The other Europe

We know we were lucky to be exploring Mediterranean Spain by sea last year. And the Caribbean the years before that. There’s no place like home (clicking the heels of my flip flops) when it’s Folly Beach though. We have found a community of friends at home to make the lonely wandering feel not so isolated. We have my parents and Kelly’s dad on the island. It’s been ideal.

Conversely, being together as a family out there, out wherever, has left me feeling closer than I ever hoped with our children as they’ve grown and experienced this diverse and wonderful world.

Wanderlust is diagnosable in us. That, combined with a nagging feeling that as kids grow there will be a time where they will look to spread their wings and (tongue in cheek-inconceivably) prefer friends over sailing with parents! We decided to backpack through landlocked Europe for February since….well, it’s freezing.

Madame Geneva is safely tucked just west of Barcelona awaiting our return in April to continue eastward. We will get more than our fair share of sailing then with a goal of Montenegro by late August to escape the European VAT tax of 30% on the boat if we stay in the EU for over 18 months. But that, friends, is a story to be told once we’re afloat again as right now we’re in Berlin where the sailboats are like unicorns. It’d be cool to have one but they simply don’t exist.

Kelly made the plan in perfect Kelly style. We all got proper frame backpacks, new hiking boots capable of snow strolling and updated jackets, scarves, and assorted accoutrements. Christmas brought plane tickets, guide books and Eurail passes. The Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium and Luxembourg on the menu by rail. We booked a few nights in Amsterdam in advance to regroup and wrestle with jet lag. After that our plan was simple. There is absolutely no plan. We have a month to travel light, see and do as we please and continue to show the kids that there are limitless ways to live in this world. So, we land in Amsterdam (aka Hamsterslam when you’re a funny kid) and off we go!

Having come from South Carolina it was refreshing to finally be immersed in a culture that speaks English. Everyone we met was gracious, curious, friendly and generally happy. Eating, drinking and communicating was simple and a pleasure. Public transportation is amazing, cheap and easy. Bicycles are piled head high at major corners, merely numbering in the thousands at the more remote spots. Don’t get me started on the contrast with the commuter life in the states. Smoking is common but even the hand rolled cigarette set seems healthier when astride a rattly bicycle, a sustainable shopping bag full of unprocessed natural food draped over their shoulder. See kids? Cultures differ. Be happy and healthy.

We walked an average of 5 miles a day. Quinn, at 9 now, will still lag behind and get frustrated preferring loudly to read his book over “looking at buildings”. Now more often since having grown up a bit he will forget that his legs are tired and really get into it only to remember he’s protesting and once again make it clear at top volume.

Fortunately Amsterdam has an amazing 4 story hands on science center, NEMO, which kept us all busy. Cafes and restaurants abound and Dutch food (as long as you’re ok with Mayonnaise – strike Quinn’s and Gherty from that list) is awesome. Beers are large and light. Wine is fortunately not from Holland. All is good.

We took an obligatory canal cruise. At night. Simply spectacular. Che, Gherty and Quinn are old enough now to wear headsets and tour the Van Gogh museum at their own speed leaving Kelly and I to soak it in as a rare couple. An impactful and important day for “homeschooling”.

I have some sort of mental block where I keep calling windmills lighthouses. Seriously. Discuss amongst yourselves.

After 3 nights and jet lag cobwebs cleared we stuffed our packs, had breakfast at “This is not a theater” cafe and hoofed it crosstown to the Central Station. Oddly this building seems to be the only location in Amsterdam to have missed the opportunity to use each vowel 14 times. This being our first train trip we did what anyone who travels with us would expect. We strolled in a half hour before departure, had a brief heart attack before realizing that 4 tickets was the correct number since kelly and I were both listed on one then realized frantically we had to have tickets stamped prior to grinding through the turnstile (the one with the green light not red Che and Quinn!). A quick stroll with heavy packs at a full sprint to the international “ticket stamping desk” would get us all set. I didn’t hear actual elevator music but it was playing in my head as our sprint ended pulling ticket number 097 from a machine and standing around waiting for our number to come up. 14 minutes til the train doors close….”Dad, we’re going to miss the train” Che said stoically without a hint of panic or worry. “Dad, we’ll never make it”. “Dad, where will we stay tonight when we miss this train?”. I suspect Che as an adult will travel but will lean towards the more secure “my parents tried to kill me as a traveling child so I will be requiring a travel agent, chauffeur, armed security detail, valet and a porter”.

