system doing heavy maintenance, even when it was a bit ahead of schedule and cataloging spare parts and ensuring that we had the tools to effect any repairs underway.   What we would do differently here is that while we thought we had allowed enough time for all of the work to be done, at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough.  We could have used a little more time fine tuning the electronics which were installed only a couple of months before our departure and working out the bugs continued right up until the day of departure.  No matter how long you think something will take – double it.  

Leaving Jack (our 8 year old son) behind.  This was both something we did right and the thing we struggled with the most.  Not a day went by that our hearts didn’t hurt missing him.  But at the end of the day, having him aboard would have really changed the trip.  Jack struggles with the occasional bout of sea sickness and he is too young for the patch.  He has tried every single holistic treatment to no avail.  1/2 dramamine or bonine does seem to help but having him take this across the Atlantic with so much unknown weather to pass through would have really made us a wreck.  Whats more it would have been really tough for everyone to get sleep during the day with a boundless 8 year old burning up energy in 64 feet.  He is flying into the Azores and we will be together soon and he will accompany us on the 3rd leg from the Azores to Ireland.  Fingers crossed it goes well.  

Speaking of sea sickness…  We all feel like we have been doing this long enough to “power through” but the patch for everyone on board was a dream! Elizabeth said “What I would do differently is bring more of my own patches”.  We really should have all checked our own reaction to it while on solid ground but we never did.  We did try it when conditions were making me miserable and the difference was amazing.  Never preferring meds, I was reluctant but it works wonderfully and with no adverse side effects for anyone on board.    Buy the patch and try it out before you leave and encourage your crew to do the same.  

And finally, I would only add that whatever you need to be in place in order for you to be comfortable making the trip, whether hired crew, professional weather routing, just do it.  As we go forward filling up our bag of TransAtlantic crossing experience, we won’t need to do as much in this regard but for this first trip across, make sure that you aren’t reliant on anyone else doing or not doing something in order to go.  Our weather router did a wonderful job in helping us to plot a course through a needle of beautiful weather.   It is our hope that we will be better able to do this ourselves in the future but it may be that the professional services of a weather router may just simply become a budgeted item anytime we have a multi – day passage.  Time will tell.  But I hope that we never make a plan based on the plans of another boat given how tenuous a plan like this can be.

As I write this final paragraph I would only add to this list careful vetting of crew can’t be overstated.  We have been terrifically blessed by a great group of kindred spirits but there is no doubt that in 64 feet of pent up humans, it would be easy for personalities to clash – through no fault of anyone.  Just that each personality has it’s twin – and it’s polar opposite.   Spending time together on a short voyage can be just the piece of information you need to determine if a multi-day passage with unknown variables and the inability to get off the boat may work or not.  

So we are having the time of our lives here in Horta and tomorrow our darling final crewman (Jack) leaves Florida to come to Horta traveling with our dear friend Janie.  We are counting the moments until he is here with us.  

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey
As I write this, we have just passed the mid-way point in our quest to cross the Atlantic. At this relative waypoint, any issues that arise will result in us continuing to the destination (Horta, the Azores) rather than turning back to Bermuda. It is the same in the airplane. Every flight calculates a “GO” “NO GO” way point referred to as V1. The point at which the take off will NOT be aborted, the pilots will continue to fly and make a plan to return to the airport if necessary to deal with whatever came up on the take off roll. Spending the past 5 days working toward this way point in the sea has gotten me thinking about dreams and the tenacity and “stickiness” of inertia.

Everyone is familiar with the “Hero’s Journey”. The Hero’s Journey has been well chronicled in book after book and story after story over the millennia whereby the hero has the dream yet has many obstacles to overcome in order to bring the dream to fruition. I recently heard an interview (If I had the internet in the mid-Atlantic I would do the research necessary to give the subject credit but I don’t recall who wrote about it) with an author who wrote a book referring to the “stickiness” of essentially breaking the inertia away from the comfortable. Every epic journey includes this stickiness. And everyone who has ever held a dream and worked toward it’s manifestation can attest to it. I have often called this phenomena breaking the inertia. This particular author posits that the greater the evolution of the spirit the “stickier” or more resistance one will encounter.

Writing this blog, was, for me a great example of this. Each time I began a posting, I would meet with resistance in the form of eating, working out, talking, reading, cooking, vacuuming, doing laundry… etc etc. You get the picture. Yet simply getting my butt in front of the computer and the inertia away from progress is broken.

Dreams are especially sticky. How many times have you had the seed of a dream planted only to permit distractions to move you off the target. Excuses. So many excuses. “It could be dangerous”. What if something happens to me? What if the boat breaks? What if the weather is terrible? What if we run out of water, food, movies entertainment, chocolate… etc.. My cousins uncle’s sister said she knew of someone who did this and their child was never the same again. Again, you get the picture.

