I QUIT!!!!

I QUIT!!!!

Those were the words tumbling out of my mouth on Wednesday morning as I attempted to cram a day of homeschooling into a short 1 hour available before we were to go walking with the Lagos Strollers. 2 short days later, I received an email from a friend preparing herself and her boat to make the crossing to Europe in May. The two experiences happening within 48 hours of each other got me thinking of the transient nature of our emotions and how often we are (or can be) lead to drastic measures by the feelings that threaten to overwhelm us.

Going back to the Algebra lesson on Wednesday – as a teacher and a mom I made several mistakes but it wasn’t the single event which caused the insane reaction from me but rather the culmination of days of frustrations building up to it. Failing to maintain a mindfulness practice, coupled with Alec and I failing to maintain the standards of discipline for our family is really what went sideways here. Alec and I have been secretly feeling the slightest tinges of guilt over taking Jack away from his friends and all that he is familiar with at home and dragging him on our dream with us. These feelings became exacerbated by the arrival of Halloween and the uncertainty that we would make it on time to celebrate with other kids and then arriving with little time to spare to integrate us into the new community we are calling home for the next 6 months. Even still, we both feel strongly that this is a better life for him (and absolutely for us). Still, parents just feel guilt. Moms in particular – just feel guilt. And sometimes we act out of those feelings rather than from the place of love and peace and center that we should act from often without even realizing it. Only after Alec and I having a serious heart to heart over what was going on were we both able to discern where we went wrong. Chief among them, our failure to acknowledge those feelings to each other when we felt them and working through them consciously before sub-consciously allowing us to loosen our standards or change our discipline which only resulted in things escalating to the point that a dropped pencil caused the cascade of events which lead to our undoing on Wednesday. Truly at the end of the proverbial rope, I decided that I had tried as hard as I could to homeschool – I give up! Its time to send him to school. Im pretty disappointed in myself that I wasn’t able to walk away from the volatile situation I had put us into and Im also disappointed that I wasn’t able to see how far we have come and how hard Jack has worked – how hard all of us have worked – for the privilege of living this life around the world. But I just was too close to the situation.

Few people are as fortunate as I am to have an Alec by their side as they sort through life’s challenges but mercifully, God has seen fit to give me this husband of mine who can, in every situation, remain calm, centered and provide the voice of reason necessary to get distance. Distance is exactly what was needed. So we went on the 13 Kilometer hike. A hike that I can hardly remember for the prayers, breathing and deep sadness that I felt on that day. I had felt like a complete and total failure. I had failed my son – the greatest job I have ever had – by not being able to homeschool as I had hoped I could. I had given up. I – never – give up! But I had given up! I just didn’t think I could do it one more single day. Knowing as I do that no matter how grim the circumstances, praying, breathing and remaining open to God’s path ALWAYS makes the path clear, I put one foot in front of the other and continued along the 13 K journey. So part of the guilt of what I was feeling was that until we arrived in Lagos, Jack hasn’t really had too many opportunities at friendship. He has made 2 wonderful friends since arriving here but my guilt was over this issue primarily so when we walked past the school and all of the children were outside playing and laughing, I would have thought that the answer most certainly MUST be a return to the school yard for Jack and the end of my homeschooling woes but NO – the weirdest thing happened. I felt crushing -CRUSHING sadness looking at all of the children playing. This was ABSOLUTELY NOT the right path for us. Alec insisted that he and Jack had come up with a plan – I was to take a week off. No school for Mom. And Jack had it all sorted and under control. He had solved the problem and he was taking action.

The same day as the crushing disappointment in the Algebra school work, I received an email from a friend at home (THANK YOU MIKE STETSON!!!!). He had seen a report about the Khan Academy. I took a look at it and even though I was removed from school duty for the week I did some research. Turns out I had looked at this about a year ago but for whatever reason, we went in a different direction with Math. Also, I met a new friend in the marina who has homeschooled her 8 year old from day 1. She had a ton of resources that she shared with me and provided a much needed voice of reason while our 2 children took their Portuguese lesson together. I gave Alec and Jack the computer and the Khan Academy webpage all set up for his work. HE LOVED IT!!! This completely takes us out of the teaching loop on Math. We can simply oversee his work but he can click on a video to explain any concept he is unclear on or to explain any question he doesn’t understand. He can learn from award winning TEACHERS!!! Not retired pilots who, but for their love of their son, would NEVER be teaching anything to anyone!!!! So, funny how information comes to you at precisely the right moment that you most desperately need it right?! Thank you God!!!

Which brings me to the email that I received this morning from our friend at home. She is exactly where we were last year in terms of preparing to leave. All of the questions, all of the minutia, all of the uncertainty and the restlessness of our year of preparation came flooding back. I gave Alec the email to read since I knew my explaining it would fail miserably in doing it justice and suddenly after this incredibly challenging week of uncertainty and insecurity we were full of so much gratitude for how far we have traveled on this road together as a family, as a couple and as individuals.

Sometimes we all just need to take a broader look at our lives and get out of the myopia of the moment to see the greater accomplishments.

SO I DON’T QUIT!!!!!

No I don’t quit! We are continuing to home school and we are doing so with a renewed commitment and a few more resources at our finger tips. And we are looking both back and forward at the lessons learned behind us and the dreams, and challenges yet before us.

The Trip South from Jersey to Vigo, SP

We waited and we waited and were finally rewarded with a lovely opportunity to leave Jersey, the Channel Islands and while we thought we would likely have to tuck in on the South side of the Bay of Biscay, we were able to continue South to near Vigo, Spain.

We had a 4 day 3 night passage and while I think we could have continued, our trusty weather routers at Commanders suggested we should tuck in for the passage of a front. Never one to push things – we did as advised. We were there only for 2 nights and 1 full day before continuing on. While in Biona we had an enormously fun day of playing on the playground, walking about town and, …… trying to find food. Note to earlier diners and families out there, if you like to dine before 9 pm, this is not the city for you. Some restaurants don’t open for dinner until 1100 PM!!!!! Those of you who know us can see the problem here. We are typically IN BED by 8:30 so eating at 9:00 is not an option – we would rather starve! We went back to Gratitude for a reasonably timed meal and saved our meal out for lunch the following day. We all ordered from the menu at a darling little restaurant but none of us really knew what we were going to be served. Pleasantly surprised, we all had a nice meal and a happy memory buoyed with hopes for our new home the next country South, Portugal.

Two days after our arrival we departed on the advice of Commanders Weather. We had our doubts, watching the wind all around us but they haven’t let us down yet so we just crossed fingers that the wind would die down and we wouldn’t encounter anything too severe once we were out of the protection of the coast. With our trusty stabilizers working like never before and winds topping at force 8/9 we made our way South.

What made the ride more uncomfortable was that the period between the waves (which were only 6-8 feet) was short at only about 5 seconds. Jack and I (and even Alec) took the Stergeron and thankfully we all did fine. Amazing – Jack didn’t even think there was anything at all going on outside our boat. Alec and I just had fingers crossed it would improve with time and about 24 hours later, we were in lovely conditions for the remainder of the trip. Following the Spain and Portugal coastlines was fantastic. I never knew how mountainous the coast line was and it was a stunning adventure all the way to our new winter home.

Arriving in Lagos, Portugal

We couldn’t have been more excited to see the town which we had heard so very much about. Lining the Avenida were cute little tents and markets and the weather was gorgeous.

We have been in Lagos, Portugal (The Algarve) for 2 weeks and in that time we have joined the walking group that meets on Wednesdays, takes a bus to some distant city and walks for 12-15 Kilometers. Each week the walk is different and each week the participants change. At anytime there are between 20-50 walkers though I believe we three are going to be regulars. We all love it and the homeschooling problems notwithstanding, Jack (we all) learn a lot on these adventures.