We made it of course. With minutes to spare. Besides, who really enjoys waiting on dirty train platforms anyhow? You’re welcome children!

The train ride across the Eastern Netherlands and into rural Western Germany was amazing. An adventure in itself. We’ll save this for the next posting as kids are waking, kelly is doing a load of everyone’s laundry and we are ready to fuel up on strudel for another adventure in Berlin today.

Stay tuned. Much love!

Can I Come Back?

IMG_4314“Can I come back?”  A couple months ago, after returning from our trip abroad and well into homeschooling back in Folly Beach, Quinn made an error in judgement and was promptly kicked out of school (yes, that means ‘sent to his room’).  Our session was interrupted by an airplane with those very words.  Humbled, he returned.  And humbled, we shall return as well.  August became December more quickly than I thought possible.  And now I sit at this desk trying to pull together our last weeks in Spain in an effort to create a book to remember and to excite.  For return, we must and we will.  Our new journey is not so far off now.  We will go by train through the lands of Europe not quite reachable by Madame Geneva.  And then we will go by sea deeper into the Mediterranean.  My ease with pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) was rather thwarted the last weeks of Spain.  And there is so much to uncover and discover so these last pages will be a retrospective instead of an introspective, an archaeological dig instead of a gentle burial.   May this be a lesson to me to keep a journal!

IMG_3892 IMG_3900 IMG_3905 IMG_3915 IMG_3923 IMG_3928We set off from Mallorca with little plan other than to reach Menorca, port unknown.  With the Med laid out, and Sardinia rumored to have wind, we thought perhaps the east coast would serve well for a quick stop, regroup, and launch to the Italian Med.  Time, once seemingly endless, began to loudly tick its reminder that the trip was not infinite.  The kids were restless, and the ‘real’ world beckoned and called just above the sirens.  Still, we had the weeks ahead to make the 180-mile journey and after the many days of being island-bound, we were antsy to have a passage.  And with every plan, we learn a bit more of could’ve-should’ve and have it in the vault for another day, another time.

Quinn began to feel queasy right out of the harbor.  We had planned on an early departure, so Justin and I would have a few hours before the kids even awoke, but even the smallest of plans seem not to be executed.  As such, the cockpit was soon filled with moans, although the sea was like glass.  When the haze of land fell to Mallorca and still Menorca remained just a glimpse on the horizon, we found ourselves in mile deep water.  The islands are close, a mere forty miles.  Yet with that desert wind (even as still as it was on that day) carrying the heat, the light bent and broken from that heat, the land, water and sky played tricks and managed to mask all states of mass, until one became the other or never seemed to be what it was.  We knew the land from the cloud formation, but we could not see the island until we were well to it.  So, when Quinn decided on a dip in the mile-deep sea, I was quick to agree.  And Justin followed suit as well, after my return to the boat.  Back on board, cooled off, and motoring back along, Justin suddenly says, “Dolphins!  Wait, no.”  The black dorsal fin did not glide and did not resurface after it traveled zig-zag through the dark blue waters.

We decided to travel to Mahon, as the harbor looked deep and appeared a perfect launch to Sardinia.  Expectation can bless or curse a day.  Our assumption that Menorca would be a simple stopover was faulty.  Menorca would in fact capture us, and our designs on Sardinia would need wait.

IMG_3942 IMG_3943

IMG_3956 IMG_3963 IMG_3971 - Copy

IMG_3978 IMG_3979 IMG_3986 IMG_3989 IMG_3995 IMG_4005 IMG_4006Forts and castles surround the entrance to Mao.  Ruins and cannons stand prominent, in contrast to the blue sea and the great green hills.  Crumbled walls topple to the water’s edge and fade distant to pristine architecture.  And that is just the entrance to the harbor!  Restaurants line the sea wall and the streets of Mahon climb high into the old town.  We circled out of the harbor and found an anchorage at the edge of Es Castell.  We anchored and moored in many places around Menorca but this was my favorite. We swam, we cooked, we motored to the ruins and the fort; and we even watched a total lunar eclipse.