But here is the funny thing – while there is sticky resistance to the dream, there is at least as much serendipitous support for our dreams. I have seen evidence of this in too many dreams of mine to count or to be random coincidence. For me, and for my empirical evidence, there is hard concrete proof that once I set my intention and begin working toward it with dogged persistence, I merely have to step aside and let God do all of the heavy lifting. Doors open to me, people come into my life at seemingly random moments all arriving to support my intentions. That is not to say that there aren’t challenges to the dream. Thats the sticky part. But that is to say that the challenges are all part of the deliciousness of the achieving.

So, the first time I can remember having a conversation with Alec about crossing the ocean it really sounded something like this… “Could you imagine….” “What do you think that would feel like!!!???” From those early musings came the occasional watering of the seedling by Alec or Me finding an article or a blog talking about just that thing. Then the mystical starts to happen for me. The blogs and the talks all seem to touch something inside of me… deep deep inside of me but it nearly always manifests in some physical tangible thing like goosebumps or a strange feeling welling up inside of me – oddly enough sometimes the reaction is strong and visceral – crying during the thought for absolutely no reason but feeling like the joy inside caused by the thought must find release. In those moments, I know Im onto something. When I feel this – I know that this is MY path and Im on my way. Then I start “trying things on”. Imagining this path or that path to what I feel like the ultimate goal would be. Often times this “trying on” will give me the direction for pursuing the dream. Nothing happens overnight in this phase, God needs time to line up his soldiers and nothing will happen for me at the expense of someone else. The only way obstacles will be cleared from my path is if they are simultaneously being cleared for someone else as well. This is another clue for me reaffirming that Im where Im supposed to be. When my dreams and goals don’t cost anyone anything – they are part of the human collective gaining benefit Im where I belong.

So… here we are… in the middle Atlantic having just crossed the point of being closer to the Azores than to Bermuda. A little later today we will cross the point of being closer to Ireland than we are to Stuart, FL. The decision to GO made – and if the beautiful weather we have encountered since we left Bermuda wasn’t enough, this day has been characterized by more dolphin encounters than we have had combined since the beginning. As I write this there is a pod of dolphins about 200 meters to port containing more dolphins than I have ever seen in my life. They are jumping out of the water it seems almost like they are performing just for us. Another earlier encounter was captured on video and while a smaller pod, these hung right in our bow wake and swam along with us for several minutes. I hope to inset a youtube video here but you know how I struggle with technology:

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We are supported so incredibly by God on this day. The seas have never been calmer, the peace aboard Gratitude has never been more palpable. Its not just me though, I must say, I am in such a peaceful state I don’t remember when I have enjoyed a more restorative vacation. Everyone aboard seems to be infused with peace and wellness. Being absent technology, and internet and noise is such a huge blessing! Being nearly 1,000 miles from land at the closest point is amazing and exhilarating. The night sky has been speckled with more stars than my wildest imaginings and last night on my 0001-0300 watch the water around the Gratitude flashed with bioluminescence. It was like little fire flies dancing in the sea below us as the stars and milky way soared above.

Back when we were in the dreaming and planning phase we watched the NAR youtube video (probably 100 times) and laughed as several of the participants jumped in the ocean. I wondered if we would do this and boy was I nervous. You see, making a trip like this consists of many protocols and plans for keeping the humans INSIDE the boat, not watching as they jump OUT of the boat. Still, there is something amazing about the idea of swimming in 18,000 feet of water. Today, we did it. We all jumped in and frolicked around laughing and giggling like a bunch of 5 year olds. I tried to dive down so that I could look back up through the crystal clear (cold 69 degree) water but I was nearly hyperventilating and couldn’t even sink more than 6 inches below that water. Still, it was an amazing day and a memory that will stay with us forever.

By the time you read this, we will have arrived in the Azores. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. We feel as though we are loved and supported beyond words by all of the beautiful souls who are rooting for us back home. Each of us aboard the Gratitude has a full support community cheering us on and we can feel the prayers buoying us along. We pray for each of you every night before our dinner time meal and we are so grateful for you in our lives.

Tracking the Gratitude

Hi Everyone:

In response to numerous requests to track us crossing, we are going to TRY to get a link up here that will work for this purpose.  People who know us will appreciate that this is NOT at all a strength that either of us possess.  Each of us would rather do just about anything than deal with technology – that said, here goes.  Let us know if it works and thanks for the interest.

http://share.garmin.com/alecthyrre

 

In terms of an update, we are enjoying the island of Bermuda immensely.  Today is Bermuda Day which is an island wide celebration – in fact, the largest of the year.  It was originally intended to celebrate the Queen’s birthday but now is more of a day to celebrate Bermudian heritage and launch the island into the summer in much the same way the Memorial day announces the arrival of summer in the states.  More on that later.  For now, we are awaiting another weather opportunity to get going to the Azores which is looking delayed until at least Tuesday.    Still, the crew of the Gratitude is having a marvelous time and we are fully making the most of our tourist  opportunity here in Bermuda.

 

Lots of love,

Laurie