Just last week some participants shared with Jack some berries that the locals convert to moonshine, they showed Jack which tree produces cork – a huge export here and the material from which most of the local artisanal crafts are made. They taught us that the cork trees are protected but that the cork must be harvested to keep the tree healthy. It is those harvests which produce all of the corks and bags and crafts we see in town. Jack learned about a poisonous caterpillar and then did follow up research on it afterward and taught us all about it. Julie shared with Jack while following horse tracks that the front hooves are actually larger than the back hooves and then they talked about how to shoe a horse. So it turns out that we really have found our new little village and this new little village is helping us parent and teach as well.

We met another family, Cress, Gary and Charlotte. Charlotte is 8 years old and takes Portuguese lessons on Thursday with Jack. We met Max’s family who are living aboard their sail boat and Jack and Max have become fast friends and even have a sleep over planned for tonight. Charlotte’s mom, Cress is the angel who kept me from losing my mind earlier this week and we have found fast friends in all of them.

We have found an absolutely amazing farmers market. This is the market to end all markets! Last week we ambled over at 11:00 – way too late – It was (in Irish vernacular) JAMMERS! But this week I made it over closer to 0800 and enjoyed a busy but still manageable shopping experience. There were bread makers who had just ground the wheat and millet yesterday. Their are fruits and veg and pastry and sauces and every imaginable legume, olive, etc… This is RIGHT across the street from where we are docked.

Other highlights of our locale are the grocery stores, the adorable town area where performers entertain nightly, the bus station across the street, thousands of restaurants (all you can eat sushi last night for 12E) and the train station a short walk away. We are taking the train to see our niece Maura later this month (the weekend after Thanksgiving) and we have taken the bus a few times already.

Above are the pictures from Halloween. As you can see we worried for naught! Jack made his costume – the drummer from KISS. His face is an exact copy if you google Cat Man you will see the effort I put into his makeup! HAHAHAHA. We made cookies and we made cupcakes. Alec and Jack carved the pumpkin and we got a bunch of kids together to watch a bubble entertainer from our dock – Thanks Edge and Rebecca! You guys are great!!! Several restaurants and boats participated in the largely American tradition of Trick or Treat and a great time was had by all!

And finally Jack has been getting time on his beloved Shark Bite (Jack’s little boat). Below are a few shots but the big highlights are that this week he was able to start the engine from cold all by himself and he is nearly ready for his first solo! What is much more awesome though is the difference between last year and this year in terms of his desire and ability. HE WANTS to learn how to run his own boat and he is nearly ready! Dad (and Mom) couldn’t be any more proudD

Jack checking the oil and starting the engine from cold for the first time this week.

Thanks for reading! We love and miss you

Just Left Jersey

Just left Jersey!

We spent 2 weeks in Jersey and we had a wonderful time. The biggest litmus for us in any location are the people and this stop didn’t disappoint. The folks who call Jersey home are as nice as anywhere we have been and it is no wonder why. The homes are so adorable, think English Country right next to a French Chateau, the beaches are stunning and the island is dripping with history. And imagine all of that with the best food the two regions can produce 🙂 Beautiful french pasty/ croissant for breakfast and fish and chips for lunch and afternoon cream tea. Jersey, the largest of the Channel Islands, is the loveliest combination of England and France, with friendly locals everywhere we went. We even had an offer (which we accepted) to take us up to the Air Traffic Control Tower. It is obvious why Alec and I loved it but even Jack, who professes no interest in his parents’ vocation, was thrilled. Below is a picture taken with our new friend Karl Thomas. Thanks Karl for a super fun day.

Thanks Karl Thomas and the Jersey ATC for the tour!

Some offices have a better view than others!

After the tour we took the bus to the North side of the island and enjoyed a climb on the rocks and Jack made a couple of friends: First a guy who hunts for treasure with his metal detector and on 2 different visits to this beach he shared his treasure with Jack. Also we had a fun chat with some Geologists who are doing research on how to promote Jersey as an eco-destination for tourism. Up until now, the chief island economy was based on Banking and Insurance. Now with the tighter regulations, off shore banking may need to be replaced by tourism. It scares me just a bit to think that a return visit in 10 years may yield a completely different experience. Still, there was so much to occupy us for the 2 weeks we were here any tourist would be happy.

As we have been told we MUST visit St. Malo, France, by several people, we decided to hop on the ferry and take the 1 hour ferry trip down to St. Malo, France. A completely walled city and a wonderful tourist stop, we would have loved to spend more time there but we will look forward to another visit and perhaps we can bring Gratitude next time. We had inquired about dockage but they were full this time around.

Today is October 20th marking the just over 5 month point since we left so I thought it would be great to do a little re-cap of our time and also to share with some of the people coming next year some of the surprises that we hadn’t anticipated before setting out on this grand adventure.

Last year as we were scrambling to get Jack to Trick or Treat back home with friends the time really got short while awaiting the right weather to get home. We did eventually get enough of a weather window (or more accurately a combination of a couple windows) to get home and it was a total photo finish getting Jack into costume and out to collect candy. I fear a year later we are in the same proverbial boat. We had planned to already be in Lagos, Portugal – essentially we had hoped to be there October 1 but then we changed the reservation for October 15 due to inclement weather for the passage. Still not good enough – and now I feel like we will be lucky to get to Lagos by November 1. The stress associated with trying to avoid disappointing ones child really makes what we are doing tough. Alec even more than me has been feeling the pressure to get going but when the weather isn’t cooperating, there is nothing to be done. Thats when I recite my mantra “Our job is not to protect our child from disappointment but rather to help hm to learn how to handle it”. Easier said than done. The good news – we have several costumes that I put on board just in case and Jack has some ideas for making his own so that part is handled but now we just need to get to a community that celebrates this holiday. Currently on a 3 day passage from Jersey to La Coruna Spain, if the weather continues to cooperate, we will keep going. Perfect world we would be able to get all the way down to Lagos, Portugal, a 5 day passage.

I am in my happy place!!!

Last year we visited 20 cities in 20 weeks. This time around it is closer to 10 cities in 20 weeks. I don’t think changing any thing would have resulted in a better trip but I do think we have to manage our own expectations a little more carefully next year in the Baltic. For one thing, the weather has been so unpredictable with very brief high pressure systems sandwiched in between a non-stop procession of low pressures coming off the Atlantic and then parking themselves until the next low has a chance to come in behind it. Weird. We have had several people tell us that this is the goofiest weather they have ever had but still, we have to just make sure we are prepared for extended stays waiting for the nicer passage conditions. Of course, one solution would be to stop making reservations dependent on long passages and rather slowly but surely move to the next cruising location. But our loose plan for next summer is the Baltic. To eliminate this long passage we could have just stayed up North and slowly meandered toward the Baltic all winter long but that would likely necessitate having to spend the entire winter in colder climates with hard grey overcast sky. We know other cruisers who do this and have no issues but self knowledge is a really good thing and neither Alec nor I have the disposition to wallow in those conditions for months on end. We live in Florida for a reason. That said, we have opted to make the 900 mile migration to warm weather and we will have to make the similar migration North at the first opportunity in spring.

Speaking of weather conditions, we have gotten into some gnarly seas and currently we are in the Bay of Biscay getting a reasonable good ride with seas of 6-8 from the stern quarter but starting out yesterday we had 6-8 ft seas on the nose for 14 hours. This time I didn’t even try to delude myself that I didn’t need the motion sickness meds. I started out with the patch and Jack got that other medication that we got in the Azores and we are both handling the conditions beautifully. On our previous passage from London – Jersey I thought the conditions looked great on paper so I took nothing. I was MISERABLE for the entire passage as getting the meds in after the fact make their efficacy marginal. With Jack we don’t take any chances – he gets 1/2 a pill every time and he hasn’t gotten sick at all this season since joining us in the Azores – THANK GOD! It was a good thing I got the patch on though because I have needed to feel good on this passage- both of our cats (Pratt and Whitney) got sick and for the first time ever even urinated on our bunk. Yuck! So that resulted in a lot of off watch time for both of us doing laundry – something that I don’t enjoy doing when Im sea sick. Note to self – medicate early and often. Normally someone preferring to suffer than medicate, Never again – Im just taking the meds.

