December 13, 2012

Detox is officially OVER

Where to begin...first of all...I am exhausted. Oh what a long day but so satisfying. Mother Ocean had decided that she was going to make us truly remember our Atlantic crossing with one more swift kick in the arse or perhaps it was a Caribbean howdy? In the early hours of the morning weather began to set in and we got hit with a nasty squall. It sucked but wasn't any worse than what we had seen so far. Once it had passed I said to Graham, "Maybe we should take down the bimini just in case we get hit by something harder." He wasn't thinking it was necessary because the winds hadn't gotten higher than 28 knots and the squalls were moving fairly quickly but he said that since he was already wet that if it made me feel better we could take it down.

I also suggested that we take the main down and only run on the head sail since we were making great time and it would be easier to just have to deal with the genoa. Graham agreed and we took down the main. Not 10 minutes later we were hit with our worst squall yet. 40+ winds and steep seas and crashing waves. It was truly insane. Only Graham and I were in the cockpit. Thank god. We quickly reefed the head sail down to only a skiff and we were still flying. I opened the front zipper window on the dodger as it was vibrating like crazy. Graham and I both put a second tether on. At one point I was at the helm and Graham was facing me and he was looking directly behind me and up and he yells, "HOLD ON THIS ONE IS CRASHING." I braced my feet and held on with all my might. One hand on the steering wheel and the other on the side rail. Shockingly this huge rogue wave didn't overtake me. Just got my back wet. My guardian angel at work. I figured it was time for Graham to take the helm and I assumed my position on the floor of the cockpit just in time for big knock down. We heard a couple floor boards pop out below. I yelled at the kids to stay in their beds.....and then before you knew it...it was over. Just like a ride at the amusement park.

The sun came out and shone on Antigua's shores. The cockpit began to dry and the kids appeared. Jimmy Buffet play loudly on the speakers and our Canadian flag flapped wildly in the wind. We laughed, danced and of course I cried. We remembered and reminisced about sailing away together for the first time from Antigua in 2008. How inexperienced we all were. How Graham had said, "What we don't know we will learn. Each day we will know more than the day before." How much we had seen and done in these past 5 years. How challenging those first few years were. How much we had to overcome. How lucky we were to be able to experience this life on both an old and new boat.

We brought Salty Ginger into anchor and the kids and I did our celebratory jump into the ocean. Our play time was short lived though since we were told we needed to bring Salty Ginger into the customs dock for check in. Up came the anchor and away we went. Funny as we pulled up to the dock, a small part of me was expecting fanfare and ticker tape....signs and horns....lol...but there was nothing. Just another sunny day.

So now here on the blog I will yell it loud and proud and picture you all throwing ticker tape...."We made it. We did it. We dreamed it, planned it, decided it and made it happen. We crossed the friggin Atlantic ocean!" What a rush.

You may be wondering what we did on arrival....we headed to the grocery store and bought fruit, orange juice and fried chicken! Picture the four of us exiting the grocery store and me reaching into the fried chicken bag and handing out a huge piece to each. It was funny and once we had devoured our chicken we all passed around the tropicana and threw it back straight from the bottle. lol...
Tomorrow is clean up day....you would not believe the mess. I am anxious to get our life back in order but need to take this one task at a time or else I will overwhelm myself. Laundry is at the top of the list. One more night with a yucky stinky pillow case. At least I smell clean now.

oh and detox is finally over....we had our cold beers in the cockpit and red wine tonight. Let the happy hours begin!

Before I sign off I have a few thank yous to make...

  • Thanks Dad for your daily weather emails and checkins as we crossed. Made me feel good to know you were looking out for us.
  • Thanks Jeremy for flying down to France with Graham and helping to get Salty Ginger opened up and ready for voyage and being so excited for us.
  • Thanks Calum for all your help in Les Sables D'Olone. You have no idea how much your friendship and help meant to Graham. He was so happy to have someone to bounce ideas off of.
  • Thanks Ann Marie for checking emails, doing our banking and pretty much anything else I asked of you. You are the best and if you don't visit us on this boat I am really going to be mad!!
  • Thanks to all of you for following us across the ocean. You have no idea how much your emails and blog comments and positive words of encouragement and support meant to all of us. The sum of all of your positive energy was truly electric.

December 12, 2012

Canned Brussel Sprouts

So close I can taste it. The miles seem to be ticking off so slowly. These past few days have tested our sailing skills. Lots of wind and very big seas. Shocking how fast we could go with only a skiff of genoa and a bit of main out. We had to take down our bimini again last night as it was causing to much windage. Ok on the plus side the wind is coming from behind and we are all pretty acclimatized to the roll.

I said to Graham last night I wonder what a person would think if they were teleported into our cockpit with this extreme roll. I then paused and said..."I wonder what I would think if I was teleported here!" I remember googling 'scary sailing waves' before we started our sailing adventure in 2007. No need for google images anymore, these waves will be forever etched in my memory.

Yesterday I was singing away to Amelia and all of a sudden I see this strange thing which looked like it was floating just above the water. Amelia thought I was still singing as I said.."I'm confused, I'm confused." Finally we were close enough to see that it was a floating buoy? Of course I said "Seismic Bella." lol

Alex and I saw a low flying plane last night on watch. We haven't seen any air traffic, so we thought this was a bit strange. Hope all is well with the other sailors out here. Not much else new on board. We all feel like scurvy is coming on. I tore into a can of pineapple this morning and it was not satisfying at all. I need fruit and greens and juice!

We realized that our grocery shopping was cutting it a bit close. We are running out of interesting snacks and drinks. We still have great meals though so this is a plus. Last night porkchops, mash potatoes and canned brussel sprouts..which were surprisingly good. Tonight homemade spaghetti meat sauce and pasta. Yum.

Alex seems to be in his element out here. He is always smiling. Anytime I am feeling yuck or grumpy I just have to look over at him and seriously 90% of the time he has a smile on his face. Amelia is really wanting to get there. She can hardly contain her excitement. Graham is my "Captain Awesome." Always positive and picking up more than his share of the work and watches. The lack of sleep the last few days with the high wind and wave has caused me to be a bit grumpy...ok maybe a lot grumpy. I called my sister and dad today from our satellite phone and quickly realized that life is good. It was just the pick me up I needed to buck up. We then proceeded to blast Jimmy Buffets Christmas cd and we sang away. Fun.

Flying fish are at an all time high. The deck of our boat is their graveyard. One of us will have to put the harness on and go and clear them all off eventually. It is really crazy. Now that the bimini is down, at night you see them fly across above you. Very unnerving! Well the sun is setting and soon it will be dark, dark, dark, so dark. Everything seems a bit more big in the dark. We are thinking about 35 more hours to go!!

Oh they are all yelling "Fish" in the cockpit...gotta run!

December 06, 2012

Car Wash

Crazy weather last night. Rain like we haven't seen since our Galapagos first pass. I managed not to freak out and Salty, Graham and I got us safely through the evening. The hardest part was how tired we were. We reefed the genoa, then the main, then took down the bimini, then tried to heave to and then...finally at 4am the sky began to clear and we got Alex up to stand watch. At one point in the night I watched Graham at the helm with the high wind and blinding rain flying sideways at him and only the sliver of his eyes uncovered in his heavy weather gear and I thought...holy crap what an adventure we are on. Graham called it the Salty Ginger car wash! oh and I remember putting my hand in my rain jacket pocket to try and warm it up and the pocket had been unzipped and was seriously full of water?

This is the first weather we have had that we had to take the bimini down for it. Shocking how much pressure and force wind can have. Funnily enough I opened the hatch for down below and asked the kids to put the computer and gps in the oven due the lightening and they were both happily moving about down below and dry. Alex was actually typing up Amelia's English as she recited it to him. It was like leaning into a different world. LOL. They had no idea just how bad it was. I am glad they weren't freaked out and the reality is that if you make sure you have the right amount of sail up Salty Ginger can manage just about anything and you can live comfortably down below.

Unfortunately though with the squalls came a shift in wind and we went North to Canada for awhile and lost some ground. The wind finally eased enough that we were able to go close hauled and head directly South, so this is what we did until this morning when the sky turned blue and the wind went to zero and our glorious doldrum day began!!! I will let Amelia tell you all about it. Check out her blog. Finally only 999 miles to go at 5:30pm today. Yippeee

December 05, 2012

Love it or Endure it

Seems like I am either loving it out here or enduring it and unfortunately the past few days have been more endure. We are all so flipping exciting to have Salty Ginger in the warm water and to return to Antigua where we started our adventure from in 2008, that it is sometimes difficult to be happy in the moment. We also have visitors to look forward to. First my mom and Rob and then Alex's friend Andrew for a week and then our good friends Louis and Jules! It it going to be so much fun. We talk all the time about it.

We also spend a lot of time talking and thinking about food. We are eating really well out here but food still seems to be the main topic of conversation. Today Graham and I started the day with oatmeal and now he is making the kids french toast. For lunch we will have Graham's famous bean burritos with our second last tomatoes and for dinner Thai green curry with our cabbage, carrots and canned button mushrooms. YUM, my favorite meal. We were remarking yesterday how funny it is that we can't seem to have meals planned out at home but here we are out at sea and no problem.

