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.

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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.

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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.

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As always, thanks for reading and sharing the adventure with us.
Love, Laurie, Alec and Jack

Lessons Learned leg 2

Lessons Learned…

As I sit writing this we are 187 miles from Horta and in the final 24 hours of the 2nd leg of the crossing.  Having a bit more “water” behind us than in front of us, we have had a chance to reflect on things we did “right” and things we may have done differently.  Since I know some reading this are planning this journey next year, I thought I would include thoughts from the crew on what they would have changed.  

So, things that we have done well in terms of preparation:

Pre-cooking food:  It would be easy to forgive a participant in this trip believing that they were going to be bored.  It was absolutely something that I imagined we would struggle with – especially given the frenetic activity level in the months leading up to the trip.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  I have had several days of choosing between a book or a work out not able to do both.  Having pre-cooked most of the dinner time meals aboard, we were able to mostly relax while not on watch and meal prep became as simple as tossing a salad or making a side dish or two to accompany what came out of the freezer.  And as most of you are going to be inviting “crew” aboard, make sure that everyone prepares something (or some many things) to share.  Sally and I both prepared and froze several meals which we were able to toss together in an hour or less and we cannot overstate the importance of a well fed happy crew.  Making sure that everyone has their “comfort” food ready to go is huge.  And speaking of food, this is not the time to try something that you think you may like or may make life easier.  If you aren’t eating it at home, chances are you won’t want it on the crossing.  But the foods that we prepared and froze not only contributed to the well being of the whole boat, they were delicious and satisfying and helped to feed the souls as we all enjoyed dinner together.  An unintended benefit of prepared and frozen meals also includes reducing the waste aboard.  In 10 sea days we only generated 1 1/2 bags of garbage (the small kitchen size) and that is for 6 humans and 2 cats.  Not too shabby.   What I would probably do differently on a crew of 6 is to work out KP duty to the roster so that ALL members of the crew can take a turn preparing a meal and cleaning the dishes and allowing everyone a day or two off.  Everyone on board should be sharing in this responsibility.    Also, plan ahead fruits and veggies leaving the heartier (potatoes, brussel sprouts, squash, apples, pears) for the last week and consuming the more fragile (spring mix, berries) right away.    We managed to eat fresh fruits and veggies purchased from Stuart right up until the last day by carefully planning.  While in Bermuda we bought just a few fresh items which were outlasted by food we purchased in Stuart.  By the time it gets to the shelf in Bermuda, it is already older than food that we purchased at home and brought with us.  Careful planning meant that for the full 3-4 weeks, we had fresh food the entire time.    The Instant Pot proved invaluable in both meal prep and thawing foods already frozen.  Frozen soups and stews could be thawed and heated in 10-15 minutes in the pot with no worries of containers sliding about on the stove or in the oven.  The soda stream was a terrific addition as well as eliminating cans for storage and disposal to which we added some fresh lemon or lime juice.  

In terms of maintenance:  When I asked Alec what he was glad he took care of his response was:  Glad that we went system by system doing heavy maintenance, even when it was a bit ahead of schedule and cataloging spare parts and ensuring that we had the tools to effect any repairs underway.   What we would do differently here is that while we thought we had allowed enough time for all of the work to be done, at the end of the day, it wasn’t enough.  We could have used a little more time fine tuning the electronics which were installed only a couple of months before our departure and working out the bugs continued right up until the day of departure.  No matter how long you think something will take – double it.  

Leaving Jack (our 8 year old son) behind.  This was both something we did right and the thing we struggled with the most.  Not a day went by that our hearts didn’t hurt missing him.  But at the end of the day, having him aboard would have really changed the trip.  Jack struggles with the occasional bout of sea sickness and he is too young for the patch.  He has tried every single holistic treatment to no avail.  1/2 dramamine or bonine does seem to help but having him take this across the Atlantic with so much unknown weather to pass through would have really made us a wreck.  Whats more it would have been really tough for everyone to get sleep during the day with a boundless 8 year old burning up energy in 64 feet.  He is flying into the Azores and we will be together soon and he will accompany us on the 3rd leg from the Azores to Ireland.  Fingers crossed it goes well.  