When we remember where we have been in the last 5 months we can’t believe it! We have enjoyed 5 countries going to several museums and castles learning history spanning 2 millennium. We have all learned alongside each other and worked together as a team we three. We feel closer to each other and more connected to our world than ever before. We feel like our world view has expanded exponentially with the passage of lat/long lines remembering things that seemed important a year ago and re-considering them in our current world view we can see how this expanded world view has opened our eyes and our spirits to the things in life that really matter.

So, some of the surprises and differences since we left include:

Netflix! Yes we have it and also Amazon Prime for media content. I didn’t think we would ever have enough good internet over here to stream but in most of the marinas it has worked. Some better than other – but so far I think we are way ahead in the entertainment category. This is really good as the past 2 weeks has included more rain than we have experienced in the previous 12 months before we left Florida. Also, since we are pretty aggressive in terms of cramming all of the sights in – we all need the occasional down time to re-charge.
Staying connected with family and friends has been made easier by social media and a great phone plan from T-Mobile. I never thought that we would be this connected when we left. First, I didn’t know that we could get international texting and internet for the bargain that we are getting it from T-Mobile. So anytime anyone wants to connect with us, its as easy as a text and subsequent time to make the phone call when we have internet. If anything is important and requires a voice call and we don’t have internet, we simply make the call – I think it is like 25 cents a minute? or free over the internet. Easy peasy!! And social media – Facebook and Instagram have made it so much easier to check in and follow along with family and friends. I was originally reluctant to post on FB much of what we doing as I didn’t want it to look like we were bragging. But with TONS of encouragement from loved ones, we have discovered that people don’t view it as bragging but rather like to see where we are and what we are doing – so buoyed by that encouragement, we have been sharing more about our adventures and thus feeling more connected to our lives in Florida.
Visitors: What a treat it has been to have such a nice stream of visitors. I think social media is helping in this regard as well. Friends can see where we are and where we are headed and make a plan for a visit. When Janie came to town we had a conversation about this. I shared with her that I think we see more friends and family while traveling this way than we do at home – just take her visits – last year she visited us in Martha’s Vineyard and this year she met us in the Azores and again in Ireland. She asked me if it bothered me that we see people when we travel but not when we are home. I told her emphatically NO! I was thrilled to have visitors. I have always believed that this huge gift of this life is absolutely meant to be shared. Janie had a theory that when we lived 2 hours from each other we could keep putting off getting together until next month – then next month – then next month… but with our distance, it requires more planning and intention. The result is more frequent visits and a MUCH HIGHER QUALITY interaction as we all have clear schedules and intentional time to be together.
Food – this is under the caption of different – not better or worse. For one thing – we have aisle upon aisle in our grocery stores for packaged chips and snacks. Not so here. There are only a few types of crackers here. Not necessarily a bad thing but we do kind of miss our wheat thins 🙂 and Jack is missing his Aunt Jemima pancake syrup. The fruits and veg taste better – much better than our fruits and veg back home. It is as if the food is rushed at home or chemically altered to either expedite harvest or prolong shelf life. Prolonged shelf life is non-existent here so far in our travels. All of the food, even the prepared foods (by the way amazing Indian food prepared and sold in grocery stores) has very short expiration dates – usually just 2 days in the future. Many foods are far less expensive here – olive oil, vinegars, sea salt flakes are up to 1/5 the cost in the US. While we may be missing crackers, Im perfectly happy to substitute the fantastic breads lovingly prepared by bakers over here but again, don’t expect it to last more than a couple of days. For this reason we go grocery shopping much more frequently but the foods that we are eating are unquestionably higher quality. We heard that paper products are harder to find and they are more expensive than at home. Also single use plastic are rare and you are expected to bring your own bags/containers when going to the market. Again, I am very happy to do that as we have made it a family commitment to significantly reduce our dependance on single use plastic.

Speaking of expenses – this was a huge unknown before we left and I must say, I was worried that we were going to be hemorrhaging cash as never before but surprisingly across the board we are spending less here than we did at home (the exception is fuel; though the per gallon cost is less we are moving around more.) We have heard rumors that this trend should continue at least UNTIL we get into the Med. The cost of dockage is less than we spent in the US across the board. As this was an expense we we incurring regardless of location, this expense is way down over last year. Food costs are down and incidental spending is much less here. Eating out is probably a wash – spending as much here as at home but probably a bit less as I cook more meals aboard than we eat out. This is usually just a convenience thing – many restaurants open later than we prefer to eat and that trend will continue certainly as we travel down the Continent. We spend more on sightseeing trips – this is a place we don’t even make an attempt to curb – what are we doing here if not exploring and seeing the sites. But taken as a whole, we are spending less. Transportation expenses are way down as we take public transportation everywhere. We rented a car once in the Azores and once in Ireland but all other travel in 5 months has been on public transport.

5) Forming new friendships: Every marina that we have found ourselves in has born new friendships. We have enjoyed drinks or dinner with other boating people and we have found to a one, they are kind, interesting and big picture thinkers. Living this life certainly causes a shift in perspective and a renewed focus on the big stuff that matters instead of the minutiae that threatened to dominate our life back home.

6) Homeschooling- which had pretty rocky beginnings – has blossomed into a routine for each of us and Jack is making strides in his work. Nothing is perfect or without challenges and there are days that he is more focused than others (true of us all no?) but I think we will be ok for at least the next few years. Speaking of the next few years..

We have been so reluctant to put a time limit on what we are doing because we just don’t know what we don’t know. This has caused a bit of consternation with friends and family who don’t understand how we can really have no idea how long we will continue. But 5 months in we can make better guesses about the future than we could have 5 months ago and from this perspective, I would love to be able to continue enjoying this beautiful planet until Jack is in high school (5-6 years) but only time will tell. I had feared that by the 6 month mark we would be considering going home but NONE of us is even a little bit wanting to go back. Even Jack is really on board with this. He misses his friends but we all do. On balance the benefits of this have, thus far, totally out weighed the costs and we are all thriving. That said, we decided to rent out our home in Florida. Originally we thought we would keep it empty for the first year in case things didn’t go as planned but after the past 5 months, none of us are even remotely considering heading back so it makes so much more sense to rent it out – at least seasonally.

Jack just celebrated his 9th birthday in July and may I just say, we have found the absolute sweet spot for his age and our life aboard Gratitude. 2 years ago keeping Jack safe in a constantly changing and dynamic environment was tough and stressful. Last year on the Nova Scotia trip we noted a big improvement and this year it is better still. His situational awareness is far better than before and he is still more concerned with us than his friends. I think just waiting a couple more years and this would be a totally different situation. Conversely 2 years ago we wouldn’t have enjoyed this nearly as much and I don’t think Jack would have remembered it as well. Jacks capacity for learning about the places we are visiting is perfect also. He has abundant natural curiosity and he is smart – he enjoys solving things in his own mind and he is taking it all in. He is being forced to expand his pallet and also tolerance of others in his big world and while he gets burned out going to museum after museum (Alec does too) he is getting so much out of it. He is taking a more active role aboard even sitting very brief watches and line handling at the destination. He totally gets geographically where we are at all times and he has an understanding of where we are headed next. So in this respect we are far better off than I even dared hope before we left.