A typical day on Salty begins with Amelia waking me up at 8am letting me know that it is my turn for watch. She always seems way to happy to get me up. We each do 3 hour watches twice a day. It is still dark at 8am and the sun usually rises just after 9. Graham sleeps in the cockpit for Amelia's watch, so once I am up and the sun is up we have our morning coffee and oatmeal as the kids sleep.

Next on the schedule is my favorite part of the day, Graham fires up the SSB and checks the weather and for any new emails. My dad has been our awesome weatherman for the journey, so we are always sure to have some news from home. My sister also checks my email and sends me highlights to the ship. I savor these updates and the kids look forward to hearing any news once they are up.

I get Alex up at 11am for his watch and I take some time for a rest. Amelia usually rolls out of bed around noon or 1pm. The kids do school from 2 to 5pm while Graham is on watch and sometimes if Alex finishes early we watch an episode of Dexter. Amelia takes over watch from 5 to 8pm and we all have a nice dinner in the cockpit. Graham lies down in a bed at 8 until 2pm while Alex and I are on watch in the cockpit. We get Graham up 2am and he does his watch alone until 5am when he wakes up Amelia and we do it all over again!

We all watch as the miles tick down and compare the miles made during each of our watches. Tomorrow we should be in triple digits. This is very exciting. We should also be moving into a couple days of lighter winds, so we are thinking air buns and hamburgers are in order! Each day we strip off a few more pieces of clothing. The gun show has started with the boys and Amelia and I got out the bathing suits yesterday. It is definitely getting hot. Bring on the Caribbean Sun!!

December 03, 2012

Half Way Baby!!

Yesterday at 8pm we reach the 1500 nm halfway point! Can I hear a "Woot Woot?" We all waited anxiously for the last mile to tick down and then we all let out a "WaaHoo" and Amelia handed out these individually wrapped chocolate covered cherries they got in the canary islands. Turns out they were each filled with heavy liquor...so we each did our shot. lol. This morning Amelia is just now making us peach and nutella crepes to celebrate! Funny to watch her as I type lean the right direction on cue and grab hold when she feels a violent roll coming on. She is also sliding bowls and cans forward and holding them just at the right moment. Like she is dancing. I should mention that she is obviously also singing as she works. This is of course Amelia! She also somehow manages to look fabulous? Man I love this kid.

Ok, ever wonder what it would be like to be in a washing machine? Well we no longer need to wonder. The price we pay for speed is a rough confused sea. Lovely!

Last night while Alex and I were on watch the waves were quite big and we were twisting into them and surfing down. It felt like you could reach out and touch them standing next to you. We watched as schools of flying fish would escape from a wave ready for flight only to find Salty Ginger in their path and need to redirect course. I kind of figured that it was just a matter of time before we had visitor.

Alex was at the helm at the back (tethered in) and I was stretched out in the cockpit facing him. We take turns getting a little shut eye. All of a sudden I hear a thud just like a paint ball against canvas on our splash guard. I know it won't be long until I have a fish on me. I am a bit jumpy now.

Sure enough not 10 minutes later flying fish #1 in the cockpit and flapping its wings rapidly trying to escape. I leap up so high and race under the dodger. Alex had his ear buds in and looks up and yells, "Why are you running away from me?" He is totally confused. Finally he realizes and manages to release the fish back to the sea. He is thoroughly grossed out though. He says that they are really greasy and smelly and the scales come off in your hands. Yuck.

I settled back down and just close my eyes and BAM...fish #2 on my legs. Again cue Julie to jump out of her skin, cue Alex to rescue fish. Ok I learned my lesson I retired to the other less comfortable side of the cockpit. I got myself all settled in and was still a bit jumpy but managed to relax a bit and .....you guessed it...fish #3!!

Totally insane. I am looking forward to the waves decreasing in size and Salty Ginger to once again be perched well above them!

December 01, 2012

I love Lucy

You know those moments in your head where you are faced with a challenge and you rise up and fight and you find you have skills you didn't realize and you are strong and confident...maybe even a hero?

My "challenge" moments never seem to play out in reality the way I picture them in my head. In my head "Angelina Jolie" Tomb Raider style and in reality more a nutty "Lucille Ball".

A couple of nights ago my oasis disappeared and stormy clouds filled the sky. Yellow squall clouds began to appear like popcorn popping on our radar. I was more nervous this time with the squalls since our main was full and prevented out and our Genoa was poled. This makes it harder to reef. Alex and I were on watch and we found that the wind with the squalls was manageable by just reefing the Genoa. We did ok leaving the main full and winds didn't seem to rise over 29 knots.

We went through about 3 squalls this way and were wet and cold. We had been on full alert from about 9:30 to 1:30am. It is high adrenalin and takes a bit out of you. At this point I notice that even though the radar shows smallish squally clouds around us that the wind is rising. I ask Alex to reef and given all of his recent experience he is pro and does it on his own as I watch the instruments. Once he finishes the wind gusts up again and we are doing over 9 knots. We usually average about 6, so 9 is a concern. I realize the winds are still building and we need to get the main down. I yell at Alex, "Get Dad up now." Graham enters the cockpit in this mess. Recognize a pattern...lol

They quickly reef the Genoa a bit more and move to the main. In the past we have been able to furl in the main downwind, so we decide given the high winds and the fact that we are almost downwind that this is what we will do. The problem is that the main is loaded and as you fluctuate from either side downwind it is difficult to harden the main without the boom crashing back and forth. To much force. It is damn near impossible. The horrible sound the boom makes as it crashes to the other side is gut wrenching.

Didn't take us long to realize we had to come to wind. We tried to move as quick as we could but we didn't want anymore errors. Alex and Graham furled in the Genoa and I turned on the motor to help drive us into the crazy wind and wave. Graham said, "Go" and I took us as quickly as I could into wind. The boys needed Salty Ginger dead into wind to furl in the main and I did my best but it is difficult to get it perfect as we crash over waves and into wind. It took a while. Finally it was reefed hard and we moved back on course and let out a bit of Genoa. Finally the squalls were once again manageable.

Now this all sounds triumphant on paper. Sure we did make mistakes and I could of done better holding salty downwind and upwind but we did our best. The part that makes me feel bad is that I was panicked as I worked the helm. I basically verbalized everything I was feeling. Alot of people might call it "crazy talk." Most of it was insane gibberish. Fear was chiseled into the lines on my face. I noticed Alex look at me and from the concern on his face I realized for a moment how crazy I must of looked and sounded.

He was calm, collected and all business throughout the ordeal. Graham was also great. Quick to realize when things weren't working and fast to change when we needed to do things differently. He managed to stay relatively calm even with me yelling at him.

I am reminded as I write of some of our early voyages on Artemo and how I had to make a conscious decision to basically "suck it up" and "fake it til I make it." Each experience is a time for self reflection, whether it is on a boat or not. It's great that we have so much time out here to reflect on an event and discuss.

We hesitated on posting this yesterday because we don't want people to worry but there is a risk in everything we do and if we only write about blue skies and sunsets you would most definitely get the wrong impression. Salty Ginger is strong, the captain is capable, the crew is happy, healthy and ready to learn and step up. These "challenge" moments are part of the package and collection of our adventure. Don't worry please, I got the worry part covered :-).

Beautiful sailing weather now. Making good time. Nice seas and blue skies. My oasis has returned.

November 29, 2012

Skunk

"What's that smell?", I asked. "I smell skunk."

Salty Ginger doesn't have a water maker on board yet, so we have been concerned about our water consumption and haven't been having showers. Moist towelettes, a spray bottle and pit stick have been the name of the game for the past 6 days. Maybe you can guess what that skunk smell was. It was us. Ok more Graham than me. lol

We checked out our water levels in the tanks and given how thrifty we have been we were only down 1/4 of one of our 2 tanks, so today was "Shower Day!" Yippee. Ok for any of you picturing a nice hot shower in a stall with privacy and unending water...think again. Now we do have a nice shower stall in the front bathroom but there is nothing to hold on to in it and one of the sides is a folding door that for sure we would fall into with Salty Ginger rolling back and forth like she is. So luxury for us was a nice spray off sitting at the helm in the cockpit with our deck shower. YUP..we have a deck shower. Man I love this boat, so nice. We each had our time alone in the cockpit. I couldn't help but remember pulling up salt water buckets on our South Pacific passage and boiling a pot of fresh water for a wipe off. Funny how much we all appreciate the small things like a spray nozzle now. Sometimes things have to be a little tough to see how good you got it.