Speaking of sea sickness…  We all feel like we have been doing this long enough to “power through” but the patch for everyone on board was a dream! Elizabeth said “What I would do differently is bring more of my own patches”.  We really should have all checked our own reaction to it while on solid ground but we never did.  We did try it when conditions were making me miserable and the difference was amazing.  Never preferring meds, I was reluctant but it works wonderfully and with no adverse side effects for anyone on board.    Buy the patch and try it out before you leave and encourage your crew to do the same.  

And finally, I would only add that whatever you need to be in place in order for you to be comfortable making the trip, whether hired crew, professional weather routing, just do it.  As we go forward filling up our bag of TransAtlantic crossing experience, we won’t need to do as much in this regard but for this first trip across, make sure that you aren’t reliant on anyone else doing or not doing something in order to go.  Our weather router did a wonderful job in helping us to plot a course through a needle of beautiful weather.   It is our hope that we will be better able to do this ourselves in the future but it may be that the professional services of a weather router may just simply become a budgeted item anytime we have a multi – day passage.  Time will tell.  But I hope that we never make a plan based on the plans of another boat given how tenuous a plan like this can be.

As I write this final paragraph I would only add to this list careful vetting of crew can’t be overstated.  We have been terrifically blessed by a great group of kindred spirits but there is no doubt that in 64 feet of pent up humans, it would be easy for personalities to clash – through no fault of anyone.  Just that each personality has it’s twin – and it’s polar opposite.   Spending time together on a short voyage can be just the piece of information you need to determine if a multi-day passage with unknown variables and the inability to get off the boat may work or not.  

So we are having the time of our lives here in Horta and tomorrow our darling final crewman (Jack) leaves Florida to come to Horta traveling with our dear friend Janie.  We are counting the moments until he is here with us.  

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey
As I write this, we have just passed the mid-way point in our quest to cross the Atlantic. At this relative waypoint, any issues that arise will result in us continuing to the destination (Horta, the Azores) rather than turning back to Bermuda. It is the same in the airplane. Every flight calculates a “GO” “NO GO” way point referred to as V1. The point at which the take off will NOT be aborted, the pilots will continue to fly and make a plan to return to the airport if necessary to deal with whatever came up on the take off roll. Spending the past 5 days working toward this way point in the sea has gotten me thinking about dreams and the tenacity and “stickiness” of inertia.

Everyone is familiar with the “Hero’s Journey”. The Hero’s Journey has been well chronicled in book after book and story after story over the millennia whereby the hero has the dream yet has many obstacles to overcome in order to bring the dream to fruition. I recently heard an interview (If I had the internet in the mid-Atlantic I would do the research necessary to give the subject credit but I don’t recall who wrote about it) with an author who wrote a book referring to the “stickiness” of essentially breaking the inertia away from the comfortable. Every epic journey includes this stickiness. And everyone who has ever held a dream and worked toward it’s manifestation can attest to it. I have often called this phenomena breaking the inertia. This particular author posits that the greater the evolution of the spirit the “stickier” or more resistance one will encounter.

Writing this blog, was, for me a great example of this. Each time I began a posting, I would meet with resistance in the form of eating, working out, talking, reading, cooking, vacuuming, doing laundry… etc etc. You get the picture. Yet simply getting my butt in front of the computer and the inertia away from progress is broken.

Dreams are especially sticky. How many times have you had the seed of a dream planted only to permit distractions to move you off the target. Excuses. So many excuses. “It could be dangerous”. What if something happens to me? What if the boat breaks? What if the weather is terrible? What if we run out of water, food, movies entertainment, chocolate… etc.. My cousins uncle’s sister said she knew of someone who did this and their child was never the same again. Again, you get the picture.

But here is the funny thing – while there is sticky resistance to the dream, there is at least as much serendipitous support for our dreams. I have seen evidence of this in too many dreams of mine to count or to be random coincidence. For me, and for my empirical evidence, there is hard concrete proof that once I set my intention and begin working toward it with dogged persistence, I merely have to step aside and let God do all of the heavy lifting. Doors open to me, people come into my life at seemingly random moments all arriving to support my intentions. That is not to say that there aren’t challenges to the dream. Thats the sticky part. But that is to say that the challenges are all part of the deliciousness of the achieving.