As I sit here writing this blog surrounded on all sides by glorious beautiful sea and not a spit of land in site. We are in the Bay of Biscay hoping to continue past La Coruna Spain if the weather holds out on down to Portugal. We are availing ourselves of a weather router to help us hit the calm spots between 2 areas of low pressure and as I haven’t a hint of sea sickness, Im looking out to the horizon truly in my happy place. There is nothing in the world like traveling on ones own island from one new place and another without once leaving the comforts of home.

By the numbers

We have put 706 hours of running on our glorious Detroit Diesel engine since we left Stuart. 

Thus far we have just passed the 10K miles mark since we bought Gratitude 19 months ago.

We have put feet on 5 countries in 5 months.

Jack has, in Math, completed 2 metric books, 2 Geometry books, 1 and 1/2 books in Algebra. We have read books on Lewis and Clark and Daniel Boone and we are reading Children’s Homer also. We have studied Archimedes and several of his discoveries and contributions. We just began a study of Animals who fly in Science and next week we will learn about Bats, the only mammals who fly. Following that we will study Bernoulli and his contributions to flight and the Wright Brothers and their work. Unfortunately our Portuguese lessons crashed and burned in London. We just had too much to see and discover so we cut back on all non-essential studies in favor of the museums and attractions that London had to offer. The good news is that Portuguese lessons are taught 1/week at the marina in Lagos where we will be staying and we will absolutely try to pick it back up.

Thanks for reading and stay tuned to see where we end up on this passage!

Laurie

Post Script

The weather did allow us to continue the trip South and we made it to Baiona, Spain. The very Southern part of Atlantic Spain.

Left London – Jammin’ in Jersey!

Left London and Jammin’ in Jersey (the old one)

Since our last post we had a few more highlights in London which included a trip to the Warners Brothers Studio where all of the Harry Potter movies were filmed. If you love Harry Potter – and even if you don’t – it is a must see destination for any movie lover’s itinerary. A short hour long train from London – the set is full off costumes, a complete backlot with absolutely everything that you would have seen in any of the 8 films taped here. In addition to the memorabilia, there was a very complete staff ready and willing to share tons of info with visitors including the “how” the incredible series was made.

Jack is headed to Hogwarts!

Gringotts

While awaiting the weather to leave London, we made use of our remaining time by taking a trip to the Lego store to exchange a birthday gift Jack has received and no trip to London is complete without a trip to the largest wall of chocolate at the M & M store. Additional museums visited were the Guildhall Museum where the Magna Carta is displayed. A very cool discovery made while undergoing renovations to expand the museum was this Roman Amphitheater pictured below. Immediately upon it’s discovery, all construction came to a halt and archeologists were involved in the excavation. Following the discovery, new plans for the renovation included making the Amphitheater a part of the newly renovated Guildhall Museum.

One of the boating nuances different from home is the incredible tidal ranges here. As mentioned in my earlier post, London deals with this by “locking” into the marina. Pictured below you can see us Locking out of St. Katharine’s dock.

Thanks Drew Ansell for a fantastic 6 weeks (and cool flag)
Gratitude Locking out of St. Kats

But another way to handle the 30-40 foot tides are the sills pictured below in Jersey. As you can see one photo shows the meters above the sill and the other photo shows “0” above the sill. On that shot you can actually make out the sill. The sill holds all of the water in the marina in which Gratitude is moored. On the next photo you can see the neighboring marina where no such sill exists. Twice per day all of these boats are literally high and dry as pictured. Its really an ingenious way of managing such huge tidal variations and something that requires more than a little planning. Before leaving London, we knew we could only leave when the lock opened (a range of 3 hours at high tide). Upon arrival into Jersey, we knew we could only arrive when there was high tide also with a minimum of 2.3 meters above the sill. Transiting the English Channel we knew that an adverse current could take our trip from 34 hours to roughly 54 hours! Thats an enormous penalty for choosing poorly. Additionally, the current that passes adjacent to Alderney (one of the Channel islands and where we would have to transit in order to get to Jersey) is best to traverse on a slack tide as an opposing current/wind would create hazardous seas. So as you can see, there is more than a little planning that goes into a passage. Initially we planned it as 3 separate trips in order to work out the timing. As luck would have it we were able to make the passage non-stop which is always our preference but as we made the turn South the seas did pick up and the final 12 hours was very uncomfortable. Thank God Jack slept through the whole thing but it was very difficult for me to keep my eyes open as sea sickness hits me like a ton of bricks with fatigue being the most notable of my symptoms.
We made it to Jersey though and it is here we sit while awaiting the next weather opportunity for travel.

We are free to travel into the marina above but NOT below

So here we enjoying Jersey – Before I get to some of the highlights of our week here I would like to give a little shout out to Denis – a blog reader – who suggested this stop. While we were planning a visit to the Channel Islands for fuel, we thought that Guernsey was the place to go. While Guernsey may be the stop headed back North, for this trip Jersey was a much better idea. Guernsey has already pulled up the pontoons that connect the visitor pontoon docks from the city. We certainly could have put the dinghy in the water to travel back and forth to town but the weather has not been ideal and doing that sometimes 2 times a day would have been a pain. Additionally, while I can’t speak yet about Gurnsey, Jersey is fantastic! It is the largest of the Channel Islands and dripping with History! This week has been so full learning so much about this island’s cool past.

We spent the better part of a day crawling all over the Elizabeth Castle, a tidal island built in the 1500’s. Because it is tidal we were able to walk to the castle but needed to take a boat/bus back. We got the side benefit of a little science lesson on the ocean floor walk to the castle. More examples of this amazing tide are below – Jack is pretending to hold his breath and swimming on land well below the high water mark on the rocks to his right. We also enjoyed an island tour, and a trip to the Jersey War Tunnels. Purported to be a hospital but more likely an underground fortification for the German V2 bomb, this series of tunnels underground were built by Eastern European slaves and local workers during the 2nd World War during German occupation of this island. In fact, the island has paid tribute to that time in her history through so many tourist stops including the Tapestry below commemorated by the artistic and beautiful needlework of women who made panels depicting many facets of life under occupation. This can be found at the Maritime Museum. Here only a week, we have many spots left to explore on this next week coming up and with a wonderful bus system we should be able to see it all.

Elizabeth Castle
Alec and Jack Helping In Cannon Demonstration
Jack breathing “underwater” at Low Water Jersey, Channel Islands
Jersey War Tunnels

As the weather is showing NO SIGNs of abating, we may be here awhile. There is a saying in aviation that I’d rather be on the ground wishing I was in the air than in the air wishing I was on the ground. Same goes here. We would much rather stay safely tied to the dock patiently waiting for better weather than to head out in seas that may make for a miserable trip. We are considering a ferry trip to St. Malo, France, a short 1 hour 20 minute trip away. St. Malo has been recommended by so many people, I hate to miss an opportunity to get over there if only by ferry. We had considered heading over yesterday but there was no dockage available. Still hoping to make it to Portugal by the end of the month. All indications are that once we are South of the Bay of Biscay our weather picture will improve significantly.

Thanks for reading
xo
Laurie, Alec and Jack

LOVING, LIVING IN LONDON!

Loving Living in London!!!

The Travel:

We have been here for nearly 3 weeks now and can I just say we are having the time of our lives! There is something so uniquely different from living in or visiting a city and trying (as we have done up until now) to cram as much into a visit as is humanly possible. We made the decision to stay in this spot for a month because we have visited London several times and loved it every time but always left feeling as though we hadn’t even scratched the surface. After “living” here for 3 weeks, we still feel as though we could spend a year here and not see and appreciate all there is to do. That said, we have certainly given it a good effort and thus far, we have only spent maybe 2 or 3 lay days getting caught up and doing chores.

