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 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 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 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 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 #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 guessed #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

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.