IMG_4045 IMG_4051 IMG_4122 IMG_4129 - Copy IMG_4159 IMG_4253 IMG_4270 IMG_4282 IMG_4291 IMG_4314 IMG_4326The next couple weeks found us in small festival towns and beautiful old cities.  We traveled through the countryside and saw the great ruins of the Taulas.  We went horseback riding.  We drove the tiniest of streets in the most ancient of towns.  We visited museums, cathedrals, and cafes.  We swam and we climbed.  And then we set sail for the south of Spain mainland.

We left after dinner to sail through the night.  There was a general stillness and no wind, so we motored.  Justin and I took shifts.  Radar, AIS, and eyes on the water keep us aware of our surroundings.  When I awoke to take my early morning shift, Justin warned me of a ghost ship. unmanned, and adrift off the coast of Barcelona.  AIS had us mere feet from one another at our closest point, about two hours away.  The direction of the ghost ship was unclear.  AIS had it pointed to Barcelona but drifting our way, slowly.  Very slowly.  I keep vigilant for fishing boats without AIS but on the radar and waited for the ghost ship.  The predawn light brought a bit of calm when I spotted the ship.  Empty cranes, empty deck…just a wandering ship under no one’s control…headed our way.  I pointed twenty degrees off and let the ship pass my stern.

IMG_4354 IMG_4356 IMG_4371 - Copy IMG_4371 IMG_4375 IMG_4383We approached Barcelona in the haze of the morning and headed for the marina.  A bridge lay between.  It is funny that you can cross a large body of water and it is the navigation to docking that causes stress.  The pedestrian bridge opened.  We knew that, but we were not exactly sure when, how and for how long.  Justin never fails to impress.  He maneuvered Madame Geneva expertly, even while being yelled at in German.  The slip lay just inside the bridge.  With a quick dodge of a previously unseen outgoing vessel and even quicker three point turn, we were backed into our Med mooring.  Happy birthday, Justin!  I know you’d have it no other way!

Barcelona was dirty and spectacular.  Cathedrals, museums, and restaurants distracted our walks.  The heat was rather intolerable.  A wave had hit Europe hard, and Spain especially.  The old buildings offered a cool sanctuary, and we accepted.  One of the most impressive displays was the collection of Federic Mares.  Sculptures of the 3rd and 4th centuries filled the basement; other floors included those from the 12th to the 19th centuries.  All of this housed in a palace of the inquisition. The kids loved it.

IMG_4392 IMG_4395 IMG_4397 IMG_4400 IMG_4423We moved Madame Geneva to Port Roda de Bera (between Barcelona and Tarragona).  This was (and is) to be her home for the winter.  We explored the small beach town, a locale frequented by Spanish tourists.  We spent days getting Madame Geneva set up for our absence which mainly meant making sure the newly purchased solar panels worked so that our house batteries could stay charged.  Can you say “dongle” in Spanish?  And even better, should you?!  We opted for a trip into the mountains to cool off and found ourselves staying at a particularly strange, but fantastic Russian house.  Our host was quite friendly.  The house had a pool table, a hot tub, a trampoline, and sauna.  The mountains had ancient towns, lush forests, and a gorgeous volcanic park.

IMG_4450 IMG_4453 IMG_4457 IMG_4463 IMG_4468 IMG_4481 - CopyWe climbed down into a dormant crater, now grown over in wildflowers and fine, bright green grasses, where a stone building stood boarded up.  Cracks in the boards reflected nothing, but I pointed my camera inside and discovered a church.  The kids, initially dragging from climbing up and then down the hillside, ran through the field and discovered a perfect childhood summer day.

IMG_4494The drives through the mountainside and the tours of the villages gave breath to the politics of the region.  Yellow ribbons in support of a Catalan independence were everywhere.  We played with the language to communicate, sometimes with success.  No English was spoken.  No discernable Spanish.  Catalan was the language and the pride was clear.  The rural cafes offered a more rustic fare, with a lot of “bone in”.  The people were nice; there was just a lot of figuring out on both sides which left a bit of ‘huh?’.  How do you say ‘huh?’ in Catalan?!

