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.

IMG_3695IMG_0339IMG_0330IMG_0493

IMG_0488

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.

IMG_0511.jpg
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.

IMG_0875

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:

IMG_0301.jpgIMG_5797

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.