I am so happy to be clean. I even washed up the inside of the boat and bathroom. Such a great day. We are wing on wing again and almost pointed at Antigua. Only 10 more degrees to go to be pointed at her. The winds are light but we are still averaging 4.5 knots and I would take this any day over the squalls. Amelia disagrees and but I am so cool with this speed and slow pace of life. I feel like we have escaped for a while in our own oasis and the best part is that we haven't spent any money in 6 days! ha

The dreaded school has begun and no more seasickness or sleep deprivation. We all want the generator to be on during our watch so we can watch a show. We will see who wins tonight. A fellow cruiser gave us a bunch of new shows before we left Lanzarote, so I am now addicted to Dexter. I can't believe I am watching another gruesome show. Totally not my style but strangely awesome.

Nothing else new today, just endless ocean. Thanks for all the comments. Ann Marie sent them to us and this morning we all enjoyed reading them. Rob we all laughed so hard about your lawn mower comment!

Ciao for now.

November 28, 2012

Dolphin Poop

So strange to look up from my kitchen window and see dolphins. Salty Ginger is so cool with these long hull windows so close to the water that you can see the water and sea life right there.

The squalls stopped at about 9am, the sky cleared, the wind went to zero, the swell eased and on went the motor :-). It is gorgeous out but we do worry about using our fuel so early into the trip.

At about 11am the kids and Graham were up on deck and I hear "Dolphins, spotted Dolphins!" I look up from washing the counter and sure enough there are our friends. I love seeing them when the water is so still and clear. There were so many. The water was filled with them and they jumped and played in Salty's wake and splash.

The kids went to the bow and hung their feet over the sides and watched in awe. Every visit seems so different than the last. This time since it was so clear and still you could easily see the hole on top of their heads opening and closing as they would come to the surface for air. Amelia also got the pleasure of seeing a dolphin poop! She let out a big "Ewwwww." I may have captured it on camera. We will see.

It is 9pm now and we are motor sailing with light winds at a low rpm so low fuel consumption. We are hoping the wind fills in through the night. We are back on our regular watch schedule. I am looking forward to sleeping in a bed tonight rather than the cockpit.

Only other interesting thing that happened today was seeing another sailboat in the distance. We called out to it on the radio but no reply :-(

1/4 of the way there! Any guesses on arrival dates? I am guessing Dec 13th, Amelia the 9th, Alex the 10th and Graham the 11th. Keep in mind that all these guesses were made the day before we left...we each put in $20 bucks so the stakes are high. LOL.

November 27, 2012

Classy Chicken

Well the squalls and swell found us, darn it. Hard to believe I was considering making bread a day or so ago. Sunday at about 2pm the squalls started, 1 after another. Terrible feeling to see the dark clouds and know that they are coming for you. You try and out think them, "Maybe if I get behind it" or "Maybe this one won't have that much wind." We never seem to get it right though. I can't tell you how many times we have been fooled by the "calm" before the squall. Basically we start to feel silly for reefing and let out more sail only to be hit hard with to much sail up. Yucky. We are learning though. I hate seeing the white line of frothy water from wind and rain rushing at you across the ocean. Most often though it seems it is just a heavy downpour that hits when this happens and the worst of the wind has already passed.

Strangely enough though we aren't really scared of the squalls. Wind hasn't gotten higher than 30 knots and Salty is easy to reef, so that is basically what we did all day...reefed and unreefed...over and over again. The boat got a nice wash though.

Unfortunately squalls are the least of our worries. The swell is the concern...huge swell. We are worrying less about our course and just making sure we take the swell at the right angle. It knocks us around pretty good and we have had a couple very steep knock over's. Learned my lesson about holding on.

Graham reviewed the rules again and how important it is to follow them....Lifejackets and tether on upon entry to the cockpit. Pay careful attention to the lines as we reef. So much force on the sheets (lines) for the sails, so you have to be so careful nothing gets wrapped in them.

Sunday night given the combo of squalls and swell I opted for just Graham and I to do the 12 to 6am shift together in the cockpit. Amelia and I did 9pm to 12 and Graham got Alex up to sit watch with me sleeping in the cockpit from 6am to 9am. Seem to work out well. So far nothing that Salty Ginger and crew can't handle but today I did find myself asking Graham, "Is this fun for you?" He replied, "high highs and low lows." This pretty much sums it up.

Oh I forgot to mention that Graham also got the Hydrovane wind self steering gear working on Sunday. He was so happy. It works really great. He left it going through the squalls until after about 5 hours of squalls and Hydrovane I asked if we could please just focus on squalls and put the boat back on auto pilot. He agreed...thank goodness.

The kids are in good spirits and we have had lots of time to talk. Alex's sense of humor kills me and as I type Amelia is belting out, "On the Cover of the rolling stones." I am enjoying spending time with them.

The best thing at the end of a day like this though is Nanny Judith's "Classy Chicken Casserole". Amelia surprised Graham and I while we were out provisioning in the Canary Islands and made up this casserole and put it in the freezer. Graham just past Amelia and I up a bowl with hot potatoes on the side with butter, salty and pepper. YUMMY.

The sky is beautiful blue again and the sun is setting. The swell seems more manageable but I will be looking forward to seeing the sun rise again in the morning!

November 25, 2012

Seismic Bella

Law and Order plays in the cockpit and over the deck speakers. The bimini is down and the stars are above us. Graham is taking this opportunity for a snooze below. I have just scanned all around us for lights and checked the charts. We are snuggled beneath blankets and life seems pretty good.

and then....

Loud piercing alarms, so menacing sounding they rattle you. I jump to the helm and see that 2 of our 3 instrument panels are flashing strange warning messages. The screen in front of me reads "Seismic Bella" and Bella is in large letter. I click "Ok" hoping the alarm will stop. I am panicking. I think seeing the word seismic made me think "under" and maybe we were passing over something?? I diverted course 90 degrees and was shaking now. I am yelling at the kids to "get Dad, get Dad." The second screen is still blaring "Dangerous Target" but displaying a message I had never seen before. I click "ok" and finally the alarms stops when Graham reaches the cockpit.

At the point he could see how shaken I was and after surveying the surrounding waters he took me in his arms and told me everything was going to be ok and it was most likely a technical glitch. He rubbed my back and waited patiently for my heart rate to return to normal.

ok...I lie...:-)

He sat calmly at the second helm and asked what was going on. I was still panicked thinking that something was underneath us. The kids and I all were talking over each other trying to explain what had happened. I kept muttering "Seismic Bella, Seismic Bella" over and over until finally Graham loudly says, "You haven't made one word of sense since I sat down." I then try again and say "do we have a sonic sounder reader or something under the boat." I laugh as I type this because at the time in my head I sounded sane and asked if our depth sounder had an alarm that may have been triggered but this is definitely NOT what I said.

We had words back and forth until finally he has assessed the situation and still sees no risk and wonders why we are bobbing around going in the wrong direction. My heart rate is returning to normal. I can kind of see the situation from his perspective. Awoke from his sleep to a crazy crew with no real issues. He returns to below but not before asking, "Did mom swear during all of this?" Amelia perks up and says, "Nope and I was keeping track." lol

The 3 of us laughed for a while over my "Seismic Bella" blabbering. I still don't know what the heck it was? It was a strangely flat calm night and we could see boats on the AIS from over 400nms away! Perhaps like the captain said it was just a glitch or perhaps ol' Mr Fear felt he had spent to much time in the hallway the past few days.

November 24, 2012

New Goal

Beautiful gorgeous weather, the kind that you see in the sailing magazines. The sun looks like it is dancing all over the water. The sky is huge and crystal clear blue. The nights are star filled. I love sailing wing on wing. It seems so picturesque. I love the feeling of the wind pushing us forward and surfing down the waves. I am not silly enough to think that the next 20 some days are going to all be like this but man it is so nice to start a journey like this without...fear.

I still see him waiting in the hall though...and there are moments when he tries to creep in. I read a book recently that had a line in it that unfortunately has stuck in my brain and I can't seem to shake it. It was about this woman who sailed solo around the world nonstop. She said that if you felt fear being out here then you shouldn't be here. Yikes. I read the line and re read it. I was disappointed because so much of her book inspired me and then I came to this one line that I couldn't relate to. I tried to twist it in my head and thought things like …it wasn't fear that I felt but rather anxiety…..ok it didn't last long….I couldn't fool myself or anyone else for that matter. There are moments that I do feel fear out here….you all laugh in unison…..Obviously the more I learn the feeling lessens but it is still there sometimes full tilt with my legs shaking and other times lingering in the hall…. so…I did what I do with most things I read I kept the parts I liked and tried to do away with the rest of it……just wish I could rid myself of that one line because damn it...fear is present in most things I do. If I never did anything because I had fear then my life would be VERY different. I would never have packed up my 2 door Honda civic at 18 and moved to Edmonton with a guy I just met 3 months earlier and started my life with him. Ok....enough about that..you can imagine I have lots of time to think out here.