We returned to Roda de Bera and spent some time in Tarragona.  Roman ruins there are as normal as the beach to the sea.  How humbling to walk on the roads of so many civilizations. Caves, dug into the sides of cliffs, and columns, cracked but standing, face out to the deep blue Med.  The old stone buildings of the town rise proudly along the tight streets.  The squares, open to football and markets, encourage a community of gathering.  Stores and restaurants line the long and wide boulevard to the water’s edge.

“Can I come back?”  Maybe we all needed to leave, to be on the other side of the wall (or the ocean), to ask that very question.  The days spent traveling, sailing, raising (and being raised) in this way are not always easy.  Sometimes we act poorly.  Sometimes we beg understanding.  And sometimes it takes just a minute to step outside the frame to see how truly incredible this life is.

Much love and stay tuned.

Horses and Horses

by Gherty Walling

31/07/18

The town that the horse festival was in is called Migjorn which is in Menorca. Yes, we made it to Menorca. The horse festival was awesome!! At first it was boring because all we were doing was sitting around while mom and dad were drinking beer they got from a bar right next to us. Then we started walking around.

Before the fiesta

We saw a horse with it’s rider on it. The horses were beautiful. They were all ready and excited so they were drooling and stepping so proudly. Then we kept walking and I got a homemade shirt with a decked-out horse on it. Here I’ll show you…

All the horses had mirrors on them. If you saw the whole body it would show a heart, star, or circle where the heart is. We all touched the hearts and saw people run in front of horses rearing up it was crowded but awesome!!! There was a band playing in the background too. I only knew that one of the riders was the priest.

Now the horse riding. So first we went to a café and had croissants or toast. Then we called the Taxis. The first one came and dad, Che, and I got in we told him to go to Menorca horse riding. We ended up in the country which was not the right place. Although they had a lot of horses. They had a dog which was a german shepherd. He seemed happy to see us. Then we went to the back of the place and there were two people there and one of them helped us get a taxi and over to Menorca horse riding!

Now the horse riding… so when we got there we met Sara who spoke English like Wendy. (There, now you’re even more famous in my blog Wendy) Then we met our horses!!! Dad’s was Tetan, Che’s was arrow, Quinn’s was symphony, Mom’s was something that meant sand in Spanish, and mine was Orgu which was short for something that meant proud in Spanish. Once we got on we started going I got out without help but getting in the line was harder. Ounce we started going then dad started trailing behind because Tetan knew dad couldn’t stop him from eating. It went like that the whole time well until we headed back. At one-point dad said he was going to rename the horse “ketchup”. Bad idea, Tetan started neighing and he even back kicked, thankfully he was in the back. After the picture we started heading back. Once I got a black berry I was heading over to the blackberry bushes. They were delicious!!!! So sweet and I managed to score a few too.

Last news, we’re going to horse camp!!!!!!!!!!!!!

SEE YOU NEXT TIME BYE!!!!!!!!!!!

Horseback Riding

By Che walling

I had never experienced what is was like to ride a horse. But as soon as I did, I loved it. Before all this happened, Dad, Gherty, and I were trying to get a cab to the horseback riding place. Soon we found a taxi, and the taxi driver took us to the horseback riding. The place was a plain little house and a lot of stables. It looked pretty deserted, but there were tons of horses.

We were going to look if the owner was around and we ran into a German Shepard. He looked pretty nice, so Gherty and I touched him. After we did, we passed some cool looking horses. One had a white line down its face; the other one was jet black! Then there was what sounded like a wheel barrel. It turned out there was a man wearing riding clothes and he was rolling a wheel barrel full of hay. We said, “hello,” and he just said, “hi,” and walked off.

Dad was looking for Mom and Quinn but did not see them anywhere. We finally decided to go ask the people if this is the right place. There was a woman with the guy, and they were helping a sick horse. The horse was huge and black. The man spoke little English, but the woman spoke some English. So, after we told them that we might have gone to the wrong place, they called a taxi. We hopped right in. So, this time we were going to the right place and we saw Mom and Quinn.  We stopped and we walked to the horses’ stable. So that we don’t take long with this blog, my horse’s name was Arrow, and he did know how to stay on track. Dad’s horse was really funny, since he was always hungry. The horses’ times to eat from their point of view, are breakfast, brunch, lunch, snack, snack, snack, afternoon snack, dinner, bedtime snack, and midnight snack. After we got back, we dismounted and went to eat OUR lunch. This is the end of the blog. So bye!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Quinn’s Blog on Spain2!

