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


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 :-)