The watch schedule is going well and we are all trying to get adjusted to our interrupted sleep patterns. Everyone is a bit short tempered at the end of their night shift. I decided today that I would try and go the whole day without swearing….just realized I used the d word above…oops…ok..starting now. Last night the wind shifted angles on us again and Graham decided it was best if we did change the pole and preventer over to the other side of the boat at 2:30am in the morning. Alex's shift ended at 2am but Graham had asked him to stay up to help and he woke me up to help, so already we were not in the best of moods. It is a bit stressful with Graham at the front of the boat maneuvering lines and poles in the dark and trying to yell out what we should do with the wind against him. Things didn't go as smoothly as the day previous and it took us 3 tries to get everything all sorted out correctly. I get so frustrated with myself for not being quick enough or grabbing the wrong lines. I seem to cope by dropping an "f bomb" or two...yup...not perfect. So today is a new day with a new goal. Graham asked if I would like his help in remembering. LOL...gotta love him. Made me laugh.

Amelia did our hair yesterday. We decided we didn't want to arrive with a rat's nest, so we bought a few wide tooth combs and have a spray bottle and some conditioner in the cockpit. She brushed my hair out and braided it and did the same to hers. I looked just like Pipi Longstocking...I would have preferred the Jennifer Aniston look but such are the cards I was dealt. LOl. I even had the multi coloured Christmas socks on in true Pipi fashion.

Meals have been good onboard but this morning we were looking forward to a box of what I thought was Spanish cream of wheat but once Graham had it cooked up we realized it was most likely pablum (baby cereal)…needless to say pretty mushy and not at all that pleasing.

We checked the weather files and unfortunately it looks like there are very high seas coming our way in a couple of days. It looks like about 4 to 5 meters waves. We have had much discussion on which way to go to try and avoid this. It doesn't seem though that we are ever successful at trying to outwit the weather. We are also wondering if since the intervals of the waves are 10 seconds if it won't be that bad. Lots to talk about anyway. Our plan for now is to carryon on down wind to the South West at a heading of about 235. We will keep watching the weather and decide when to make our turn to the West to set a course for Antigua.

Well time to wake up Alex for his daytime shift. Enjoy the day.

November 23, 2012

Day 1 - Not the Captains Log

lol....yep...I am not the Captain. Graham is my Captain. Oiy that pains me to say. Ha. Right man for the job though. He has everything figured out and the things he doesn't he takes time to think it through for a good solution. I noticed that he has also been working on his Captain communication skills. He did a great job orchestrating us all in bringing out the pole and even dished out a "good work crew" afterwards.

It seems kind of crazy to think we are on our way to the Caribbean. We had been planning on leaving next week but on Wednesday Graham checked the weather files and ran a plan by all of us of leaving the next day! Of course Amelia was a resounding "YES". Since the start of this adventure in France all she has talked about is getting to Antigua. I was happy to go if the weather looked good and I confirmed that it did look like the best window and Alex was....indifferent....I forget his exact words but they were something like...."well we have to go regardless"....gotta love him.

As I type it is actually the next morning at about noon which is 24 hours since we left. We had fantastic wind through the day yesterday and night and the waves were beautifully behind us. We surf down the waves so fast. Unfortunately at about 5am the wind died and also shifted which would of required going to the front of the boat in the dark and moving the pole to the other side. We opted to go with a bit of sail flapping for a couple of hours til the sun rose.

We are now all set up on the other side and making about 4.5 knots. Wind is about 6 knots, so this is pretty darn good. The sky is clear blue and the sun is out and we are in shorts. My watch just ended and Alex is up now. I am going to go get some shut eye.

fyi...we did end up catching up with the cruisers in Lanzarote. We had a few good parties and lots of laughs. We managed to get 11 people in our cockpit with room for more. Made me wish we had more time to get to know them all. We even attended our first fondue party on a sailboat! Lots of interesting people with unique perspectives and a willingness to share their time and knowledge. I hope we get to see them on the other side!

November 10, 2012

African Pirate

I guess I always pictured someone hiding if we were ever boarded. I just never imagined it would be me hiding under a blanket in the cockpit as Graham and Alex chased an African pirate around down below. Finally they managed to show him the door. He may have been small but he was swift and cunning. Captain Graham gave me the all clear sign and I came out from hiding and scanned the never ending ocean for him until finally my gaze came to rest at the front of the boat. There he sat proudly on Salty Gingers bow. I thought perhaps he was catching his breath before talking the leap and I decided he was a safe enough distance for a photo to remember our first pirate boarding.  I placed the blanket next to me and leaned down below and asked Graham to pass me the camera. With camera in hand I leaned back up and scanned the front of the boat again and he was gone! I turned to go for my blanket again and there he was sitting on top of it and looking at me like...."Game ON!" I let out a yelp and watched as he took the leap, and I confirmed his departure. Relief washed over me and finally I felt sure that we were once again alone. Life returned to normal. Everyone returned down below and I remained in the cockpit. I scanned the horizon, checked the charts and settled in for a quick shut eye. I had my toque on and not 5 minutes later I felt that African pirate on MY HEAD. Needless to say I freaked out and was ready for a full on brawl but he was gone. I scanned the boat again and there he sat again at the bow and I swear it looked like he winked at me and this was the last we saw of our African pirate before he flew away.

Lol...I joke. Funny thing is that I really was terrified of the bird...chalk it up to a childhood tragedy which involved a pet bird and a box and also the fact that Dad had a bird that he let fly freely in his apartment!

This 5 day passage has been exactly what we all needed. The weather was pretty much perfect and perfect meaning a mixed bag which allowed us all to practice. The nice part was that even in high winds the sky was blue which does wonders for the psych-k(sp?) and Salty Ginger sails like a hot diggity damn! We partnered up before the passage and decided that Amelia and Graham, and Alex and I would stand watch together. We all got use to new shorter sleep cycles, working together and maximizing our sail while still being comfortable. Alex did tire of our deep talks though. Funny how philosophical you feel on a star filled night as your boat slices through the ocean. On one of our night watches I told Alex that I was thinking that sailing Salty Ginger was like raising a child. I could just set the sails and only tend to them when convenient and only set them to suit my needs and that this might work but Salty Ginger wouldn't realize her full potential and she might go off in the wrong direction for a while with no one tending to her and sometimes if I didn't let her lead I wouldn't get to see her soar...so much like raising a child. The next morning we were sailing along and Alex said, "Wind has died, time to let out more sail." I replied, "Lets wait a bit I'm comfortable." Of course Alex smiled and fired back, "Let Salty sail. Let her reach her full potential!" I laughed.

I was worried as we sailed down the bumpy coast of France, Spain and Portugal that my love of the sea was lost but this trip has reminded me of all the things I love. I wish I could find the words to describe how you feel at night way out in the middle of no where all alone and self reliant. Gorgeous star filled nights, beautiful orange moons, glowing seas. I guess it is best described for me as feeling perfectly at balance, like feeling full, like you want for nothing. It feels like an emotional cleanse and believe me I so needed this cleanse. I want to be better, do better, listen harder and see more. I feel ready for what's next.

This morning our 4 night, 4 day passage came to an end and we arrived officially in the tropics....we have crossed the Tropic of Cancer. We are at dock in Lanzarote in Canary Islands and will be waiting on a weather window to make the leap across the Atlantic at the end of the month!





ps....Mom painted this following the blog and I absolutely love it and had to share. Enjoy

November 03, 2012

This is COOL

Click on this link http://shiptrak.org/ and enter our call sign VA3PRY and click VIEW button.

The website draws our route from all the position reports we have sent since 2009. I wish it had them all since we left Antigua in 2008 but this is pretty close and way cool. I watched as the red line was drawn and I won't lie to you it felt really good. What an amazing adventure we have had and are having.

Looks like a weather window is opening up for Monday. Fingers crossed we will be sailing away to the Canary Islands. We will be in good company as there are 3 other Canadian boats who will also be on the water with us!

Tomorrow is Amelia's 14 birthday and I am so looking forward to surprising her with a day long palooza of birthday events! I am so lucky to have such an amazing daughter and friend to share these adventures on sea with. I wouldn't want to imagine life without her constant chatter, singing and craziness. I truly am grateful to continue to spend my days with my little sweet and sour girl!!


October 30, 2012

Man she's a bitch


Not going to soften the language or edit my grammar...she was what she was, a mean bitch! I could hear her scream, "You want to call yourself Salty, you have to earn that title!!!" She slammed into us from every different direction, she let us believe things would be good and waited until our guard was down and hit us hard. We must of looked to comfortable in our dry cockpit after one of her blows, so she decided it was time to kick it up a further notch. Wet and salty, pruned hands, freezing cold....she still wasn't happy. Time to knock the shit out of Salty Ginger with confused steep short seas. Graham wasn't going to go down without a fight, so he went head to head with that bitch. He took the boat off auto pilot and wasn't going to let Salty take on this ocean on her own. He navigated the crazy waves trying to avoid the nasty short steep ones which would cause a huge massive SLAM, BAM, CRASH on SG. Of course this made her only angrier....what have you got now I screamed in my head...she delivered....25 to 30 knot winds right on the nose and of course coming from the place we wanted to go. Now we were trying to do wide tacks with nasty seas to get to our destination. We only had 17 miles to go but she was going to make them the longest 17 hours. I don't know what got into her. She seemed so happy when we left. Full sails up and into the darkness we went. I have to wonder if my comment as we sailed happily away brought this on. I said, "I think I need more practice sailing Salty Ginger before we head out on the crossing." The words were ringing in my ears for those last 17 miles as we tacked and tacked. "You want practice, than practice you shall have!"

ok....I joke....40 hours with little sleep makes me a little silly. We finally made that 17 miles and fought a good fight. We headed up the river at Lagos, Portugal with our Canadian flag proudly flapping in the wind behind us. People waved from the sides of the river. A fishing boat passed us with friendly smiles and thumbs up. We came up alongside the reception pontoon like we actually knew what we were doing. A friendly cruising Canadian was standing at the dock. Things were definitely looking up and I so hate to say this but that feeling of overcoming a really awful situation and persevering and succeeding is such a rush. Truly addicting. We were all riding the high for a while.