The FOO FOO stuff:

You would have to live under a rock for the past few weeks to not know about the devastating hurricane to hit the Bahamas. Dorian, a cat 5 hurricane which is now being classified as the longest lasting CAT 5 hurricane, made landfall on Elbow Cay in the Bahamas. This has been a particularly impactful storm for us here in London because as many of you know, Alec and I, up until a year ago, owned a home in Hope Town on Elbow Cay (a 6 mile long island in the Abaco’s). If you read the early postings of the blog, you know that when Jack was born Alec and I decided that we wanted to give him a different and unconventional child hood. While we were deciding what that would look like, we purchased the Plantation Beach House because at the time, we thought living on the island would be the approach we would take to offering him that life. Over the years, the idea morphed into living on our own “island” and traveling the world making all of our worlds bigger. Over the past 9 years we have made friends on Elbow Cay and that island has been the location for many celebrations and special holidays not only for us but for friends and loved ones with whom we have shared this little jewel in the middle of nowhere. We have always felt blessed to have been able to re-charge in this amazing spot.

Below is a before and after photo of the home that we owned. The before shot was taken 3 years ago from the lighthouse and the after picture was taken by Marcie Ferraro (a pharmacist) who was over there doing humanitarian aid with her husband Mike (an ER Doc). We feel so blessed to call them friends.

THE AFTER PICTURE OF OUR PLANTATION BEACH HOUSE
AND THE NEIGHBORHOOD DESTRUCTION
THE BEFORE PICTURE TAKING FROM THE LIGHTHOUSE
PBH THE LONG WHITE ROOF ON THE RIGHT OF FRAME
WITH PINK SHUTTERS ON GREEN HOUSE
TAKEN AT FIRE FLY RESORT (ELBOW CAY)

But the reason why Im writing about this is because it has given me so much to think about this week. Of course, a natural disaster of any kind in any place is heartbreaking to watch. But watching this one I had a sense of – yes, great sadness at the loss of this special place but guiltily I had the sense of a bullet dodged having sold the house just 1 year ago. This got me thinking to other “bullets dodged” in my life and how many times I have had that sensation or the equally jarring sensation of regret having failed to listen to that nagging voice that tries to tell us when it is time to “let go” of something.

In my life I have “moved” through many phases and I have often laughed as I explain that everyone should take their life and shake it up every 10 years and do something totally different. I have moved more times than I can remember, I have changed careers a few times, I have shaken things up and each time, there are “things” that no longer fit. They may be club memberships or houses but they also may be relationships or jobs. Each time I move through a new “phase” it is ALWAYS the result of some inner yearning. Some feeling coming from somewhere I can’t identify that tells me its time to make a move. It is almost NEVER invited. It is never comfortable. Im nearly always (only 1 exception to this) resistant at first to this change but the change persistently nags at me demanding to be heard. When I embark on these “adventures” I nearly always struggle with the things/places/people/ that I leave behind. In some cases, it is clear that it’s time to let go but often it takes discernment of months or years to be sure. Take for example my leaving the Flight Attendant profession to go back to school to become a pilot. This one plagued me for years before I finally relented and pursued the dream. I had 3 near and dear “friends” all flight attendants who literally stopped speaking to me the day I told them I was going back to school to learn how to fly. While working this out with a trained phycologist, I learned a very important lesson that has stayed with me through all of the changes I have made. “Just because you spent a lot of time with someone, it doesn’t make them a friend”. This has been a wonderful litmus for me over the years. Learning the difference between a friend and an acquaintance and being willing to tell myself the truth about it without judgement or remorse.

But back to the Bahamas. When Alec and I decided to leave our careers and embark on this journey – the destination of which is still undetermined, I really struggled with the loss of a career that I loved so dearly but was costing me more than I was willing to admit. We also struggled over the Beach House which we loved dearly and didn’t want to give up. We decided to spend some time together and individually “trying on” the various scenarios to see what “felt” right for both of us and at the same time also to decide whether or not to sell our home in Florida. We both reached the same conclusion. Though we hated to give it up, it was time to sell the Bahamas house. We also both felt that the time was not right to sell the Florida house. Even though we hated to do it, we listed the Plantation Beach house for sale and sold it a year ago. Whenever a decision is made, there are other roads not taken. I think there is always a bit of nostalgia over the road not taken, but such is life right? Every decision comes at the expense of another one. Right now I feel gratitude that we sold when the time was right to sell. Recognizing when it is time to do something – to make a move, to change jobs, to leave a relationship – thats the key right? But taking that next step is what determines the life you are going to lead. I have always believed in that tiny voice that tells me its time to do something. I now believe that the voice is the God inside of me directing me and because I have spent years believing it and enjoying the results of those decisions I don’t even think twice anymore. I used to call that voice The Universe but the voice was always the same. Call it anything you want but ignore it at your own peril!!! Ok enough about the foo foo ….. and back to beautiful LONDON!!!

London the Travel

Since we arrived the weather has been incredible! Cool and sunny and gorgeous and perfect for doing all of the sightseeing we have done. Everyone knows about the iconic Palaces, the Beautiful Parks (did you know that 40% of London is GREEN SPACE) but the MUSEUMS are really incredible. If you came here just to see the museums you wouldn’t be disappointed. To start with, they are all free. Imagine that. Free! What a novel idea right? All of these magnificent works of art should be enjoyed by everyone regardless of ones ability to pay. Yes, yes I know someone has to pay for the upkeep and the salaries and the buildings and the electricity yes yes I know but thank God, people who can pay are paying. There are donation sites with lots of nice bills in there and there are also big donors who are contributing – besides the pennies collected on admission aren’t really paying the bills anyway so why not open the doors and let art reach the masses? Who knows? The right piece of art or history may just direct the next beautiful mind in the direction they need to go. I broke into tears looking at a stunning Renoir. Interesting fact here, not at all the piece of art that I liked the most but one that for whatever reason stirred in me such emotion it needed to find an outlet. And with free admission, we can return again and again. The only museum we have returned to twice in one week is the Science museum. The WUNDERLAB is a MUST Do for anyone with children. We spent 4 hours here and needed to spend 8. We watched very enthusiastic “Explainers” conduct experiments on everything from chemistry to friction. We watched a Rocket demonstration in which the Explainer, over the course of a short 20 minute experiment demonstrated to us the properties of Hydrogen and 3 of Newtons laws of Physics in a way that a 9 year old could totally grasp and will be able to discuss in 20 years. It was magnificent! The Wunderlab is a “not free” section of the Science museum but I think it cost us about L25.00 and was the best money spent this week! Here are a couple of shots of this trip:

The National Gallery was the most memorable for Jack and me in that there were original pieces of art from Van Gogh, Renoir, Monet, Degas, and so many others. Jack has begun expressing an interest in the Baroque style so we will spend some time exploring that in the months ahead. We walked into the first gallery and I asked Jack to choose a favorite painting. He slowly looked around, zeroed in on one to the left (a large master work) and said (from a distance of at least 10 yards) Oh Mom look, its Perseus slaying Medusa! From the mouths of babes! I looked closer and closer and closer still and thought hmmm yah could be… then I read the small print up close. This is the painting he saw: Luca Giordano (18 October 1634 – 3 January 1705)

PERSEUS SLAYS MEDUSA

The week of September 2nd was my birthday and 2 dear friends visited from home. We saved up so many things to do while there were here and below is a partial list of the ground we covered.

