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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!