Once we had checked in at the reception pontoon the marina opens this draw bridge and you motor through to the actual marina. It was very cool. The Salty Ginger crew is getting pretty good at docking now (I so hope I haven't just jinxed it). Graham maneuvered the boat like a pro and we tied off with no issues. We looked up and around us and OMG....we had found the CRUISERS!!! Every boat around us is an open ocean cruiser....raymarines, wind generators, dinghies, ssb antennas! We were all so happy and it wasn't long before we had already met two more boats of cruisers. Can't wait to have folks over for drinks. Tonight though we are to exhausted after the sail or should I say fight...It took all our energy just to rinse off all the salt from Salty and then crew, make dinner, tidy up a bit, watch our show, nip of wine and out for the night.

I would end here but I it would be wrong not to share with you all what just happened. Graham yelled out from on deck "FIRE, grab the fire extinguisher the boat across from us is on fire!" I jumped up on deck with fire extinguisher in hand. (keep in mind that it is early morning and very calm and quiet out). I see the smoke coming out of the side of the boat that Graham is running up to. I smell what smells like an electrical fire or burning rubber. Graham is pounding on the boat to see if anyone is inside. I run up to him and hand him the extinguisher. No one is coming up from below, so I tell Graham jump on board. Cruisers on other boats are popping out and wondering what is going on. Graham is yelling, "smoke." Finally he is on board and looking below when a nice looking older woman pops her head up and unzips the cockpit enclosure....She is smiling and this is when I realize....their boat is not on fire. She is laughing now and tells us that when they turn on their heater it smokes quite a bit. Other cruisers are now yelling over, "Just burnt toast?"....lol...we let them know that there is no fire...just over helpful Canadians! We really just wanted to make sure that everyone here knew that....."THE PERRY's" had arrived.

October 24, 2012

Old People's Playground

Today we did a nice bicycle trip along the coast of Portugal. The bicycles here in the city are free to take for the day. Who doesn't love getting something for free? They are pretty basic with no gears but they did the trick.

The coast is beautiful and there was a really nice bike trail for the 7 kms. The ocean seems so powerful crashing violently against the rocky shore. I am hoping mother (ocean) calms down before we depart.
Once again I was at the back of the Perry pack. Gone are the days of me waiting for Amelia. Today she had to stop her bike and wait for me to catch up. I kept thinking that maybe it was my bike but after I had traded with both Alex and Graham and was still trailing, I realized sadly that the problem was not the bike. At least my family was nice about it....NOT......get more exercise is at the top of my list of to dos.
On our journey we passed a playground but I had to do a double take since it was filled with old people on the equipment! Of course we had to stop and get a pic. Such a great idea. They all seemed to be enjoying the exercise and probably could of whooped my butt on the bike!
After 15 kms we turned back in our bikes and Amelia announced that it was high time we hit McDonalds in Europe. Off we went to counteract any good we had done on the bike with 4 big Mac meals. Omg they were good!

Tomorrow is a massive laundry and school day and later in the week we will take the subway to Lisbon. We are all cruiser deprived :-(....we haven't met anyone yet and I pity the people we meet first because we will be on them like butter on toast! For now though happy hours continue with our team of 4.

October 20, 2012

I loved that bucket

Whizzing through the streets of Portugal, stuffed in the backseat of a small taxi with Alex and Amelia and Graham in the front seat wishing he knew at least 1 word of Portuguese so he could at least make an attempt at a conversation. You know those moments where everything feels so right? Like you are totally where you are supposed to be? This was that moment. I turned to Alex with my eyes glistening with emotion and said, "We are so lucky". He said, "Come on mom pull it together." lol

So much has happened over the past couple of weeks. Our adventure has most definitely begun. Today we arrived in Lisbon. It feels hugely momentous. Once I had realized how crazy the coast of Europe could be I wondered how the heck we were going to make it happen but we did it. Hard to believe that it has only been 2 and ½ months since we have owned Salty Ginger and only 1 ½ mths since we all began living on her.

The sails have been very eventful. We left La Coruna, Spain in HUGE waves from all different directions. Wasn't more than about 15 minutes out and I was asking Graham if there was anywhere we could pull in for the night rather than an overnight sail. Luckily though the waves calmed down a bit and dolphins joined us at sunset for the most amazing family moment together. The dolphins along the coast seem plentiful and they surround us in the dark. It is so strange. I was actually freaked out that night as they jumped and puffed around the back of the boat while I was on watch. It was so freaky that …..I hate to admit this…I had to wake Graham up. I seriously thought they were going to land on the boat and I was playing out scenarios for what I would do. Picture me standing in the middle of the cockpit watching the acrobatic show with high anxiety. Geesh eh……I can hear you all in unison saying…"Calm down Julie"!

On our next sail Alex and I opted for sea sickness pills and we could not believe how much better we felt…almost 100%. Alex ended up sleeping for the majority of the trip and waking up in time to throw out our first line and catch us a TUNA. It was totally insane because we were again surrounded by dolphins. Once Alex had hauled it in, Graham hung it from our dinghy engine hoist and the dolphins jumped about looking for dinner. I couldn't believe what we were watching. Oh and our bucket fell in the water and I was slow on the recovery and when I finally had the boat turned around and Graham had finally located the boat hook the bucket had sunk and we hear Amelia exclaim….."well if that was mom she would have sunk!" yikes….we all laughed….as Graham said, "I loved that bucket!" fyi….Alex made us the best sushi on our arrival!

Last night was our sail here to Lisbon. It was a freaky night. The lightning was full on. You could see forks hit the water. The sky seemed almost clear at times and then totally illuminated and then the thunder. It was so dark and the land and cliffs seemed so much closer than I am sure they were. Graham and I ended up hardly sleeping and it was FREEZING cold. The boat again though was surrounded by speeding bullet dolphins shooting around us waking all the fish and in Graham's words…"The water seemed to boil with fish!” It was like hail…only all these jumping fish and dolphins. Yes I was freaked out. Oh and then Graham notices as he scrolls in on our chart it reads…."Caution avoid area. See lower zoom"…WTH? we quickly divert our course and he runs and checks our other charts and it turns out the area is poorly charted and should be avoided. Oiy…..I also forgot to mention that the coast is riddled with crab pots, so we spent every moment with our faces to the cold wind searching them out. We did not want another fishing net or rope wrapped around the propeller!

We have seen some amazing places though. We stayed at Baiona, Spain. The marina we stayed at had this huge castle at its gates. The castle or maybe fortress…is a better description lined the bay and you could walk forever along the top of the fortress walls which overlooked the bay. In the middle of these walls was this huge pine forest which totally seemed enchanted. It smelled so good and at one point I saw two beautiful bunnies…in amongst the wild lilies and I swear I heard chimes like the Harry Potter chimes in the distance. Really great time.

We also stayed at Porto, Portugal which is where Port wine is aged and bottled. We walked the ancient city and of course had a tour of the Sandman Port Wine cellar and port tastings!!! yum.  

The scariest moment of the past week was yesterday though…..the marina we were staying at in Porto was in through a tiny pass and up a river. When we came in things were fairly calm but Graham noticed that even though he was going 7 knots the boat was only moving forward 1 knot. We thought the way out would be a lot easier since …in Graham's words again, "We would basically be flushed out."….but as we approach the pass to leave we could see the huge ocean was crashing at the entrance….we considered aborting but we were already into it and it seemed that one side wasn't quite as bad as the other…..Graham rev'd up the engine and it was terrifying….heading straight into standing waves. Amelia held her face in a pillow and Graham had his game face on. I was yelling, "Come on Salty"!! NOW IS YOUR TIME!!!” omg, thank goodness she delivered! We pounded out of the pass….crash, crash, crash,….and then finally relief washed over us as we realized the worst was behind us. Coming out of moments like these it takes a while for us all to digest it and begin to discuss…..I think we all just were in shock for a while. We had just never imagined it could be that bad. Good to know what Salty and crew can take though.

