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.

The Off Season Part 2

Happy New Year!
Off Season – continued

Hi Everyone! Hope you had a terrific holiday season and your new year is off to a fantastic start!

We have made a bit of progress on our “off season to-do list” so we thought we would check in and bring you up to speed.

To recap, we are making our way through a long list of preparations for ourselves and on Gratitude to prepare us for our mid-May departure to Europe. Upon returning from our summer trip to Nova Scotia, we evaluated ourselves and Gratitude for changes that we felt were necessary to improve our safety, comfort or knowledge before we leave in May for Europe. These changes range in importance from simply cosmetic to mechanical maintenance.

One of the big dream items on our list – purely cosmetic and comfort related, was the hard top on the fly bridge. As you can see in the pictures below, when we purchased Gratitude, she had a soft “bimini” type top. Reluctant to spend the time and money changing this before our summer trip, we decided to “live” with it and decide exactly how important it really was. Well, after the summer trip, we decided that it needed to be on the top of our “To do” list. Alec and I enjoy every morning on the fly bridge having coffee, praying, meditating or just contemplating the day ahead. We can’t overemphasize the enjoyment that this morning ritual brings us. On days when the dew was heavy or it has rained over night – or was raining still, we really couldn’t comfortably sit there. Also, my elliptical machine was exposed more to the elements which, once the hard top was installed, added a great deal more protection from both the sun and the rain. While we hated to make the expenditure on a non-necessary creature comfort item, neither of us could be happier with the results. Below is a before and after photo. We had the work done by Pipewelders in Fort Lauderdale. We had contacted Nordhavn to try to have one factory made in Asia and then shipped over on a new boat but this would have taken several years in production with their current new build schedule.

The Old Top (St. Michaels, MD)

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The New Top

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The wing Engine Stuffing Box before and after…

2 other smaller cosmetic improvements include turning a locker into a dedicated kitty “head” complete with air vent. This summer we used the guest head for the kitties but when guests came to visit, it was a challenge re-training Pratt and Whitney to use their box in the “new spot” – and finding a place for this rather unpleasant aspect of cat ownership was a challenge. And there is a perfect place in the galley for an additional shelf – I would love a place to put herbs growing in the light of the port.

Chief among our mechanical items on the list was to do a thorough “Bottom Job”. This is pretty involved process but there is nothing more important, in our opinion, before crossing a large ocean. Inspecting the bottom was done to ensure that the bottom is clean and to strip off 12 years of paint through a bead blast and then repaint the bottom with a special paint that resists (to some extent) marine growth. A contaminated bottom can significantly affect fuel burn. Part of this job is to remove and inspect the shaft log, stuffing boxes, propeller, drop the stabilizer fins and replace seals and hydraulic cylinders, replace the seals on the bow and stern thrusters and finally, remove both hydraulic pumps and steering cylinders, Below are some pictures of Gratitude coming out of the water and then getting a good cleaning. The large inflated plastic enclosing the bottom is done to minimize the environmental impact of all of this old paint coming off.


Crew preparedness is an important component of embarking on a trip of this magnitude. In some ways, there is no way to really prepare for 12 continuous days at sea without actually doing it. But we did attempt to make longer coastal passages so that we could build up our muscle and affirm ourselves that we are ready to do it. But a couple of items on the “To do list” for the off season were for Alec and me to get our Captains License. While it was more difficult than either of us thought it would be, we are happy to report that we passed it and all that remains is to receive the final credential from the Coast Guard. We will both be receiving our 100 Ton Captain License which will permit us to charge passengers on an un-inspected vessel. Of course, we have no interest in doing that, but we wanted to gain as much knowledge as possible before our departure. Adding to our bag of knowledge, Alec and I are both signed up for ABTrac Owner Hydraulic school in San Francisco, CA. A two day class we have taken before, it encompasses everything from maintenance, diagnostics and repairs to effect underway. This is a refresher for us to build on our current level of proficiency. This class is schedule for the end of March.

And finally, electronics: The plan here is to upgrade the Furuno Black box to the TZT Black Box, add another PC loaded with Nobeltech TimeZero Pro so that we will have 2 PC’s running simultaneously allowing for triple redundancy. 2 new radars, new transducers for bottom contours and depth, satellite compass antenna, satellite communications of some sort – either a phone or Iridium Go or both.

Electrically we will replace both inverters with new Magnum Inverters. This is scheduled to be done next week.

