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: 

IMG_3553
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.

IMG_2024

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.

IMG_2695IMG_2675

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

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

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

Thanks for reading and sending lots of love

xo
Laurie

Hitting the Trail – Leaving Kinsale, IR

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

 

IMG_1506
The gracious reception at the Kinsale Yacht Club was so very much appreciated. To a one, the members and employees treated us as friends and it was such a lovely spot to relax and rejuvenate. Located right in the heart of Kinsale, it is a short walk to countless pubs, shops, restaurants and transportation. Below is Richard, the dock master who was helpful and friendly and we are enjoying a pint at the Yacht Club. If you plan to come this way, there is no better place to stop. paul@kyc.ie For Paul Murphy who can arrange dockage.

IMG_1687.jpg

 

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

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

IMG_1649.jpg
Atlantic crossing by the numbers (Stuart FL- Bermuda, Bermuda- Horta, Azores, Horta-Kinsale, Ireland)
Engine hours: 517 hours
Fuel consumed: 3350 (Engine Only)
Fuel consumed Generator: 500 est. With constant use
Nautical Miles Traveled: 3968

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

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

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

IMG_1591.jpg
Irish Trad dancing and music

IMG_1378

The Charles Fort

IMG_1470

The James Fort

IMG_1392

Cannonball Race

IMG_1561

Best Dinner in Brunos

IMG_1665

The Crossing is COMPLETE!!!

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

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

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

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

IMG_1254

 

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

IMG_1230

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

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

We were hailed by the Irish Navy:

IMG_1258
And then we were hailed by the Customs and Border Patrol. The customs folk boarded us as we were headed to the dock and had all of the required paperwork completed before we even had the lines on the dock! The easiest clearing ever in the history!!! This was particularly helpful as Sally and Michael had a booked flights out in 4 days so they wanted to hit the ground running to see as much of Ireland as possible. So it was with mixed feelings we said so long to our wonderful and amazing crew who were with us from the first – Sally and Michael Hastings. You guys were amazing and wonderful and the list goes on and on… We are so incredibly grateful to you for accompanying us on this adventure. It isn’t everyone who could live with us for 50 days in 64 feet of space but you guys did it with patience and tolerance and we so very much appreciate you both.

IMG_1195

IMG_1331

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

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

IMG_1259

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

 

The Azores

Memories from the Azores

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

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

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

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