Written By: Quinn Walling. No illustrator.

The date is July the 31st 2018

Yesterday we went Horseback-riding. It was fun. My horse’s name was Symphony. To get there we had to go in 2 taxis. (That is the rule in the ballearic islands.) So, Dad, Gherty, and Che went in 1, and Mom and I went in the other.

Once Mom and I got there dad, Gherty, and Che were not there. (they should have been there because they left before us.) Eventually we were able to flag their taxi down and get them. Apparently, they ended up in the wrong place.

So, we had an hour of Horseback-riding. It was fun.

I was mostly in front with someone leading my horse always. Che and Gherty were also being led. On the way back, everyone but me had wild blackberries. (they were growing along the way.) so long story short it was great. We are signing up for Horseback-riding lessons.

THE END!!!!!!!!!!!!

Adios Mallorca

I awoke today in flat calm Porto Colom to Kelly sneaking about, engine running, making last minute preparations to slip the mooring lines and cast off. She had Madame Geneva all set and said, “I got this”. I lurched out of bed to see that she did, so she finished her routine, cast off the remaining bow line, and motored out of the Cala into the Med noting she had 64 degrees magnetic to the southern tip of Menorca all figured. Adios Mallorca! It’s been fun. Now onto adventure next. North by east over a hazy morning horizon.

I got this!

We were delayed back in Palma because apparently there was a large hefty bag of money that wasn’t going to spend itself. So, with a new turbo charger installed on the Diesel, new rings and prop cone on the sail drive and 840 watts of solar (ohhhh yeah) on our newly built (and rebuilt) tower we had to wait a heavy week before heading out. So to make the most of it we dove deep into the bits of Mallorca we had left to see.

Kelly leads “bus stop yoga” to keep em busy

Family bus rides and transfers in Spain are fun. Maybe not when you’re 8, or 10, or 11.75 but they are. So much to see when you leave the coast and such large, modern picture windows to see it through if only you weren’t glued to whatever saga the children were reading at that moment. Hell, if nothing else we have children who are avid readers if not soaking up the world. I think there’s some credence to the theory of osmosis though.

We checked out Valldemossa in the mountains. It’s a beautiful town with the summer palace of King Santo something-or-other where Chopin and Georges Sand overwintered in a monestary in 1838-1839 and wrote some of the most iconic romantic piano music ever. There’s a great museum in the monkery and we stood in the cell with the piano, Chopin’s work softly playing and his hand written sheets scattered about under glass. My arm hairs stood up and I was once again the recipient of a lump in the throat, “how profound the highest expression of man”, moment. Cathedrals, chiaroscuro oil paintings, Picasso, Miro, art nouveau ornament, Gaudi’s melting architecture. Europe continues to both crush and exalt me. Just what I am needing at this particular moment in time. We bought tickets to a “show” in the palace where we got to watch a pianist play selections of Chopins work from memory and Quinn fall onto the chair next to him moaning “when will this beeee ovvverrre?”. Only the pianist was paid for this performance. The frescoed cherubs adorning the elaborate crown mouldings were not impressed.

A few more days tied up along a stone wall in the STP shipyard baking in the heat trying to occupy the children with rollerblading and various wheeled distractions while highly skilled and polite Spanish interlopers dug, banged and sweat in our boat.

We had a truly special moment last Friday when we slid off the quay for a couple hours outside Palma Harbour to take part in a final worldwide send off for Kelly’s brother Joe. After his passing this spring it became more and more clear to me just what he meant to the free spirited surfing communities he had lived with in Ocean City, New Jersey, San Diego and the North Shore of Ouahu. OC dedicated a perpetual spirit award to their surf contest in his name and simultaneous paddle out ceremonies took place at dawn in Hawaii, breakfast in Dago, noon in OC and 6 pm in Palma. Joey is with us on this trip too and he was ceremonially sprinkled lovingly from the transom of Madame Geneva by our family as we sailed 263 degrees magnetic directly towards Ouahu some 8500 miles away. We saved some last ashes to commit to the waves at the exact halfway point on our transatlantic crossing. I think Joey would like that.