Some challenges have arisen on the homeschooling front. The program that we had planned to use (Calvert) has gone to a fully digital format requiring the near daily interaction on the internet. Since we have no idea what our connectivity will be, but certain that we don’t want to forgo a trip to the museum in place of the internet cafe to do school work, we have had to find a substitute program. One which showed promise was k12.com. Unfortunately this program limits the counties in Europe where we can use it. This is a little odd to us but the research continues. If anyone has a suggestion, we would love to hear it.

There is a You Tube video of a group of Nordhavns who crossed in 2004. I have watched this video a few times, each time gleaning some small nugget of wisdom from their experience. Basically, the preparations both mental and mechanical continue daily.  Speaking of You Tube, we have our own channel.  One of the additions we are looking forward to going forward is sharing video on a limited basis.  This channel will allow us to connect the blog to bits that we have filmed underway.   There isn’t much there yet – but going forward we hope to connect you to some of the more interesting aspects of our journey.

Thats all for now!  Thanks again for reading.

The Plan for the Off Season

So, we are back “home” in Stuart and settling into our land life for the next 6 months, and Gratitude is at the Spa in Old Port Cove. Actually, I call it the spa, Alec calls it the Doctor and as any good “Father” would, he travels back and forth daily to check on her progress and condition.

Gratitude is having work done by Yacht Tech, James Knight and Associates and the work order to prepare her for the trip across the Atlantic is lengthy. Basically, the short list is:

New Electronics,
New Radars
Service on Main and Wing Engines
Service the Davit (Hydraulic)
Service the Stabilizers (Hydraulic)
Replace Stabilizer Rams, drop the fins and service
Clean and re-paint the bottom
Open and Inspect all Fuel Tanks
Update Audio Visual
Make a few custom changes to Carpentry (dedicate a locker to the litter box)
These to name a few….

Work that we are doing to prepare us for the voyage includes

Getting our Coast Guard Captain (6 pack) license
Getting the crew selected and up to speed (done)
Getting addresses changed and catalogs cancelled
Select a home learning system for Jack
Do research on entry requirements for Pratt and Whitney (cats) to multiple countries
Do research on waters and passages for the planned voyage
Make all Doctor/dentist appointments
Start Planning Specific Destinations for our first summer in Europe…. THE FUN PART

So, for the next few months, the blog will largely be on Hiatus. We will check back from time to time to let you know how we are progressing toward our goal of preparing for the trip across the Atlantic. For now, we are one of 7 Nordhavn boats signed up to cross over in May. All 7 are planning to go to Bermuda, take 5-7 days to do work and play, then go to the Azores – 11-12 days enroute and 10 days of fun there, then 2 other boats are planning to head North with us to the United Kingdom, Ireland first, Scotland 2nd and England 3rd. Before the cold begins we plan to head South to Portugal for the winter. Of course, this is only a rough plan written in sand at high tide but… you get the picture. Thanks as always for reading!

 

Picture taken by Milt and Judy Baker (Bluewater)

Alec Jack Laurie Thyrre N64 Gratitude.jpeg

Deltaville-?????

Wrap up for Summer 2018
As we wrap up this summer’s cruise, Im reminded of an adage commonly told to new and inexperienced student pilots: “All new pilots begin flying with an empty bag of experience and a full bag of luck, the object of this game is to fill up your bag of experience prior to emptying your bag of luck”. The similarities in the two fields of knowledge: Aviation and boating – are remarkable. The long hours spent gazing at the horizon in the quiet solitude (when everything is going well), the amazing feeling of being the tiniest of specks relative to the vastness of the space surrounding you – above, below and as far as the eye can see in every direction – vast open space. Its as blissful and peaceful in a boat with hundreds of feet below and absolutely nothing on the horizon in all directions as it is in an airplane in exactly the same conditions. The absolute humbling reliance one must have in his skill, his craft (or boat), and the multiple factors that are beyond ones ability to control, the weather chief among them.