So, the first time I can remember having a conversation with Alec about crossing the ocean it really sounded something like this… “Could you imagine….” “What do you think that would feel like!!!???” From those early musings came the occasional watering of the seedling by Alec or Me finding an article or a blog talking about just that thing. Then the mystical starts to happen for me. The blogs and the talks all seem to touch something inside of me… deep deep inside of me but it nearly always manifests in some physical tangible thing like goosebumps or a strange feeling welling up inside of me – oddly enough sometimes the reaction is strong and visceral – crying during the thought for absolutely no reason but feeling like the joy inside caused by the thought must find release. In those moments, I know Im onto something. When I feel this – I know that this is MY path and Im on my way. Then I start “trying things on”. Imagining this path or that path to what I feel like the ultimate goal would be. Often times this “trying on” will give me the direction for pursuing the dream. Nothing happens overnight in this phase, God needs time to line up his soldiers and nothing will happen for me at the expense of someone else. The only way obstacles will be cleared from my path is if they are simultaneously being cleared for someone else as well. This is another clue for me reaffirming that Im where Im supposed to be. When my dreams and goals don’t cost anyone anything – they are part of the human collective gaining benefit Im where I belong.

So… here we are… in the middle Atlantic having just crossed the point of being closer to the Azores than to Bermuda. A little later today we will cross the point of being closer to Ireland than we are to Stuart, FL. The decision to GO made – and if the beautiful weather we have encountered since we left Bermuda wasn’t enough, this day has been characterized by more dolphin encounters than we have had combined since the beginning. As I write this there is a pod of dolphins about 200 meters to port containing more dolphins than I have ever seen in my life. They are jumping out of the water it seems almost like they are performing just for us. Another earlier encounter was captured on video and while a smaller pod, these hung right in our bow wake and swam along with us for several minutes. I hope to inset a youtube video here but you know how I struggle with technology:

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We are supported so incredibly by God on this day. The seas have never been calmer, the peace aboard Gratitude has never been more palpable. Its not just me though, I must say, I am in such a peaceful state I don’t remember when I have enjoyed a more restorative vacation. Everyone aboard seems to be infused with peace and wellness. Being absent technology, and internet and noise is such a huge blessing! Being nearly 1,000 miles from land at the closest point is amazing and exhilarating. The night sky has been speckled with more stars than my wildest imaginings and last night on my 0001-0300 watch the water around the Gratitude flashed with bioluminescence. It was like little fire flies dancing in the sea below us as the stars and milky way soared above.

Back when we were in the dreaming and planning phase we watched the NAR youtube video (probably 100 times) and laughed as several of the participants jumped in the ocean. I wondered if we would do this and boy was I nervous. You see, making a trip like this consists of many protocols and plans for keeping the humans INSIDE the boat, not watching as they jump OUT of the boat. Still, there is something amazing about the idea of swimming in 18,000 feet of water. Today, we did it. We all jumped in and frolicked around laughing and giggling like a bunch of 5 year olds. I tried to dive down so that I could look back up through the crystal clear (cold 69 degree) water but I was nearly hyperventilating and couldn’t even sink more than 6 inches below that water. Still, it was an amazing day and a memory that will stay with us forever.

By the time you read this, we will have arrived in the Azores. Thanks for sharing this experience with us. We feel as though we are loved and supported beyond words by all of the beautiful souls who are rooting for us back home. Each of us aboard the Gratitude has a full support community cheering us on and we can feel the prayers buoying us along. We pray for each of you every night before our dinner time meal and we are so grateful for you in our lives.