THE TOWER OF LONDON

No trip to London is complete without a RedBus open air bus trip to get a feel for the city. And we spent a day with the Beefeaters at the Tower of London – easy since we are docked at St. Katharines Dock, a stones throw away! Below a picture of SKD with the classics in port
and of course, the London Eye. My birthday dinner was lovingly prepared by Jenn and Tracy and we had a delightful dinner aboard (my favorite way to celebrate). Afternoon Tea at the Dorchester and an evening out to see the Broadway Sensation Hamilton capped off a magnificent week with friends in this amazing city. And no, the irony wasn’t lost on us enjoying an iconic play about the American Revolution here in London. Hamilton was absolutely amazing! A simply unforgettable evening. If you have the opportunity to see it anywhere don’t miss it!

While the ladies were enjoying the night at the Theatre, Jack and Alec went to see the Belfast and a bonus trip to the Lego shop. Guess which day was the highlight for young Master Jack?

We said so long to our dear friends and then made final use of our London Pass by taking a water taxi to the home of Greenwich Mean Time. Below is Jack straddling the Eastern and Western Hemispheres simultaneously.

NOTICE JACK HAS 1 FOOT IN THE “EAST” AND 1 FOOT IN THE “WEST”
0 DEGREES LONGITUDE

To say that traveling with an open mind is essential would be a gross understatement. We are daily reminded of why this attitude is so important. True to our mission of going with the flow we found ourselves at the entrance to the Naval college. We thought – why not and went in. Below are photos of The Painted Hall – referred to as the UK equivalent of the Sistine Chapel. Jack with his new found appreciate for Baroque art loved it – in fact, as much as we were all looking forward to the Greenwich Observatory, the Naval College really did outshine it for us. Everything from the ceiling to the walls – even the columns are painted. We listened to the audio guide; all of us laying on the benches provided for this purpose, and listened intently as the entire ceiling was explained to us. Without question, “the more you know about something, the more you can appreciate” it applies here. We all left in awe and wonder at the work that was left behind by this 18th century artist, Sir James Thornhill after 19 years creating this mater-work for which he was “knighted”.

EVERYTHING IS PAINTED INCLUDING THE “COLUMNS” AND WALLS
THIS TOOK 19 YEARS AND 4 MONARCHS TO COMPLETE

The perfect juxtaposition to all of the museums and formality of the UK we have been enjoying was a day spent at Camden Lock. This place was incredible! It was described as the “punker” and “hipster” scene from the 80’s until today and what we found was so eclectic I can’t do it justice with words. I did take a few photos though and I think you will get the picture. Something that you can’t truly appreciate by photos is the food, however. There is truck after stall of every food imaginable – insane! And so delicious we were feeling good about our decision to skip the food festival taking place at the Tower of London. We took a look, considered the L60.00 admission (not including food) and decided that we could probably find something in Camden. Wow- yes we did!

CYBER DOG IN CAMDEN

And finally Jack got his day at the theatre with the Lion King. Running for 20 years at the Lyceum theatre, it plays every day to a full sold out house and it is clear why. The talent on stage was really fabulous and together with the orchestra it made for a most memorable day.

THE LION KING!

MAINTENANCE

For the boating maintenance readers Alec has figured out the reason for the lost water pressure. We were pretty certain it was a bad accumulator but nope, just a simple filter change fixed the problem. Of course, the problem occurred while we had guests on board but as problems go, this wasn’t a big one. And the throttle issue is ongoing and still being trouble shot – no news on that front. Our move from one part of the marina to the next brought a new issue with wifi – hoping to get that sorted before we have new guests next week (or Jack moves out – he is missing Netflix). Still trying to decide which stops to make on our way to Portugal. We had neighbors give us some suggestions but open to reader input here. If there is a good boating location in Atlantic France or Spain we must stop – we would love to hear from you!

Well Done – Wight (Isle of Wight)

Well Done Wight!!!

In this blog Im going to do something a little bit different. There are so many ideas swirling in my head and I’ve never been one to write what someone else wants to hear, I just write the words that flow through. Alec, my most honest critic shared with me that some people are reading for the facts and not the foo foo stuff. Ok – got it! While Im still going to write what speaks to me, Im going to try to divide it into categories so that if you really don’t care for the foo foo, you can just scroll down to the mechanical and facts or the touristy location stuff. So – here goes.

Why Blog: Foo Foo stuff! Skip down if you don’t like this stuff 🙂

The first thing that came to mind today that got me thinking about writing is the reasons why we do something. One of the great things about my near 53 years on the planet is that it gives me some perspective on the decisions that I’ve made and the results of those decisions. It was a few years ago that I noticed that the energy, time and resources that I bring to something that has it’s intentions grounded in who I am and who I want to be tend to bear the most fruit while if Im painfully honest about the reason that I did something when the whole things goes dreadfully South, as some decisions do, I can usually see that my intention was “off”. Before putting too much time into doing this trip and specifically, starting this blog nearly a year ago, I spent some time on this; discerning what my intention was and what was the reason for doing it. I have found, if the reasons are sound and in complete alignment with who I am and what my values are, that will be enough to carry me through most of the discomfort, work or misery that will usually accompany any worthwhile venture. So, why am I blogging? If you are spending your precious time reading my words, you may be interested to know what is my motivation for doing it.

First and foremost, I love writing. Few people know what a creative endeavor flying airplanes is and retiring left a void. There are many ways of executing a flight and in particular, an approach. We all have our own formula for success and getting the airplane to the “numbers”. After retiring, I knew that I needed a creative outlet for my soul to express itself. I love cooking so I have been spending time trying out new recipes but the blog has filled that space which was previously occupied by flying airplanes.

Second, Jack is only 9. He will not remember everything that we have done together as a family or that he has done as an individual – for that matter – neither will we. Jack keeps a journal (written for us and school but he also has a nature journal for painting – art is his gift.) Additionally, he loves photography and he has been given nearly total license to submit 1 photo daily to our Gratitude Instagram so if you see us on Insta, it is nearly always Jacks submission). The blog is a way to chronicle this journey and have it for both of our futures. By the way – Jack specifically asked me to mention that you can follow us on Instagram 🙂 Ha! Our 9 year old! Instagram is Gratitudelaurie

Family and friends are the third reason we blog. It is such a wonderful way to let our friends and family know what we are up to and to invite future visits from both if you can see where we are and where we are headed.

And finally, to inspire others to find their own version of their own dream. I have no idea if our blog will ever reach a person who is inspired to create their own perfect life but I pray that it does make it to the right person for the right good at the right time. If you are reading this and counting all of the reasons that your dream must take a back seat – I get it. But if you spent some energy every day working toward what your perfect life would look like, you will get there. Maybe not today but someday. Every little thing you do today WILL effect the life that you live tomorrow – or in 3000 tomorrows –

So, with those intentions firmly in place and in complete and total alignment with who I am and who I want to be, I am writing this for myself. I do want you to enjoy it however, and if making it more readable so you can find the part of this that appeals to you, I hope this helps!

Travel Stuff: The Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is a super cute island that made it on our bucket list due to Alec’s parents’ visit for the America’s Cup Jubilee umpteen years ago. It was the final trip that his parents took together before Rolf (Alec’s father) passed away from melanoma. Feeling nostalgic for his parents, we wanted to include the stop and see what they saw on that trip.

With all of the stops that we have made thus far, the highlight of this trip was that we could ride bikes. The island has a series of wonderful bike paths that make it safe and easy to get around by this means of transport. Unfortunately, my research on this stop was seriously lacking! First, I saw that there were bike paths that traveled the island and that it was possible to make it to Newport (the capital city) via an approximate 5-6 mile trip each way but there was one section of the journey that was positively nerve wracking due to narrow roads with fast traffic and our 9 year old trying desperately to just focus on the path in front of him with no place to really stop. My bad! The good news – on the way home we discovered that the West side of the river has a very lovely path lined by blackberry bushes laden with fruit nearly the entire way and restricted to bikes and pedestrians. Probably a few more questions directed in the right place would have saved us all (but especially Jack) that hair raising experience.