But back to our bag of experience and luck… Without question, we have used a bit of “luck” on this trip – largely “luck” we have created by preparing ourselves and our boat (thank you Alec) to the extent that we were able. We have researched multiple sites to compare weather reports and we have even hired a weather router to check and re-check our understanding of the weather and the causes for what we are experiencing. Additional “luck” we created was by deciding to “shake down” our new boat with a long 5 month coastal cruise where we could get help, should we need it, reasonably reliably. (Again, thank you Alec). We attempted to avail ourselves as a crew of every opportunity to learn and to stretch and to grow in our knowledge of ourselves, our boat, and each other. And so here we are, way off shore, enjoying the single most beautiful day of cruising we have had in 5 months but knowing that all of it can and will change. Again, we are attempting to tempt the fates and improve our odds of a successful 4 night passage – knowing that circumstances change, minds change, the cards in our hands at any one time will change, and we will make the next decision based on that new information. Again, just as in aviation, when we depart, we know what the forecast is but even in the space of a few hours, all of that could and frequently did change. Weather that we thought would be good turned bad and the opposite was true also. We make a new plan, we choose a new option. Just as in aviation, the crew of the Gratitude is facing that as I type. It is nearly 1900 on Tuesday having departed Monday morning. At the time of our departure the weather was forecast to be good Monday and Tuesday becoming less so Wednesday and possibly downright lousy on Thursday. Sorry – these are not technical terms but when I refer to weather as lousy or not good, mostly Im talking about the ride and the sea state. Any reader can put to rest any concerns that we would EVER continue into known unsafe weather. That we will NOT do. But to push our limits a bit in terms of comfort was something we have yet to cross off of our list of goals for this summer. So here we are.

At our last update, the router encouraged us to get as far South as possible while the weather is good because the area of concern was on the Florida/ GA border on Thursday. Alec and I discussed this the day before we left and we both decided then that trying to push the speed a bit more might be a way to improve our weather odds. We did push it up to between 8 and 8.5 kts. At the higher RPM We burned nearly twice as much fuel per hour but we also increased our milage per hour so ultimately, the cost was closer to 25% greater. If we didn’t have weather to be concerned with – we wouldn’t have done it but in order to improve the odds of making it past weather moving in, a price we were willing to pay. A decision to be made. Further down the road off the coast of North Carolina we again decided to bump up the power to 1500 RPM for a greater advantage of speed and now we were at 9.3. Given the pristine calm conditions that we were in, this was the time to do it. In terms of filling up our bag of experience, we have both learned a valuable lesson. First, anytime we are considering a long off shore passage, ensure that we have the bottom (or at the minimum) the prop cleaned. Also, ensure that we have the fuel to make the decisions that we want to make. But also never leave the dock with a known problem if it is within our power to fix it. More on that below…

We had a starter on our No 1 generator fail to cutout on our leg from Oxford – Deltaville. While underway and on my watch, Alec and Jack smelled a strong electrical odor. Alec quickly shut off all power to the electrical panel and notified me of the condition. I rapidly scanned the cameras in the engine room and notified Alec that there was no apparent fire that he was clear to enter the engine room. While trouble shooting this issue, we both remembered that we did maintenance on the no 1 generator and one of us – not sure who decided to shut it down. The smell began to dissipate and Alec checked all temperatures with his heat gun. Very quickly he diagnosed the problem with the extreme heat on the starter of the generator. I believe we both on our own decided that this was simply not a problem that needed to be fixed in Deltaville. We were going to be tied to the dock until we left for Palm Beach and then we could use the No 2 generator. Further, should something happen to it, we have hydraulic alternators which we have used under way but have recently opted away from them do to “strange” readings on our inverters and batteries and also their inability to take very much of a load. Anyway, long story short, we never fully discussed this as we were both on our own comfortable with waiting to get to Palm Beach where Gratitude is going in for a major trip to the spa. We both felt we had adequate redundancy with the remaining electrical options. Unfortunately, the first time we really talked about it was while underway and dissecting our weather issues in the next couple of days. Unfortunately, this was nagging Alec in the back of his head that he wished he had 2 generators. Simply a comfort thing. Another lesson learned and dropped into our bag of experience. When a crew has stuff playing around in the back of their head – better to have dealt with it rather than have it nagging there when other factors begin piling on. So, how does the story end????? We all have to wait and see, as I said, it is only Tuesday at 1900 🙂
Filling up our bag of experience part II