The kids made a surfboard from a baguette to carry Joe seaward!

Once free from the shipyard we bid our friends a dry eyed adios and headed east close reaching with the code zero at 6-7 knots in 8-10 knots of breeze to Porto Colom for one last stop in Mallorca for as we had circumnavigated the island and seen her interior we had yet to venture underground! Oh, wait, we did take a vintage wooden train ride, more than 3 kilometers of which was through tunnels….whatever. The Caves of Drac! Awesome, magnificent, spectacular!! How do you say “please get me a cattle prod, a can of wasp spray, a stink bomb, ANYTHING to get this German lady to stop bumping me and coughing in my hair!!!”?”” It was jam packed and life aboard a boat with your family, although cramped, is a life and proximity you have chosen. I wouldn’t diagnose it as a panic attack so much as a “if the lights go out I’m eating the first tourist that smells like ice cream” feeling. Time for some offshore.

Flat calm and steaming at eight knots should have us in Menorca mid afternoon though from my vantage point behind the helm it’s understandable how my predecessors navigating this ancient sea expected to fall off the edge.

Menorca? It’s just east of Mallorca. Still Spain. Our stopover on the way to Sardinia. Other facts? I have few. We’ll just have to see when we get there.

Stay tuned. Much love!

Quinn’s blog

Quinn’s Blog!

Written by: Quinn walling

The date today is 7/16/2018

2 days ago, we were at an anchorage. In the morning we just got up and started to go to Sant Elmo, but it was jam packed, so we went to go to another anchorage. When we got there, we went swimming. After swimming we dried off and read. While we were reading Dad thought it would be great idea to go snorkel in a cave by our boat. We went to a beach made of rocks. I didn’t want to go snorkeling, so I stayed at the rocky beach with Che. I climbed on the big rocks while Che snorkeled right by the beach. We had a lot of fun. Once Dad, Mom, and Gherty came back we looked for cool rocks. Che found one that looked like it had a smiley face because of the lines of quartz in it. A little later we found out that it had Fool’s Gold in it too. Anyway, Che and I wanted to get our nets from the boat to go net-fishing in the tidepools. So, Dad got in the dinghy and got 3 nets and a bucket from Madame Geneva. When he came back Gherty, Che, and I net-fished.

Then Dad went back to the boat in the dinghy while we were

back at the beach. Back at the tidepools there were what I think are Tiger shrimp, small fish that looked like regular boring minnows, bigger fish, and some weird fish that kind of looked like white tadpoles. A few hours later we had caught about 7 of the shrimp that looked like Tiger shrimp. By the way the other

creatures were to fast to catch.

A little bit later Che dumped them out. We started to only

catch big shrimp. We had caught 3 of them when Dad pulled up urgently in the dinghy.

He said we had to leave and

when I asked him why he said he

would tell me in the dinghy. When we got in the dinghy he

said we had to go because the anchorage was filling up. So, we sailed to Sant Elmo. When we were anchoring a harbor, captain told us that we could not anchor here. So, we moored there. At night it was super rolly so Dad, Che, and I were up at 2:30 AM. I fell asleep by looking up at the stars. Apparently, Che fell asleep too, but Dad couldn’t fall asleep (I learned this later).

THE END OF THAT DAY!

Doing What We Can, When We Can

Justin first saw the juvenile seagull floating nearby Madame Geneva.  We were anchored outside the seawall of Port de Alcudia, having picked up our friend the evening before.  Suzanne and I had already taken a swim.  The sun was still low and held the water captive with a fine sparkle of light, interrupted only by the wake of a passing ferry or aggressive motor boat.  Justin noted a slight shimmer by its neck, and cancelling out all the other visual noise, he saw the hook and the line.  Justin’s attention to detail is often startling.  I recognize this comes from a gal who could be leaning on the tower of Pisa before becoming aware of the bell tower, but he has an ability exceedingly rare.