Tracking the Gratitude

Hi Everyone:

In response to numerous requests to track us crossing, we are going to TRY to get a link up here that will work for this purpose.  People who know us will appreciate that this is NOT at all a strength that either of us possess.  Each of us would rather do just about anything than deal with technology – that said, here goes.  Let us know if it works and thanks for the interest.

http://share.garmin.com/alecthyrre

 

In terms of an update, we are enjoying the island of Bermuda immensely.  Today is Bermuda Day which is an island wide celebration – in fact, the largest of the year.  It was originally intended to celebrate the Queen’s birthday but now is more of a day to celebrate Bermudian heritage and launch the island into the summer in much the same way the Memorial day announces the arrival of summer in the states.  More on that later.  For now, we are awaiting another weather opportunity to get going to the Azores which is looking delayed until at least Tuesday.    Still, the crew of the Gratitude is having a marvelous time and we are fully making the most of our tourist  opportunity here in Bermuda.

 

Lots of love,

Laurie

We’re OFF!!!!!

The below post was written in the first few days.  We have arrived safely in Bermuda  and had a lovely crossing.  There were 3/5 days that we incredible and smooth and 2 which were a bit lumpy -all good though – nothing like losing a couple of pounds and I didn’t even have to exercise to do it.    The crew of the Gratitude complemented each other beautifully – and a good time was had by all.    We celebrated 2 birthday’s aboard (Alec and Bernie) and enjoyed many crew meals together in the wheelhouse and fly bridge.  Gratitude performed flawlessly and she has just gotten a wash down and fill up by her grateful crew.

Crew from left to right front row

Sally Laurie Alec James

Back Row

Michael and Bernie

 

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WE ARE OFF!!!!!!

At 0810 this morning, 5/16/19 the MV Gratitude left the dock on the first of 3 legs to deliver us to Ireland. Next stop Bermuda.

With 6 crew aboard, Alec and I, Sally and Michael Hastings, Bernie Frances and James Knight we are making our way to the inlet to begin our big adventure.

The above caption was a feeble attempt to write this blog piece yesterday while fighting the worst nausea I have ever had! I abandoned the project and went to bed. What follows is day 2 and day 3.
As anyone who has formed a dream or epic adventure knows, dreams come in several stages – the beginning; the moment when the idea is first conceived. The watering of the idea by availing yourself with as much knowledge about the endeavor; and then the moments (or months) of preparations and finally the actual implementation of the dream. Alec and I have wallowed away many hours imagining what we would be feeling or what this would look like as we said so-long to our family and friends. We imagined moments of pure blissful joy with the months of hard work behind us. Well, we have the benefit now of being on day 2 of the beginning. I had imagined that I would be blogging with joyful fingers burning up the keyboard and posting it prior to making the turn direct Bermuda. I imagined tears of joy streaming down my face as the years of dreaming became reality. What really happened (though I am still full of joy and gratitude), was something other than any of my musings.

Firstly, this past week of final work and saying good bye to friends was FAR more emotional than we imagined. This was a huge blessing as we were able to experience dear friends in the context of saying so – long. Few people have the opportunity to say “so long” for a period long enough to warrant the loving kindness of friends preparing for a long absence. This wasn’t something that I gave a lot of thought to and was a bit surprised by my visceral reaction to it. If you are reading this and we have enjoyed a meal to say goodbye or you have said a prayer for us this is for you. Thank you, thank you, from the bottom of our hearts. We feel so incredibly privileged to know you and call you friends.

The other element that I hadn’t really given much thought to, but experienced in full this week was that every decision one makes, no matter how joyful, comes at the expense of decisions not made. The decisions not made became somehow more impactful this last week before departure. So this brings me to yesterday, our departure. This is the part of the fantasy that I thought would be filled with joyful music and celebration but in reality began with saying good bye to our 8 year old son who will stay at home and join us in the Azores in June. To say that my heart broke in two would be a gross understatement but the decision was made and we believe it was in his best interest. Jack sometimes gets sea sick in lumpy or confused seas and also, entertaining an 8 year old while trying to maintain a watch schedule and keep 6 people fed and watered was not prudent for us nor fun for him. Leaving him with a trusted friend – a surrogate Grandmother if you will, was the wisest decision – gut wrenching though it was. And since saying good bye took longer than anticipated we were basically running down the dock being the LAST of our crew of 6 to arrive on OUR boat for OUR dream. The departure time (not date) was set in stone as we needed to leave at high tide due to a couple of “high” spots separating us from the inlet. So with Alec jumping aboard starting the engines and everyone saying good bye to the assembled friends sending us off, I was left with running around with my hair on fire getting last minute things stowed and the lockers all locked. I had imagined that once we were out of the inlet all of the emotions would settle down but the reality was the the seas which we thought would be 2-3 with 11 seconds were actually 4-6 with 2 seconds and incredibly confused. Everyone on board felt lousy but I had never felt worse. And so there I was, day 1 of my dream, sick as a dog and sleeping nearly the whole day.