So, the first stop when we get somewhere is to find a Tourist Info Center and get some maps as well as suggestions of things to do. Now, this isn’t always the case. Months before arriving in Ireland we had a good idea of where we would go and I have very thoroughly planned London and all that we hope to see and do here. But for some of the shorter and smaller stops in between, I’m more of a “wing it” type person believing that the things we should do and see will become apparent once we arrive. This is nearly always the case and rarely disappoints us but unfortunately, we didn’t discover until we were readying the boat to leave and Jack and I bought a few essential provisions for the trip, that we SHOULD have gone to Queen Victoria’s summer estate. A bit of inquiry and right-oh!! We messed up. Darn! Oh well – a reason to return. What we did enjoy however was the cute little town of Cowes on the West side of the river. Jack found a little lego collectible shop where he found a lego mini-fig near and dear to his heart. He wanted it desperately! Too bad he quit his job of cleaning the cat litter – so sad, he had no money. Oh wait, would we consider hiring him back? Not just for a week or two but full-time every day 365? Yes Please Can I please have my job back? Please? Why yes Jack, you may. And because he was now gainfully employed we offered him a small low interest loan for the 5 days he would need to work for his little lego mini-figure until he was able to repay his debt. 🙂 Everyone happy.

Jack’s new lego – Hawkeye

We had one of the best meals ever! The Coast was so wonderful it made us break one of our rules of no more than 1 meal in the same restaurant – especially for short stays. But it was truly amazing!

We found a terrific object for our nature study this week – the Egg Wrack. Its a type of seaweed which has these cool egg shaped air-bladders which hold up the seaweed when the tide is in allowing it to reach sunlight for photosynthesis. Seaweeds are not plants, animals or fungus but Protists – simple organisms. We also have seen more swans than we have ever seen before. So lovely and gracefully. Many of you probably know that they mate for life. Alec’s Aunt Dottsie was always so sad when she saw a swan by themselves for this reason. Ironic as Dottsie was single her whole life but seemed one of the loveliest and happiest souls I’ve known.

The Swan swimming through the Egg Wrack

And the mechanical Wow! factor of the week – maybe the month was the very cool floating bridge which transits passengers and motor vehicles across the river. So what interested me so much is that the drive to the other side is only about 10 miles total distance but this bridge which runs continuously back and forth from 0500-2359 shuttles people across with no engine but a diesel electric chain that drags it back and forth. It cost Alec and I (with bikes) 1 lb 50 pence. Jack was free (the attendant said the school kids take it back and forth). Very cool!

The Boat Stuff

Since we purchased Gratitude nearly 1.5 years ago, we have traveled just under 10,000 miles on her bottom. Since we left Florida on this trip on May 16th we have traveled 4,714 miles and visited 4 countries. The work that my amazing husband has done and continues to do to get us to these unbelievable locations is heroic. He learns, he studies and he is steadfast and dogged in his determination to keep us safe and he leaves no stone unturned in this pursuit. If a human gets the credit – it is he but we have not done this alone and I would love to just give a shout of thanks to our CHIEF ENGINEER in absentia, James Knight of Yacht Tech in Palm Beach. Last year we had an electrical issue that baffled us and other friends cruising with us. We called James Knight who, late at night and with better things to do, talked us through miles of electrical drawings and suggestions and circuit breakers until the issue was resolved. And coming up the Thames yesterday, our faithful and steadfast Detroit Diesel engine; which has never so much as hiccuped, began surging. The first place anyone looks with an engine issue is fuel but nope – the racor filters were perfect… Alec diagnosed it as electronic in nature most likely due to the unusual sound of it. I suggested an immediate start of the wing engine so we would have propulsion should our main engine falter. After several trips to the engine room and no clear culprit we pulled the plug and called James. Now, we had suspected that he was in Anacortes, WA (8 hour time difference away) but still, we needed to make the call – sorry James- it was 0600. He answered as he always has and he talked us through several possible fixes until he found the culprit. It turns out that most likely we have a throttle issue and we resolved it temporarily by switching to the emergency standby throttle. Now the good news is that the surging stopped and the issue seemed to be well in hand but the downside to this emergency throttle is that it is located in the wheelhouse. Alec always docks the Gratitude outside on the wing station where he can see at least the Starboard side clearly- thus making assumptions about the port side. This together with our headset communications with me on the stern usually results in some pretty fancy docking by my incredibly capable husband. Well, the unusual thing about St. Katherines Dock in London is that boats must “lock – in” to get to the marina. There is a 9-10 meter tide (roughly 30 feet) in the Thames and so in order to keep the marina from nearly draining at low tide, there is a dam holding in the water from the high tide which is the only time we can come or go from the marina and a reservation must be made with the lock. It is a tight fit and even tighter maneuvering around this marina – especially with the Clipper ships in port (more on that below). But now Alec has to do this very tricky procedure from inside after very little sleep and a long trip up the Thames and an hour of circling outside the lock avoiding ferries and thrill seeking adventure boats until it was time to come in. Our nerves were a little shot. Additionally, I knew I was in for it when I had a nearly flawless execution of docking at our most recent marina and the universe felt that I was ready for another lesson. So, it was a bit of a comedy of errors (sorry Alec) and not my best day of mate – ing but we made it in to the dock – no damage (except to my ego) and collapsed into bed. Its not always as easy as it looks 🙂 And there are others too. Paul Smith on April K and Peter Thyrre on Aries are a constant source of help when something comes up that needs another set of eyes. We have friends who have helped out who are vets and friends who have helped who are doctors. We are so incredibly blessed to have so many resources at our disposal and I pray that we can be helpful to others as well in their pursuit of their dreams.

The passage from Isle of Wight to London – highlights

Not since the crossing have we encountered such pristine passage conditions. We grilled dinner out and I had a wonderful work out on the fly bridge.

Such gorgeous conditions! The recently named “Doris” giving me a nice workout

So, a couple areas of interest. Below is a very cool picture of a wind farm at sea and the first I have ever seen. This is what it looked like on the radar – Seriously, had we encountered this at night I would have believed the armada was headed our way. (There is a reference to it on the charts when fairly zoomed in). Its pretty cool and from what I could see it looked like about 150-200 of these behemoths. Even in the very light winds they were still moving.

The wind-farm on our Starboard side

Next on my watch was the stunning and famed White Cliffs of Dover. I was so worried that we would be passed it by the time the sun rose but nope – just in time and the pictures are below. There was also quite a bit of traffic entering or queuing to enter the Dover Port. Below is the display and each of the blue “things” is a boat. Some of these monsters are 1,000 feet! Amazing. And a highlights blog of this passage wouldn’t be complete without the mention of leaving the Western Hemisphere and entering the Eastern. We passed the Longitude of 0 degrees. You will remember that GMT begins in Greenwich, England.

The Famed White Cliffs of Dover
Just entered the Eastern Hemisphere with 0 degrees longitude

And finally – drum roll please – the Thames. So for us, this was something like landing in LAX or New York’s LaGuardia airport the first time. To travel on such a storied and historic body of water as the Thames – well, its just a huge thing for us. I felt exactly the same way last year as we emerged from the East River to see the Statue of Liberty after passing through Manhattan. Its exhilarating and exciting and truly another dream coming true. And then we arrived (early of course, as only 2 retired airline pilots would) and waited… and waited… and waited… I got a little worried knowing as I do the British efficiency. We called. And we called… and we called on our phones… hmmmm I was worried we had gotten something wrong. All the while we have ferries whizzing past and adventure boats circling.. Finally – we could see that there was activity at the lock and we could see 2 other boats preparing to enter then we heard that there was conversation happening – just not on our radio. Turns out the US radios have an “A” after some of the numbered frequencies. The SKD Freq is 80. When we dial in 80 we get 80A. We can’t figure out how to get rid of the A but that’s the problem. We can transmit but can’t receive transmissions. They were able to hear us – we could not hear them. So now we have yet one more challenge – getting into the lock with nothing but hand waving instructions from the lock attendant arms swinging wildly. Gotta hand it to them – they stuck with us. Thanks SKD Lock and Dockmaster. If anyone knows how to get rid of that A can you let us know? we have tried to find it in the manuals but no luck. The Clippers are in Port and we had the added sport (or rather, Alec had) of navigating a narrow water way with not much room to spare. I had just told Alec that I wanted to start getting docking instruction so we could take turns. Hmmmm – maybe that was pre-mature….