Ok…..sorry the blog is all over the map. So much to tell and I was way behind. Time to watch, “The Walking Dead”. The kids have finally pulled Graham and I into the madness…..could be because we don't have anything else to watch….I am not hooked yet…and I am still very much grossed out by it but strangely we keep watching. Season 1, episode 6 tonight. Oh funny story…Amelia says to me as we sailed last night…"I had a nightmare mom but I was a zombie….so I guess it wasn't a nightmare!" lmao

Plan is to stay put in Lisbon for a bit and get some school work done and see the town! Amelia should be writing her blog soon. I anxiously await her take on things. I would be remiss if I didn't mention that on our overnight sail last night she made us crepes and stuffed them with peaches and made whip cream for on top and all while the boat tossed back and forth! Love that girl.

October 08, 2012

Fuzzy Balls

Touring the Spanish countryside…oh that sounds nice doesn't it. Somebody pinch me. Life is pretty good. Graham says that you need to have bad times to recognize when things are good. Well do I ever!

I can't tell you how nice it is not to have a long boat job list. The list is short and the items are less mission critical than our previous lists :-). My list consists of things like vacuum under the floor boards, defrost fridge and laundry. Graham's list is a few odds and ends like install wind generator, fix light switch, put up hooks for me and rig up preventer.

So in light of the fact that we are in SPAIN with not many jobs!!! we decided it was time to see the countryside. We rented a car for a few days and off we went. On our list was Santiago, Fragas De Eume and …..IKEA. Lol

Santiago is famous for being the city where the remains of St James (1 of the 12 apostles) was found. People come from all over the world to make a pilgrimage (a long walk) to the end point of Santiago. The city is beautiful and the cathedral is the kind of place you look at with your mouth gaping open.

……ok….I want to be the person who tells you all the history and is informative and interesting…but OMG….seriously it seems that every corner you turn around…there stands yet another awe inspiring building or monument. Totally crazy.

We had fun walking around the city and we had a neat meal in a cafe. Funny thing…we figured out that the menu said it was $2 cheaper to eat inside…so we all pushed in our chairs and made our way inside and crowded around a teeny tiny table only to decide that ….$8 was worth eating outside. LOL…back we all go outside. I am sure the waiter thought…insane Canadians. We ordered the mystery lunch special. 1st course was a potato egg pie, second course was yummy homemade fries and a piece of meat….Amelia made the unfortunate decision of ordering a hamburger and received a fried egg and raw patty…lesson learned. Never order the burger :-). The meal came with a glass of wine or beer and a coffee. Yummy. They had no problem serving Alex a beer. He was happy.

That night we hit IKEA. Turns out that everyone in Spain spends their Friday nights shopping. Total insanity. Traffic and people like crazy. After a long day of touring around it was pretty much the last thing I felt like but Graham, Amelia and I managed to fill our bags with IKEA goodies prior to closing time. It was pretty neat to be able to make our boat more homey with things we recognized. Oh and of course we had to have IKEA meatballs for dinner!


Yesterday we did the day long hike through Fragas De Eume. Gorgeous Spanish forest. The hike was long, uphill and humid hot! There were moments of yelling things like…"Are you sure we are going the right way???" It was really beautiful but omg I am so out of shape. My whole body hurts. shocking to hike and hike and hike and then to come across a really cool huge monastery built into the hillside and you wonder…how the heck did this get here…when I have trouble dragging my butt up here? The ground on the hike was littered with these fuzzy balls with nuts inside which look like hazelnuts. You can just imagine how many jokes and laughs were had about these fuzzy balls. Oh the immature sense of humour we all have.

Today is Thanksgiving and we are making a big meal here on Salty Ginger. We all have a part to do. Unfortunately we forgot about the small oven…so we have had to share oven time and now here it is almost 9pm and dinner is still not ready. but man it will be good once it is done. Chicken, stuffing, potatoes, asparagus, gravy, salad, homemade buns, and homemade cinnamon buns!! yum.

Graham is also downloading the latest episode of The Office as a treat for us to watch tonight…oh and I have a bottle of champagne chilling in the fridge. I have to tell you the bottle looks so pretty with a nice bag on the outside and only $5!!!! Seriously I have still not got over the price of alcohol.

We are all talking and thinking about our Canadian Thanksgiving in Tonga when we rafted up with all our friends. Oh how we miss our cruising friends. For those of you reading, you should know how special you made our trip last time and we think of you all often.

Weather here is looking a bit windy so we will focus on school for the week and then we will be off to Portugal! Enjoying the day.

October 03, 2012

Compartmentalizing


I didn't actually realize that our first passage needed to be across an infamously dangerous bay until probably mid-summer. Up until that point I pictured and spoke of us leisurely sailing day hops down the coast of France, Spain and Portugal. Then I was reading a book this summer about Dee Caffari, the first women to sail non-stop solo around the world "the wrong way" and she mentioned in the book that her first crossing was the very dangerous Bay of Biscay. I stopped reading for a moment and thought to myself….hmmm…that sounds familiar. I looked it up and sure enough she started from the same town and marina that our boat was in and crossed the same bay that we needed to cross!! I think at that point I googled “infamous Bay of Biscay” and basically got terrified. I had a picture in my mind of us day hopping in the glorious warm sun and blue sky and building back up our sailing skills. Now as I googled I realized that our first sail needed to be over 300 nautical miles (approx 3 days) and that September is fall weather in France and variable and the Bay of Biscay could be really bad! Eye opening moment. Of course I asked Captain Graham…."What the heck?"….were you keeping all this a secret? He laughed and said, "geesh Julie, all you had to do was a bit of research!" ….gulp…he was right.

My tactic was easy though I decided to just not discuss it or think about it and just focus on my tasks at hand. Basically compartmentalize…pack house, move, join kids in Alberta, attend sister’s wedding, travel to boat, set up, tour Paris, provision boat…….UH OH…..time to think about it!

I am not sure what to write to help you all realize what a leap it is for me to overcome my anxieties and GO. Casting off the lines and leaving the dock and heading off to sea this time took something I was hoping that I had in me and I guess I did :-). I keep reflecting on leaving the first time we got on Artemo and think to myself how totally new to sailing and everything we were and we just left. I think it was harder now knowing everything that could go wrong. Needless to say as nerve racking as it was it felt exhilarating to be waving goodbye to France and looking forward to our next port and adventures at sea.

The passage was harder than I had hoped. We were lucky to have really mild weather but the waves were quite large and wind and wave were coming from behind making the boat toss back and forth. All of us except for Amelia got sea sick. For Graham and I this just means we can't spend any length of time down below and when we do we need to come up on deck and lay flat for a bit. For Alex it is "true" sea sickness, I felt bad for him but was happy to see that all of our sea sickness began to subside a few hours before our arrival, so at least I know that on longer passages we will prevail!

Amelia was a godsend. Making tea, making food, putting a cold cloth on my head, singing, even dancing, taking watches with Alex and basically lifting our spirits. She was really awesome crew.

When you are out at sea you truly realize that you are self-reliant. It is a bit overwhelming that there is no one to solve your problems except just us. On the first night out at about 2am I was on watch and we were motoring since there was no wind. I could see a boat many miles ahead of us on the same path coming towards us but moving very slowly. I could see that we weren't on a collision course but it still makes me nervous to pass within a close vicinity to another vessel. As we got closer I woke up Graham and asked if he would mind coming up on deck with me as we were within a couple miles of the boat. As we passed the boat he kept flashing his spotlight which we have never seen a boat do. Unfortunately just after we passed Salty Ginger started to rumble. Graham had that look on his face that scares me and immediately put the boat in neutral. We just sat silent for a moment….."What was that?"….We had been running the engine just below its max capacity to break it in as per the manual and we had also just passed that boat. It didn't take us long to guess or wonder if we had just run over a fishing net and perhaps it was stuck in the propeller. Graham eased back up the throttle and the boat vibrated and rumbled terribly. Quickly back to neutral. Then the discussion of what now begins.

We had waited for weather window where there was very light or no wind, so at this point sailing wasn't an option and according to our weather files wouldn't be an option until about 10am and would only be for a 24 hour period. We were almost a third of the way there but with no engine….the only option was turn around and wait for wind and sail back. You cannot imagine how awful this felt. At this point I am thinking in my head, "Why did we leave on a Friday!" I should have known better. Amelia woke up when the boat began vibrating and was sitting in the cockpit listening and worried. Whenever I feel scared my legs shake uncontrollably, so strange. Like my tears I can't seem to control it. I was worried about sailing back, no engine, trying to get back into port. I wanted to be brave for Amelia though. Then I had this thought…we watch this TV show about Japanese whalers called "Whale Wars" and on the show the Sea Shepherds always try to foul the Japanese boats propellers and every time they succeed the Japanese are eventually able to free the line from their prop…..so I say to Graham…."I am no mechanic but could we try just going forward and reverse at different speeds and try to work it free??" He says it is worth a shot and eventually after a lot of back and forth we are able to at least go forward without vibration!!!! Oh the joy I felt. We solved our problem.

Aside from this event the rest of the trip was pretty uneventful albeit FREEZING COLD. Yesterday a diver came to our boat and looked at the propeller and came up with a huge mass of heavy fishing net. I cannot believe we managed to still motor as much as we did. Our guardian angel is looking out for us. We are going to go out in the next couple of days and test everything out and make sure there is no permanent damage. A bit of an eye opener that even with a new boat you are going to have problems!