Suzanne and Justin set about the rescue.  My immediate response was that it cannot be done.  How do you coax a wild bird to come to you?  Is it really going to just sit there while you get out the scissors and set about freeing it?  But as Justin said, “We have to try.”  Justin called for crackers and a beach towel.  They lured the young spotted gull over with the food and then proceeded to drop the towel off the transom.  The brilliant plan failed at first but the bird came back for more crackers.  Voila! We now had a patient.

I grabbed the sharp scissors from the sewing kit. The hook was not set but the line was well twisted and imbedded around the neck of the growing gull.  Suzanne fed the frightened bird while Justin held the towel tightly about its body and wings, leaving only the head and neck exposed.  I documented and kept up a general onslaught of enthusiasm. At last, the line was unwound.  We called up the children and then released the gull.  How thrilling to watch as she stayed close by to dip her neck repeatedly and realigned her feathers.  And how incredibly hair-raising to see as she shook off her wings and set off in flight.

Justin doesn’t like to think of himself as a hero, but he is.

To reach Alcudia, we sailed around the southern side of Mallorca.  We had a few days after leaving Palma before meeting up with Suzanne and figured we would simply go south and see what there was.  We were close hauled, in fifteen to twenty knots of breeze with super small rollers.  The sailing was lovely.  After days of sitting on the hot docks, just feeling the wind on the face was enough for grinning.  We found ourselves on the opposite tack of a sailboat roughly our size and commenced a race.  Although I am not confident that they were aware they were racing, we won.

Laguna de Salobra, twenty-five miles southeast of Palma, lay stretched long and lean.  Its white sandy anchorage was so vast that neighbors would need to launch a dinghy to borrow some sugar (lately, it seems you only need lean out and knock on a hull so tight the harbor).  We dropped the anchor and hooked up immediately.  We swam off the boat and had dinner onboard.  Tuesday morning, we set out again but with the wind on the nose, we only put out a jib and motorsailed around the southernmost point.

The angle left us no option but to motor along great caves and long stretches of craggy but flatter coastline.  We thought of stopping but choose to run up the way toward Ratjada. The rolly anchorage off the beach pitched the boat rather wildly and we opted not to attempt the anchor.  The next bay, Cala Guya, looked much better even if a bit more crowded.  The day settled quickly though and the speedboats left and we had an extremely quiet easy night.  We left early enough in the morning to make it to Alcudia by 10:30 and prepared Madame Geneva for Suzanne’s arrival.

The kids were getting a bit rambunctious and Gherty nearly broke our hearts with a tearful plea for friends, that speak English.  Justin and I sat in the cockpit and saw what we hoped was a British flag.  We spied.  We watched a girl of Gherty’s age on a paddleboard with her mother.  “Gherty!” we called.  She watched too and got the courage to dinghy over and see.  The Scottish family, who kept their boat in Alcudia, were leaving that evening but delighted to play for the day.  Kayak surfing, splashing about in the water, and a wonderful lunch at the café just off the anchorage gave us a great introduction to the area and the people who made our acquaintance.  Without going into the details, there is always more that lies beneath the surface.  Ask the questions, encourage the curiosity and know that there is more to learn by exploration of both land and humanity to know there are many ways to live this life.

The days with Suzanne were fantastic.  Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate for sailing but we motored our way up to Port de Soller over that week.  We found ourselves exploring old cities, eating and drinking well, shopping about, swimming, climbing, and yes, saving birds.  The hike from Port de Pollenca to Cala Boquer was truly amazing.  We walked through iron gates that kept dogs away from goats, up trails through towering rocks, cacti and fragrant rosemary.  Old stone walls were cut into huge cliffs.  Paths diverged and emerged, some winding well up the mountainside, where goats stood watch, bleating mournfully.  The kids all climbed the rocks, well above my comfort zone.  The faces were rough and perfect for climbing, less so for slipping but luckily that did not happen.  And when the heat rose and the sweat soaked the backs of all, we felt the cool breeze and saw the glimpses of the bay that lay low down.