So, several hours after the above was written and in the middle of my 0200-0600 watch (2am-6am) I noticed flickering red lights on the overhead panel Flickering red lights in an airplane cockpit just as on a boat – not good. I discovered with some light on the subject that they were high water bilge lights – but no accompanying alarm – I figured OK – thats good. And they were flickering – not consistent. Again, I figured – thats good. The sea state had picked up considerably and we were now in quartering seas of 3-5’ with about a 6 sec period. I thought at the time that this new condition of water in the bilge was likely the result of the quartering seas. I really wanted Alec to get his rest so I waited a bit to see if the lights came back on. They did. Time to wake the Captain. Alec turned on the high water bilge pump and reminded me (I totally forgot this conversation that we had while tied to the dock in Deltaville after he cleaned the AC sea strainers) that he discovered that the low water bilge pump wasn’t working. Again, planning the big Spa trip for Gratitude, it was simply added to the list. Still, a bilge pump, I would rather have had that fixed at the dock. Plop – another item added to the bag of experience. That said, we still have the far more effective high water pump. Alec investigated the bilge after turning on the pump for about 30 seconds. All well in the engine room. Back to sleep for Alec. Seas continued to build.

We got another weather brief from the weather router and learned that the seas today would be building continuing overnight with winds to 30-35 kits. 10-12’ seas overnight. New cards – new decision. Lets duck in and formulate a new plan. Options include Savannah and Hilton Head. A little bit of research and Hilton Head is the winner. ETA 1515 Wednesday (3:15pm).

At 0600 Alec relieved me on watch and I went down to sleep. After about 2 hours I felt some unusual motions with the building quartering seas (now 6-8) as if we were being lifted from behind and being pushed up and over to a 40 degree turn. Which, of course, we were/are. I checked on Jack – Alec had given him a 1/2 dramamine and though he had vomited after awaking – he felt “great” now. I checked with Alec how things were and did he need anything? I rechecked that everything was stowed and went back to bed for 2 more hours. It is now 10 and Im back on watch. Alec and I have talked about the new plan for the divert and the all important lunch plan. As with turbulence on an airplane, the most dangerous thing about wave action is what happens when the occupants are not in seat belts or in our case, holding onto the boat. I suggested that since we were diverting to Hilton Head, why not get by with energy bars and grapes keeping everyone seated as much as practicable. That decided, Alec went down to nap in the salon with Jack. It is now 1110 Wednesday afternoon. Hilton Head is a mere 4 hours away.

So clearly this isn’t finished.  The newly revised plan now is to stay here until the weather lifts on Saturday (we hope).  But stay posted 🙂

St. Michael’s, Oxford, MD

St. Michael’s and Oxford, MD

If Mystic, Annapolis, and Washington were all characterized by rushing, running and trying to get one more thing done, St. Michaels and Oxford would be the relaxing vacation which followed. For the past week or two we have been getting caught up on rest, homework, boat chores and otherwise relaxing. St. Michaels and Oxford are the perfect places for this. Each town is, in it’s own right, adorable but completely different. Right now the Star Worlds are happening here in Oxford, MD. Think Olympic trials for the Star Class sailing boat – in fact it is probably just 1 step below the Olympics. If you are a Star sailor, this is a big deal. With12 countries here to participate and represent their flag we are able to watch it happening right in our back yard so to speak.

This respite has given me the opportunity to reflect on the past 4+ months of cruising and all that we have seen and done – and to look to the trip home and what that will entail. At the start of this, we had no idea how our boat would perform. We certainly felt as though we had done all that we knew to do to prepare her but ultimately, the test would be in the months to come. Also, we had no idea how we would handle the time underway. 5 months is a long time to be rarely farther than 64 feet from one another. Well, the jury is in and we all can say with confidence that we have the experience to go boldly in the direction of our European dreams.

Gratitude has performed admirably – truly remarkably. Buying a boat from someone else assumes the whole of the work that they have either done or failed to do for the past 11 years. Thank God, She has been amazing. We couldn’t be any happier with her mechanically or functionally. All of the items that were on our wish list for a live aboard were met with her and we are all so happy to say that we haven’t felt cramped or uncomfortable in the whole 4+ months since we left. We have certainly made her our home this past summer and while she definitely looks well loved and inhabited, she has held up beautifully. Each of our kitties on separate occasions have gotten ill and left evidence of that all over the carpet. With the exception of the mishap with Alec’s toe, it has cleaned up perfectly. We had one small issue with the seam on one of our salon settee’s but that will be cleared up as soon as we get home. Aside from that, Gratitude looks as lovely as the day we moved aboard.