I have to say though it was so nice to arrive and to have a nice warm shower on board and a dry comfy bed to sleep in and a huge fridge and freezer full of goodies to choose from. I am enjoying all the benefits a new boat has to offer and today as I worked to clean the cockpit and was washing up my cup holder….I couldn't help but laugh remembering how much I use to hate watching other cruisers shining up their glossy boats as we dealt with bigger issues :-). This is my time baby!

Ps…I have been posting pictures the past few days and will be putting a few more up. Yesterday we put the name/logo on Salty Ginger and it looks so good…hope to have this pic up soon!

October 01, 2012

Is war necessary?

The word "History" needs to be re-branded. I remember in school just tuning out when this word was spoken. No one seemed to be able to make it real for me. Well standing at the shore of Juno beach it has never felt more real. Having a nephew who is 18 also makes this even more real. I just have to for a moment imagine that it is him in a boat making its way to the Juno beach shore for his first introduction to battle.

There have been moments when I have thought things like, "Is war necessary?" Being here at Juno beach and reading through our story (so much better than history) of how Canada came to be in this war I am so moved with gratitude for those very young men who faced fear in the face and fought, not just for themselves but for Canada and beyond that for other countries. Many of these young men had never known battle, had never left their farm, had never known the sea but they still went bravely for all of us. One of these heroic men was my husbands grandfather Elwood. Thank you is not enough.

The Juno beach center did a great job of walking all of us through the story. It took us all the way back to the beginning and how Canada's army was in a sad state of affairs when WW2 approached. Canada was also just coming out of the great depression as the war approached. Many of the young men who fought grew up hungry and with very little and now were being sent off to war.

The day after seeing the beach we went to the Canadian commentary with 2000 Canadian soldiers in it. 340 soldiers died at Juno beach. Each tombstone showed the date of death and so many of them had the same day. You could see trends in the dates. You could see that the fighting continued as the army continued to push to gain ground and make their way to Caen. Many of the stones had their age and a short sentence from their families. Each of us walk through the commentary alone. As we joined back up there were tears in all of our eyes. HISTORY was very real. I cannot even imagine what life would be like for us if these men had not fought and pushed Hitler back. They really did fight for our freedom and we all FELT this to our core. I remember one grave read, "He died that we might live."

For those lucky enough to survive the fight I cannot even imagine what it must of felt like to free a town or country for that matter. We stayed in a home beside the beach that was there during the war and the owner of the b&b showed us a picture of the troops marching through the street. Many of the French in the area were forced to work as slaves for the Germans. Now they were liberated.

Our history is our story and I feel lucky to have been told a part of this story directly from Graham's grandfather a few years ago. This meant more to me than I think he realized. The Juno beach center had many TV's throughout which played videos of various veterans telling their story. It was so unbelievably real as I listened. Then I watched as the kids moved throughout the room from TV to TV mesmerized by the stories. When you hear a man describe how wet, hungry, dirty and tired he was and then receiving a box of rubber boots and being so happy to finally have dry feet but then finding out the box was filled with only left foot boots. You FEEL the story. He said there was nothing to do but laugh.

Thank you to those men brave enough to fight....for me, for our country, for our world. November 11th is our special day to remember and I will be sure that each and every year on this day I make time to do this. It seems the very least I can do.

Made it....first passage behind us

Crossed the infamous Bay of Biscay notorious for bad weather! Stories to come :-)

http://www.winlink.org/dotnet/maps/PositionreportsDetail.aspx?callsign=va3pry


September 24, 2012

Wringing A Dry Towel

Ok lets start with some things you might not have realized about France....

  • Washrooms are often unisex, so strange for the 4 of us to walk into a bathroom together and pick a stall. Seriously!
  • Lined paper like loose leaf is unusual. The majority of paper is this really thinned lined paper like cashier paper. Strange?
  • Shelf milk is more popular than fridge milk
  • The majority of men seem to be better dressed and they all seem to wear sweaters and fancy scarves
  • People seem at first pass a bit grey (not sure this is the best word to describe it but the best I can come up with)but they laugh easily and with HUGE color
  • People tend to stroll rather than walk
  • Cars are extremely small
  • There are a lot of roundabouts
There are many more but these are off the top of my head...and must be sitting there :-). I love it though. I love it all. I love experiencing all of these new things and struggling to make sense of the strange ones and I especially love doing all of this with my family.

For the past 3 days we have been in Paris on a road trip due to bad weather crossing the Bay of Biscay. Tomorrow we are off to Normandy for a day and night. Then we will be back to Salty Ginger and off on our first passage. 


We found the cutest little apartment here in Paris. It is just a stones throw away from the Eiffel Tower. At night just at the end of our street the tower is beautifully illuminated. Gorgeous. The apartment is in this cool old typical Paris building. It has a neat loft with a bed up this steep staircase or maybe ladder better describes it. There is a huge window that opens wide up and you can see the entire apartment within. I hope the picture does it justice. 

Highlights from the trip so far:

Day 1 we went to the Eiffel Tower and walked around it and stood beneath it and took pictures. The line up was huge an we agreed to come back in the morning and go up. For the past 20 years I have told the story of how Graham and I travelled to Paris on a budget and never went up the Tower and what a tragedy it was.  Funny thing is, the next morning on our walk over we see that we had missed this gorgeous platform overlooking the Tower and totally square on and a ways above it. The view was spectacular. I whispered to Alex as Amelia and Graham walked ahead that I hated to admit it but that I would much rather look at the tower than go up it. He quickly jumped on my words and said "Me Too". I couldn't believe it. I said, "Do you think Amelia and Dad would feel the same way?". So we caught up to them  and it was unanimous....no one wanted to go up? It was so strange to be deciding not to go up after all these years of wishing. Life is funny. We have spent time each day admiring it and I will never forget looking at this wonder with my kids and hubby. 

My other favorite part was shopping with Amelia. I knew she wanted to spend $$$ and shop and I also knew she and I had a budget. Luckily in the middle of the night it hit me......Paris has to have some awesome second hand stores?? and guess what.....IT does and we found the best one. Oh what fun we had in this tiny shop with a spiral staircase and huge bins to rummage through on our Parisian shopping spree. I will never tire of seeing her happy. We got some fantastic buys and a ton of stuff and only walked away $41 dollars poorer. 

Other noteworthy moments:
  • trailing a pick pocketer with the kids and laughing hysterically that he might see us
  • Amelia forgetting she was in public and belching loud and proud on the double decker bus tour
  • Buying roast chicken from this stall with the locals on a Paris street with Graham... big crowd lots of french shouting and tickets...but we figure it out and man that chicken was good!
  • Lighting a candle for my bff in Notre Dame and feeling for a moment the presence of something bigger than us or unknown
  • Buying the kids crepes from the vendors whenever they asked...."YES" was the name of the game
The kids are getting older and sometimes I feel like my time with them as kids is like me trying to wring water from a dry towel. Our relationship is changing...not for the better or worse just different. It makes me so happy to think that as they grow older they will never forget the first time they saw Paris with Graham and I. 

If you haven't been to Paris get it on your bucket list. Off to Juno beach in the morning! Check out Amelia's blog. Miss you all

September 20, 2012

Just a Kiss


Slowly life on board is returning to normal.Everything is finding its place on board and we are all falling back into a routine.

Homeschooling started in full force on Monday. Amelia and I have had a tough few days trudging through Algebraic equations. Yuck. She learns best when we move through the lesson together and do the examples together and then she does the final test questions on her own. It isn't a walk in the park though. The material is hard and we both get frustrated and tired and grumpy with ourselves and each other. The end result is always good but it is one heck of a mountain to climb.

Today once she was finished her test questions, she switched gears and started her grade 9 art course. I couldn't help but laugh as she exclaimed from my room, "OMG Mom this whole course is about drawing and making things! I love this course." I laughed to myself and thought, "Yes you do not have to be a mathematician there is a whole other world out there!"

So now she is still happily singing and drawing and designing in my room and I am happily sitting at the kitchen table doing my own thing. Oh how I love Art. LOL

We took Salty Ginger off the dock yesterday. Always a bit nerve racking moving on and off the dock for us. We got away, stopped and got gas and motored off through the channel with no problems though with Graham at the helm. What a feeling. Felt like a christening. This was the first time that Salty Ginger felt the ocean move beneath her hull.