Some of you reading this are considering your own crossing next year. Lessons learned:

No matter how much time you think you have – it is never enough and it is too much all at once. If we would have delayed another week, we would have filled one more week. But the challenge with something like this is that you have to be careful to avoid burn out and preparation fatigue. If we would have stayed even 1 more week – I don’t think it would have benefited us in the least – it could only have hurt us. So set the departure date and weather permitting – get underway as close as possible to that date.

When one is dealing with any yard or mechanical work prior to departure, allowing a ton of extra time can not be overstated. I don’t think I know of 1 single person to ever come out of the yard earlier than they guessed and everyone we know came out later – in some cases far later. And every single thing we did took so much more time and effort than we imagined it would. Even simple items like disconnecting Direct TV became a job requiring 3 and 4 phone calls and exceedingly long wait times. On Alec’s side, making a repair that he thought would take an hour, often exacted several hours of work with tools or parts that weren’t in his possession.

Provisions: Thank God we did the summer trip because I had imagined long lazy sea days of preparing multi-course gourmet meals, but the reality was that in some sea conditions, nobody wants to cook but everyone needs to eat. So acknowledging that we aren’t going to be having these gourmet 4 course meals at sea, Sally and I prepared about 25 meals for 6 humans for dinner and froze it all so it can just be sent into the oven, crockpot, instant pot or stove top and be done with minimal effort. Even with all the food prepared, we all ate crackers for dinner last night. Tonight is showing more promise as our seas have calmed down to 1-3 with a 8 sec period and a very lovely swell. The 2nd day, we enjoyed a wonderful meal brought on board by James. An indian curry dish and we enjoyed it on the fly bridge in the most exceedingly beautiful sea conditions EVER while helping Bernie to celebrate his 65th birthday.

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Alec and I hung the storm plates and dead lights this week. The storm plates are hung on all salon windows. The plexiglass is about 1/2 inch thick and while I was worried it would look dark or hard to see out of, they are wonderful and not at all intrusive. The dead lights in the cabins are a bit more so in that they are metal coverings over all of the ports. But for a trip like this – that security is essential.

 

We are traveling with cats. Taking care of import paperwork for them was a monumental task. Basically, it would have probably been better for everyone (our vet included) had we simply found a vet who specializes in this sort of thing. Our vet is wonderful and I know he was doing us a huge favor by trying to help us but at the end of the day, you can hardly go wrong by finding someone who does just this kind of work and paperwork for a living. And the same goes triple for anyone performing maintenance on your boat. Hire the people who do this for a living – not a friend who is trying to help you out.

And finally (and this is not at all an exhaustive list, you will likely make your own list of preparations that surprised you) each person must make their own decision about what safety parameters must be in place to drive the trip to conclusion. Im referring here to the other boats who were on the original list. Look, I get it, stuff happens and we knew and were told that it would be very unlikely for all of the original 7 boats to make it to the start of this. We knew this and yet we were a bit surprised as boat after boat dropped out of the crossing. After we were down to 2 or 3 boats making the crossing and realizing that there would likely be others to drop out, Alec and I needed to talk about how we would feel about being the only boat crossing. Bottom line, we felt it prudent to have a professional along for the ride to bounce things off of. Bernie was already signed up for the crossing on another 76’ Nordhavn and as such he was disseminating information to the group free of charge. The challenge was that the boat that Bernie (and his giant bag of experience) was hired onto, had backed out of the crossing. We considered his experience with making several Atlantic crossings and believed that the experience he brings aboard was worth the financial commitment for no other reason but peace of mind. We didn’t per se care all that much which boat he was on, just that he was present on one boat. So we decided to hire him onto Gratitude just for the legs to the Azores. Beyond that we will be on our own. So I would suggest to anyone considering this crossing that if you are feeling like it is a challenge you are up to and you want to make the passage in the company of other boats, just make sure that whatever you need to do to be comfortable going ALONE is done because more likely than not, that that is what is going to happen. And on the subject of crew:

As I write this on day 3, the most interesting thing to happen to the crew of the Gratitude is a Mama and baby whale sighting and the tranquil conditions have allowed us to exercise on 2/3 days so far. Fingers crossed this continues. Everyone on board is in really high happy spirits and laughter spilling out of the wheel house has been a constant. We have 6 incredibly well matched people on board.

Thanks for reading! we are approaching the point of no return (20 miles away) and at the point any problem at all and we go to Bermuda. Yippee…..

 

 

Death of 1,000 Tiny Cuts

Recently while enjoying dinner with friends the subject of this adventure came up. As I shared with my girlfriend the stress that Alec and I have been under she queried the reason for it. I told her that I have been trying very hard to identify the cause myself- and what I have determined was that it wasn’t any of the big stuff. Its not moving overseas, its not preparing our own 64’ boat to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It isn’t even the added stress and responsibility of shouldering the entire burden of educating our 8 year old son – (although yes it does terrify me beyond words.)

It is the 1000’s of small details (which give birth to sub-details on their way to becoming solved) that we are dealing with on a daily basis. These details range in size and importance between the government entry requirements for us, our boat and our kitty’s for the first 6 foreign countries which we plan to visit within the first 6 months of our absence – and which of the 100’s of curriculums offered to the overwhelmed newly initiated home school families. Details which include feeding 6 humans 3 meals a day on a boat which will not touch land for roughly 23 days out of the month we will be crossing and preparing for every level of wellness for those humans who may or may not be up for whatever weather or issue may present itself on said 23 days (myself included). The minutiae of it has certainly reached a peak for us. And don’t get me started on what poor Alec has been dealing with as he inventories spare parts in every little crack and crevice one can find in 64’ and he plans for every minor and major contingency of what my befall us or our little floating island as it makes it way Eastward. And it really is it’s own little city our Gratitude. With our own waste management system, our own propulsion, and our own capacity to “make” electricity and water – simple it is NOT. Keeping it all running and operating at peak efficiency has been a full time job for Alec these past several months as he double and triple checks the redundancy and operation of everything on board. Thank you my darling husband!

But through it all, the thing that I come back to when Im feeling just too overwhelmed is the travel books which have taken up residence on every surface near where I may take a moment to read the grandeur of this volcano or that cliff. These and the maps and charts are the things which buoy my spirits and keep me going on most days. But recently we had the joyous occasion to get the push we needed to get us over the final 5 weeks of preparation H***.

Braun and Tina, the previous owners of our beloved Gratitude (Formerly Ocean Pearl) came to visit us and send us off with a lovely dinner and day together. They shared with us a complex system of embarkation used in Europe known as the Pasarelle which they had purchased and installed but we had no idea how to make work. We had most of the “Big” pieces but couldn’t find the smaller ones 🙂 Braun was able to find them in about 10 seconds after hearing that we had no idea where they were. That man knows his boat! Even after 1 year of imposters living aboard, he could find anything. Braun and Tina have done it all. They are absolutely the “giants” in the world of cruising that I have spoken of in earlier blogs. Sharing several hours with them was such needed medicine to remind us of ALL of the reasons we are doing this. Every cruiser should have a Braun and Tina in their life to buoy their spirits, dust them off and send them back in when the spirit begins to wane. Below is a picture of the 4 of us just getting ready to leave for dinner. Thanks so much to both of you. You are 2 of the loveliest people we have ever known. How blessed we feel to have purchased your well loved Ocean Pearl and having gotten to know both of you.