In terms of the Gratitude crew – We all love it. Certainly there have been times that Jack (more so than either of us) has missed his bedroom or toys at home. He has missed his swimming pool and the space of the house. He loves experiencing a new town every week and having Pratt and Whitney with us and of course, he loves us. Having Uncle Paul and Aunt April has been a terrific addition to our summer cruise that we hadn’t planned on and they are coming for dinner tonight and Jack is always happy to see them. We have made friends, and spent time with family and friends along the way. In fact, an interesting fun fact, since we left Stuart we have seen 15 family members and 3 friends whom we may not have seen but for our trip. We met a terrific family and we cruised with several others whom we wouldn’t have ever met. Before we left, I might have thought that this could possibly be isolating but the truth is, we are actually far more social than we are at home. It isn’t at all unusual for a perfect stranger to come knock on the hull to say hello while at home that would be unheard of. It is not unusual to have an impromptu cocktail party with some fellow cruisers and share experiences about what we each have seen and where to go to next and the moment we arrive in any marina we instantly have a kinship with all of the other boats there – regardless of size or type. It isn’t at all that we aren’t social at home, its just that we are all on a different “schedule” at home. There are so many more “things” competing for our family time. With the typical school day ending at 3 and any after school activities ending at 5, there is little time for more than a quick meal and kiss goodnight – and this isn’t only our reality at home, but most of our friends have an even more scheduled week than we do with multiple children and 2 working parents. There is no question that in terms of quality of life, this cruising life ROCKS! If there is anything that has “suffered” it would be my alone time with Alec and all of our “alone” time with ourselves. I have found – interestingly enough – that I don’t depend as much on my alone time. I haven’t felt that if I didn’t meditate AND SOON someone was going to get hurt! Alec and I have found times to be alone and to spend time together and while it has changed – the trade off I believe is worth it. Also, another “down side” has been the absence of a real mirror and a working scale. Without scrutinizing any change to my body in a large full length mirror, I hadn’t noticed until looking at pictures taken a couple of weeks ago that ooops – the river of denial has indeed run deep this summer. All of those trips to the ice cream shops up and down the Eastern Seaboard to see which city has the best was indeed showing up in the dress size. Time to get that under control and make sure we fix this going forward. What has worked incredibly well though has been the elliptical machine! It has been used underway and at the marina or anchorage. It has been used in cold weather and warm weather and it has done beautifully. Thank God! I would hate to see what the scale would read without it and probably that has fit the bill for the “alone” time as well.
So it is with great anticipation and excitement that we confirm our plans for Europe in May. Roughly, we plan to leave May 1 (totally dependent on mother nature – we will go when she says go). We will head to Bermuda (5 days running non-stop) refuel, spend a week, leave with the weather for Horta, Azores, (another 12 days of running non-stop) spend another week or two, then head to Ireland (7-8 days non-stop), Scotland, and England for the summer before running in October/November for Porto, Portugal for the winter. We have done a lot of soul searching and this is tough but we have decided NOT to bring Jack on the crossing. The ONLY reason to bring him is because we will all miss each other. Not a good enough reason! The trip is a working trip. We will all need our heads in the game and we will all have a job (or more accurately, several jobs to do). Jack has had intermittent sea sickness and this really added to our thought process. Him getting sick takes one of us totally out of the loop. Plus, this isn’t on his bucket list – its our dream not his. No reason for him to suffer through it if he isn’t really doing the work. So, Kelly has volunteered to bring him over to Horta after we arrive and spend a week. Speaking of visitors and crew members….

We are hoping to have 1 or possibly 2 others do the crossing with us. We will train anyone interested but we fully expect it to be challenging and fulfilling. Since everyone will be keeping watch for a minimum of 2-3 times per day, we will be operating a “dry ship – no alcohol”. All crew members will assist with galley and cleaning detail. We will be in daily contact with our weather router for any updates or changes and we will be able to send basic text messages so that anyone interested can see where we are. This is definitely NOT cruise ship stuff! and I would not expect this to appeal to any but a couple of readers of this blog. Please let us know if you are interested though and we will talk more about it.

Visitors, however, are also welcome on the non-passage type cruising. During those visits it is fun fun fun and all are welcome. Let us know asap if you would like to come to visit us. We have 2 extra cabins aboard each with 2 bunks so multiple family members are welcome!!!

Phew! That was longer than I thought it was going to be but my fingers just kept moving while my mind was spinning so I went with it. It has been so much fun this summer doing all that we have done and sharing it with all of you. We love you so much!

Here are a couple of shots of the Museum in St. Michaels, the lighthouse and some ice cream stops and boat trips here in Oxford.

Tons of love,
Laurie, Alec and Jack

Annapolis, MD and Washington, D.C.