So, I have certainly exceeded my normal space allotment for the blog and if you are still with me I just want to add a tiny bit about the amazing Clippers. They will be leaving here on the 1st of September, and will have an escort to the mouth of the Thames. On the 2nd they will be off for the around the world race. The 11 teams will travel 41,165 NM’s across 6 oceans, for 8 legs and 15 races. They expect to complete the circumnavigation in 288 days. What is really unique to this race is that the crew are mostly novice sailers, in fact, 40% of the crew members have NO SAILING EXPERIENCE whatsoever! Only the skipper and 1 mate per boat are professional. I can’t wait to follow this group and this organization. It would be such a fantastic thing to send a college student on for a gap year right??? We took a few pictures during our tour of one of the boats. Notice the zippered head entry 😦 and no toilet seat! :0 GADS! But what an experience!

20 crew members sharing this – No toilet seat! Look at the zipper door!

This is going to be a really exciting location to blog about – the energy of this location is fantastic so stay tuned and thanks for hanging in there for this longer than usual blog entry!

xo
Laurie

Good Bye Ireland- Hello England!

Good Bye Ireland, Hello England

If you have been following along on the trip, you know that something is missing between Ireland  and England.   Such is the life of a cruising family.  We left in May feeling like we have years ahead at our disposal to enjoy traveling around foreign countries with nothing but time on our hands but as was the case last year, you never have as much time as you imagine you do.  Last summer we had several cities nixed from the plan due to time constraints and here we are, freshly minted new arrivals in Europe and we have already nixed a whole country!  There are several reasons for this.  First and foremost is weather.  Never have we experienced more occluded fronts and persistent low pressure areas – one after another – marching across our path.  The other reason is plans and visitors that we wouldn’t have changed  for the world but have left us needing to start to head to England where we will have other visitors with tickets bought and paid for to visit us.   So we left Dingle last week and hoping to visit the Scilly Islands off the Western Coast of England but missed that too due to some weather coming in – we marched along to Falmouth.  Clearly there are more lovely locations than even a retired family has time to visit.  

Here is a snapshot of destinations mentioned below: 

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Today we traveled to the Isle of Wight not labeled but near Southhampton

We loved Cornwall and all that it had to offer.  Every day the brought weather conducive to open doors and ports we had visitors stop and share with us “must see” locations.  That bit of advice was perfect as we had rented a car to go to Plymouth (planned to go by boat but we had also only planned to be in Falmouth for 2 nights- once we saw the darling town, the planned changed – again).  Still, Plymouth was important for the educational opportunity.  Last year we visited Plymouth, MA and spent some time talking about the pilgrims and the Mayflowers arrival in 1620.  We had another opportunity to further this lesson when visiting Mystic CT we docked at the Museum there and discovered that the beautiful Mayflower II was being painstakingly and lovingly restored to its original glory in time to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the original’s sailing.   How could we possibly miss seeing the city on the “other side” from where the Mayflower set sail nearly 400 years ago.   So 1 day in Falmouth was spent on a 2 hour drive each way to go to Plymouth and the steps of the pilgrims.

 

Jack imagining himself on the Mayflower

Unfortunately, the weather we pretty snotty the next day when we had planned to enjoy a beach/rock walk in Lizard the Southern most point in England and St. Ives.  Well, we did go but it was non-stop torrential rains.  We also only discovered upon our arrival that the lighthouse in Lizard would only be open with a tour that didn’t start for another 3 hours.  Well, all was not lost.  Even in that rain it was plain to see how adorable each of these towns were.  If you are coming behind us and wondering where to stop, our recommendation would be to skip Plymouth but do visit Falmouth, St. Ives and Lizard.  All of these stops were really so typically darling English.   And in our typical lucky fashion, we arrived to find “Falmouth Week” in full swing with bands playing every night, regattas every day and the whole thing culminated in a fantastic fire works display last night.  

Enjoying a “Pint” at the Cornwall Yacht Club

The Pendennis Castle, built by Henry VIII was a wonderful day of exploration and got us talking a bit more about WWI.  Jack is really fascinated by WWII and can’t seem to get enough information to satisfy his curiosity.  There were some guns and cannons from that time but he learned a bit about the Pendennis’ role in WWI (as did we all) and that opened up some new discussions.   It really is so incredible to be standing in castles and fortifications that are older (by far) than our country.  They were everywhere in Ireland, and often many centuries old and based on the little we have discovered here in Falmouth, we are going to continue to enjoy seeing them.   They are such wonderful fuel for a little boy’s imagination.  Especially the forts that he can run around and hide in.    On the day of our visit there were having medieval demonstrations as well.

Jack enjoying a medieval demonstration at Pendennis Castle (One of King Henry VIII installations)

On the homeschooling front we are continuing to make strides.  We have fallen into a rhythm and Charlotte Masons guidelines have been a God send.  Since the beginning of our efforts when Jack joined us in the Azores, we have completed 2 math books (1 Geometry and 1 Metrics).  Jack has begun work on the Geometry 2 book and is making fast headway there too even opting to do more work on Saturday so that he could enjoy Monday off while we are underway to Cowes.  We have been busy in Science and have conducted 3 on board experiments including replicating Archimedes work with levers and displacement.  We are struggling to find the right materials for our ancient history lessons.  He is bored and we can’t quite get into a groove with it.  If you have any suggestions with this – Im all ears.  I have bought a couple of books online and they will be arriving with Jenn and Tracy when they come.  Wish me luck.  On US History we are doing well – we jumped ahead a bit when we arrived in Plymouth to take advantage of the lessons provided by our location.  We may go back and cover more of the pre-pilgrim American history – or not.  We shall see.    Grammar is provided for in the Charlotte Mason book and we frequently take side “trips” from her content when we feel like we should due to where we are.   This busy week provided a perfect opportunity for Jack to add to his journal so I requested 5-6 sentences about the week and “blew off” some of the other Charlotte Mason work.  Thank God we have a good reader with Jack and he gets a lot of help with sentence structure just by spending time reading.  

Homeschooling happens everywhere – especially at the Maritime Museum Falmouth, England

Heading next to Cowes, England on the Isle of Wight and after that visit which was supposed to be 2 days (but how can that be?) we will travel up the Thames to London.  We have begun our homework (or rather Alec has) studying the ins and outs of getting us into St. Katharine’s dock.  The  dock being behind a lock will necessitate a precise arrival time only 2 hour before or 1.5 hours after the high tide.   The trip distance from the entrance at Ramsgate to St. Katharines dock is 73 miles and due to the speed of the current coming or going we will want to be getting the free push from mother nature rather than trying to “swim upstream”.    Other issues on the radar for the Gratitude are:  a small hydraulic leak which has been plaguing us since Florida but remains mercifully small will be dealt with while in London.  Additionally we have a small coolant leak – equally unimpressive but should be dealt with and a stabilizer issue which is not time critical but needs to be looked at.   Hopefully all of these issues will be handled while we are in England and before we begin our “migration” south to Portugal. 

 

Thanks for reading.

 

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