All along the channel on the wall there were old French fishermen in their blue fishing pants with their grey sweaters and their bicycles next to them with their tackle boxes, fishing. I definitely need to get a picture. It is exactly how you are picturing in your mind. For some reason it made me feel good to see them. I so wish I could speak French and get to know some of these people....ok back to the sail. It was a beautiful day with blue sky and gorgeous french town with a picturesque wrap around beach as the back drop. Wind was perfect for a trial but unfortunately once we had finished calibrating all the new instruments on Salty Ginger, which basically involved driving around in very large circles with no sails up for a couple hours, it was getting late. We only had a few moments to pull out the main and basically bring her back in, so for now the sail will have to wait for tomorrow!
The drive back up the channel went fine and then we get back to our slip (dock spot). We thought we would try backing in, since the boat seemed so easy to maneuver....ummm not as easy as it seemed though.....abort, abort, abort. Ok, time to go bow first in but unfortunately Graham brought her straight in and we were to far away from either dock on either side to jump, so Salty Ginger kissed the dock up front....her "official christening"! Finally Alex decided to just leap for it and then I finally leaped (ok yes I took to long to get off) and we all worked for way to long to get her tied up. Needless to say each day is an experience and we learn. All in all it went pretty well though and I am so grateful that I get to have these crazy, fun, high energy moments with 3 people who I love so much! We will get better at this and we get to do it together.
....ps Afterthoughts...we are all just sitting here having happy hour trying to decide whose fault it was..lol...thought you might enjoy this...

Graham, "First of all it is just a kiss and can be fixed with a bit of polish. Secondly, if Mom had just let Alex leap off the boat he could of stopped Salty from kissing the dock"

Amelia, "I should have told Dad that we were going to touch"(she was at the bow)

Alex, "If Mom had let me jump I probably could of stopped the boat"

Mom, "Ok, even if I had let Alex jump he was only thinking of grabbing a line and we found that there wasn't a cleat for him to wrap the line. He wasn't thinking of running to the front and stopping the boat."

Kids, "Picture mom dangling her feet over the side of the boat trying to touch the dock and Alex leaping over her."...they say as they laugh uncontrollably

September 17, 2012

Ebbs and Flows

Ok, so if anyone ever asks you if it is possible to decide to buy a boat and move to France within 4 months you can tell them yes....but there is a cost to your mental and physical health! Why is it that we always seem to have to endure pain for gain and tell me this...why does it seem that we (being The Perry's) seem to have made these ebbs and flows of pain and gain, our "normal"? and why...I ask you why....do I always forget the pain so quickly. It seems to wash off me like water but in the moment I am asking myself "WTH"!

Well let me tell you this past month has been filled with loads of these "wth" moments. You might of thought I was a workaholic before well August took me to new heights as I tried to wrapped up the two contracts I was working on. Luckily the kids were out west and Graham was here in France readying the boat, so there were no distractions. Graham arrived home the evening of the 24th of August and we gave ourselves two days to pack and move out of our house. Then for the past few weeks we have been living out of duffle bags between Toronto and Alberta as we prepared our lives for this next journey and attended my little sisters wedding.

Finally everything was done and the four of us were once again together and at my brothers condo packing our lives into duffle bags to bring to the boat. We have done this type of packing 5 times now, where you bring as much as you can within your limits on plane and that's it. The rest of the stuff stays behind. This time though...I had a funny thought cross my mind..."Why don't we just pay for a couple extra bags?"....I tried running this thought by the captain and his response was that we were each allowed a second 20lb carry on and a purse or handbag and that this should be considered a second bag for each of us. So we had 4 * 50lb duffle bags, 4*20lbs duffle bags and 3 hand bags. Keep in mind that many of these bags were filled with boat parts and even a boat sail! He needs 1 week with a women who wouldn't stand for putting her stuff in a duffle bag, wouldn't be ok with leaving her blowdryer and straightner behind and wouldn't be ok with the one vaccum sealed bag for clothes and then he would see what a catch he has.lol

We landed in France with all these bags and the fun or should I say "Pain" ensued. Read Amelia's blog to hear all about it (link to the right). Couple funny points...we get to the car rental place and I ask the fellow to add me as a driver. Graham says, "Thats an extra $39 are you really thinking of driving". I say, "Of course! I am sure I will be running around getting stuff for the boat over the next few days." He says...(in a very grumpy, hasn't slept in 10 hour voice) "Well, you can start with the next 5 hours to our boat". Love it...welcome home....exactly as I left it. LOL. and I think in my head..."Damn straights I will drive because then you can NAVIGATE." Funny thing I learned later that day though is that it doesn`t matter what seat I sit in...I am expected to navigate! Picture us sitting lost in our volkswagon van in downtown Paris in rush hour traffic and not sure what the heck to do. Kids in back seat tired and GP and I in front seat screaming at each other...let the good times roll. Didn't take us long to rebound though. We switched seats I rolled down the window in traffic and took the chance that a fella in hippy van might speak english and luckily he did. He pointed us to the right and Alex confirmed on a map and now nothing left but a 5 hour drive. 2 hours into the drive though, GP and I realized we had to sleep. We pulled over in a highway pullout and fell quickly alseep in our seats. Amelia said at one point she woke up and it was like a strange.."Walking Dead" scene. She said there was no one around and everything was quiet and we were so still, right up until the moment she saw me snore. Well what doesn't kill you makes you stronger and nothing good is suppose to be easy right?

The good is pretty damn good though. Salty Ginger is a proud, gorgeous, curvy, strong,vivacious ginger! I am NOT dissappointed. She is everything I expected and more. Graham did an amazing job getting her ready for us. Due to the hydrovane, bimini, dodger, cushions, and electronics, she does not feel like a factory boat, she feels like a home that could cross oceans and WILL. We have jumped full on back into our old life. The kids started school the next day and we have completed our provisioning of the boat. Everything seems so cheap here. I stocked up our liquor cabinet with 14 bottles of wine, a 26 of gin, rum, glenfiddich and baileys and guess what the total was??   $108. Shocking right!! The promise land.

The plan is to return the rental car tomorrow, do a practice sail on Wednesday and then sail away on Thursday, if the weather is good. OMG....lying if I said I wasn't a wee bit nervous but totally ready to take the helm with Captain Graham. I will try and stay in touch more often now that I should have some free time :-)!

August 02, 2012

Why Not?

It is now official we are the proud owners of Salty Ginger! A beautiful brand new 2013 Jeanneau 44i. Can somebody pinch me? I just can't believe this drastic dramatic turn of events.

When Graham and I reflect on how the heck we ended up here, when just a few months ago we both were talking about our 6 year plan, we agree that the seed was planted this past January at the 2012 Toronto Boat show. Funny isn't it because this is the place where the four of us first stood on a sailboat in 2006 and now as we toured through boats, we didn't just have big dreams to speak of, we had adventures to tell. It was a great day.

As we looked through boat after boat you could see us trying to imagine what our past adventures would have been like on one of these yachts? Yacht seemed an appropriate title for these homes. We returned home and the seed began to grow...fueled by our thoughts, dreams, aspirations and stories of past adventures.

And then if we had any doubt, Graham and I returned to Mother Ocean in April and helped our friends Dave and Cheryl sail their boat from Cuba to Panama. Any anxiety I may have had or questions in my..."Would I still like sailing?", "Would I remember how?", "Would I be afraid?"...all melted away. I felt more at home on the sea than I did on the land. The seed was now growing like a weed!

A few weeks after our return Graham, Amelia and I were sitting in the living room talking yet again of the adventures we would have in the future, when I said......"Why not now? WHY NOT?" We all decided to not automatically dismiss it and to think about it for a week and come up with our "Why Not" reasons.

Well a week later we realized that there were a few "Why Not" reasons and some of them were definitely show stoppers, such as: (1) convincing Alex to come with us (2) finding someone wonderful to watch our lovable doggie (3) figuring out if we could financially afford a boat and adventure  (4) finishing up work contracts for departure or finding a way to work on board (5) possibly sub letting our house (6) could we homeschool for highschool courses and then come back and have the kids successfully reintegrate...yet again?

So we decided to give ourselves another 2 weeks and divided up the showstoppers and set to work to see if they could be overcome. Within 2 weeks we knew that each issue could be managed but still had a few straggling ends to figure. At the end of the 3rd week it was decided. OMG we were going!

Now the fun begins! Decide on our new boat, work out a great deal, purchase, purchase all the electronics and safety equipment, school registration, house renting, insurance, car storage, banking, doctor visits, prescriptions, first aid kit, dentist (both kids now have braces...adding to the complication), sail plan, etc etc etc...You can imagine how busy it has been. Basically from May to July all of this has happened! It really is shocking and so amazingly exciting. I love being an adult and in charge of my own future. I can head in any direction and do not have to stick to the path. Makes me feel like how it use to feel the first year I got my license and could just go....ok I digress...

So the plan as it currently stands is for all four of us to move on board Salty Ginger (SG) in mid September. She is currently located in France and then the plan is to cross over to the Caribbean before the end of January!!! We would then leave SG and fly home for Feb 1st and the kids would return to school and us to work and reunite with our pooch!

In order to prepare in advance for our arrival and install all of the electronics, etc., today (Aug 1st) Graham fly's to France with our friend Jeremy to prepare our "Yacht" (I love calling it this). We so want to give the kids that moment that never happened last time when we stepped aboard "Artemo" in disarray and said "Welcome to your new home". He is hoping that when we all arrive together on September 15th the boat is picture perfect.....Are my expectations high, you might ask....YUP!

And so begins not the next chapter but book 2 of our adventure now titled "Salty Ginger"! stay tuned for the journey