Annapolis and Washington, D.C.
What a town Annapolis is! Kelly recommended it after spending time here this summer for a wedding and having had corroborating recommendations from boaters, we decided to add it to the itinerary and we were NOT disappointed. The town itself is loaded with history and we availed ourselves of this with a tour of the city. While many others large cities “bulldozed” their history to make way for greater harbors with the advent of larger steamer ships, Annapolis decided to stay small and historical. The entire town, in fact, is a historic landmark and the inhabitants may make no changes to the exterior of their home without consulting the historical society. As a result, there are homes here dating back as early as the mid 17th century and most of the homes are from the 1800’s. To say “charming” would be an understatement – even the shops dotting the Main Street must comply with authentic historical facades – only the interior hinting at the current times. Unfortunately, the first several days were rainy but not to be deterred, we hit the ground running and filled the first few days with tours of the town, a tour of the Naval Academy and several wonderful dining opportunities. One notable stop was the most amazing restaurant, Mission Bar-b-q  – the best Bar-b-q we have ever had. The taste alone would have warranted multiple stops on this short week long visit, but in addition to the tastiest food, (they don’t have a freezer or microwave in the store – everything is made fresh) they are certainly the most patriotic restaurant we have ever been to. Every day, no matter how busy, at 12:00 sharp – all activity in the restaurant halts while the loud speakers announce “Every day at 12:00 we ask that ALL STAND WHILE WE SING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM”. Employees and patrons alike stop, stand and hand to heart sing the national anthem. It is hard not to get a little teary eyed to see that in the crazy rush of every day life, this one little bastion and haven of American pride exists – a place which pauses to pay tribute to the flag and those who serve to preserve the freedom that it represents.

Annapolis being the yachty town that it is, we were able to treat ourselves to a few indulgences, the first – a spa day for Gratitude- She got her first “professional” wash since we left Palm Beach. In addition, we hired someone to give the wheelhouse carpet their best effort. After two attempts of cleaning to get the blood out from Alec’s toe mishap, it remained. The pro did a better job – still, there is a slight albeit, faded reminder.

The other notable 2 days were spent in Washington, D.C. A little bit of geography here –

The Chesapeake is the largest estuary in the United States fed by fresh water from several rivers (notably the Potomac, the Miles and the Susquehanna Rivers) and of course, the Atlantic Ocean. We entered the Chesapeake from the barely visible on a map C and D canal, near the Delaware bay. We are now headed down the Chesapeake Southbound. We haven’t even neared the Potomac River yet which is quite a bit South of our position. To bring Gratitude to Washington, D.C., which we considered doing, we would have had to travel up the Potomac river for approx. 100 miles each way. In addition, with all of the rain and extreme weather the area has had, the runoff which includes large debris such as logs and “deadheads”, logs which remain largely submerged. Having survived the minefields of lobster and now crab traps, none of us had the desire to push our luck with this side trip. Ultimately, it was incredibly simple to pay the $5.00 fee per person to hop on a very comfortable bus and ride it to the front door of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum where we spent a full (and rainy) day inside touring the multiple amazing displays. Honestly, we could have spent another week inside those walls. I could fill pages with the artifacts contained therein but the most personal of all of the exhibits is the one pictured below. What are the chances that in the SAME display case I would see both the start and the end to my own airline career? An Eastern Airline Flight Attendant uniform on the left (and behind my head) and a Southwest Airline Pilot uniform on the right? Funny right?

IMG_2994

We spent the night in D.C. at a lovely Hyatt Regency and then hit the ground running the next day with tours of… Are you ready for this:
The White House
The Capital Building
The Lincoln Memorial
The WWII Monument
The MLK Monument
The Korean War Monument
The Vietnam War Memorial
The Roosevelt Memorial
and a drive by the Washington Monument. I think I left something out here but who could blame me.

Alec and I had seen several before but the ones we really were most impressed by and which we had not seen before were the Korean (my father served) and the Roosevelt. Also the MLK was incredibly well done. Jack’s favorite was the Lincoln. All in all – it was a fantastic and memorable trip. Of course, 2 days is not nearly enough time but we certainly made the most of it.

Arriving back in Annapolis, the weather cleared and we enjoyed a couple of days of beautiful weather. Of course, after the non-stop movement of the past few weeks, the crew of the Gratitude wanted a couple of “lay days” – so we mostly enjoyed it at a leisurely pace.

Next stop…. St. Michaels further south down the Chesapeake but on the Eastern Coast.