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And so here we are 4 weeks and 4 days until the planned departure date. The lists are getting smaller and one way or another it will all be done by the time we leave the dock. We are both so looking forward to knowing, once we have left, that it will all be what it will be. Hopefully all of the work and preparations will be rewarded with the most boring time anyone ever had crossing the Atlantic Ocean.
Have a great month!

Laurie

T minus 8 weeks….

T Minus 8 weeks and counting…..
Yesterday marked 8 weeks until departure. Yes, that was a sentence that should stand alone because I can barely get my head around the idea that has been 7 years in the dreaming and planning stage and is now a mere 8 weeks away from its beginning. Of course, this isn’t just beginning in 8 weeks but rather is the culmination of years of dreaming and several years of planning – but that first tentative step – pointing the needle on the 090 for a month to go to Bermuda, the Azores and finally making landfall in Europe in Kinsale, Ireland is a biggie for us.

We haven’t begun this alone though and while I always believed that cruising was a fairly solitary “hobby” I realized recently that it is far much more a team sport than a solo enterprise. Take for example the hundreds of hours Alec and I have spent pouring over the blogs written by people just like us who, fed, and watered their dreams and ambitious passage goals with knowledge and advice and then shared that knowledge and advice with other “would be” dreamers and so the sharing continues… here… with this. And the incredibly kind and generous sharing of personal email and dinner conversations with the true “giants” in the passage making world who answered questions and made suggestions about everything from legal entry requirements to places to visit. The support of friends and family and loved ones and even Jacks teachers who support the idea of an alternate education and agree to be a resource – each friend is a gift making our dream a reality.

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Several huge components of the team are the organizations whose dedicated employees spend their life building, perfecting and teaching about the products that reside in the hull of our beloved Gratitude. First and foremost is the Nordhavn boat itself. There are other yacht builders out there who advertise and promote their boats as being solid enough to travel across oceans but the truth and reality is that the Nordhavn is the boat you are most likely to see in the most remote corners of the world after crossing every body of water on the planet. The intrepid owners of this brand may be the reason for this but their recommendation is enough for us to make Nordhavn our choice for the trip. Second, the folks at Yacht Tech have done so much work for us and have made our safety and security aboard their highest priority. It isn’t just one employee, it is the entire group working long hours to make sure that the work is done and done well. And the other “stand out” company is ABT Trac. This is the company that manufacturers the hydraulic system aboard that makes “light” work of the stabilization in big waters, the bow and stern thrusters (primarily used for docking), the windlass which hoists the anchor (330 lbs itself not including the hundreds of feet of chain attached to it) off the bottom, the hydraulic wash down to spray the mud from the anchor so it doesn’t skink up our chain locker, and the emergency dewatering pump. Alec and I just completed their training at the California office and for the 2nd time, availed ourselves of the excellent training that they offer free of charge to their customers. There is no question that for us, this is the company we want to rely on to provide a smooth (ish) ride across the Atlantic.

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Another huge milestone on the off season checklist was to do a “shake-down” cruise to check out all of the work that was done in the yard. Well, we had some mixed results on the trip and truth be told, we would have been better served to do a “sea trial” before the shake down but we survived it and we have a few more things on the “to do list” after the return. We went to Key West with our friends Michael and Sally Hastings who will be accompanying us across to Kinsale, Ireland. We were on a 26 hour passage and with lots of bells and whistles sounding and a few bugs to work out, they did a fantastic job and left us more happy than ever that they are coming along for the journey. Meeting us in Key West to stay aboard for the week were friends of ours from Jack’s school. Jack finally got to invite a friend for the week and these friends were the absolutely most enjoyable guests to have aboard. We had a fantastic week of good food, sightseeing and relaxation. The best part of the trip was the reminder to me of all of the elements that make our time aboard so special. With so many projects, to do lists and checks being written, it was good to have a reminder of why we do it. There is just nothing in the world like our time aboard the Gratitude. We are closer to one another, we are more peaceful in our own skins and we are more relaxed and present in the world when we are on board. Life slows down in a way that makes everything a little brighter and our interaction with the world more pleasant.

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But back to reality we are! for now… Ill show some pictures of Key West and of the ABT Trac school in California. And together, we will count down the next 8 weeks.