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