I took Suzanne through Soller by the old tram and train to Palma.  She was flying back to Barcelona on Friday morning so we managed a hotel reservation for Thursday night.  Somehow, through great fortune we found ourselves staying in an old stone house right next the Cathedral.  The elegance and care in these buildings (two houses merged into one hotel), with original artwork, leaded windows, 400-year-old floors and an arched cave for the indoor pool and spa, were only matched by that of its staff.  The concierge, from Romania, spoke seven languages.  And while I cannot speak for the French, the Spanish and the German into which he fluently switched, as various guests popped in and out of our conversation, I can say that his English was witty and fun.  And as I told him, borrowing from The Philadelphia Story, “You have untold depths.”

And as we return to the life on water, this family of five, that is our mission.  We shall look for those places and those people that not all can see.  And in seeing, it is our honor to tell what we can so those who cannot, now in fact can.

Stay tuned and much love.

You Can Always Find What You’re Looking For…But Then What

Discipline is both the necessity and the curse of creativity.  Without the practiced pattern of holding yourself to order, the pen slips further from the page and so no voice is heard; and yet with the diligence and dedication to a daily expression, the art may fall flat.  That is a wordy way of saying, “I have been remiss.”

We stopped in Andratx, a few miles east of Sant Elmo, on our return to Palma.  We were hot.  Justin was ready to move, even if only a bit.  And I really suspect the kids didn’t realize we brought up the anchor until the view changed in the ports below, while we were motoring just off the coast.  What wind we had was on the nose so the iron genoa was our source of any speed.  We pulled into the harbor and noted there was no anchorage but only moorings.  Through luck and general shifting of the planets, we managed to secure the only “just now” free one.

One of the big differences for us here in the Mediterranean, aside from the language, the time change, and being pretty much the only American boat, has been the absence of a cruising guide.  The Caribbean spoils you.  The waves and wind may kick your bottom two days shy of Tuesday but when you pull into a harbor or even a new country, you know much of what you are getting.  You have Chris Doyle to tell you what is safe, who is who, and what is what.  And while that is all a guide, and you have your own approach and discretion, there is a lot of comfort in preparing based on others’ experiences.  Obviously, the Mediterranean is traveled but it is simply not documented from the cruising perspective as is the Caribbean.

Andratx proved to be a lovely spot.  We stayed two nights and were delighted to find good food and the World Cup (an unfortunate Spanish loss to Russia).  The kids have been exercising more and more of their independence and staying on board while we pop into a café with a view on the boat and Justin’s cell phone at their ready should they need it.  When giving them the what to do speech (I am big on speeches apparently), they wanted to know if someone boarded the boat should they escape by kayak.  They were not as interested in that answer as they were in the how many scoops of ice cream can they have if they open and latch the freezer properly.

We set off back to Palma early last Monday morning to have solar panels and a frame installed on Madame Geneva.  When we left Palma, we had the solar panels and the frame but not the regulator to connect the power to our bank of batteries.  We also managed to find the source of the fresh water that had been doing its damnedest to sink the boat but that turned out to be a cracked water heater tank.  In a world of 220, our 110 water heater is not easily replaced but we did manage to bypass the heater to stop MG from sinking and to increase the unlikelihood the kids would willing give in to a shower.  “Come on, guys, it’s refreshing!”

Our time in Palma was further excited by the impending arrival of our friend, Suzanne.  Still a week away, but tickets booked, she became the recipient of a series of texts with a plea for bringing some items over.  I admit I got a little excited when I asked that she bring two Rip Stiks and a scooter but all of the ports in Mallorca have perfectly flat, long quays.  The kids are in need of getting out some energy that doesn’t involve us using euphemisms for hike, hill, or frankly exercise.   She was gracious in her refusal (I didn’t realize there were that many acronyms for profanity!).

We found a great shop called Roll and Roll, where Gherty and Quinn could get rollerblades (we had no luck finding Rip Stiks) and Che could get a scooter.  Justin was still missing out on a good game of Rip Stik tag but all and all, everyone was happy.  I was even thinking I should get some rollerblades but the very nice (seriously) saleslady said, “Maybe you should rent?”

More searches over the next few days had me on some rather long, hot walks about town.  Earlier in the journey, we found ourselves at a Chinese restaurant for lunch and they had the Simpsons in Spanish on television.  Our kids gravitated to the animation.  Justin and I enjoyed a bit of quiet while they watched, transfixed…and we decided to get some Simpsons in Spanish.  I tried to google it to order ahead of Suzanne’s arrival.  And in the end, I found a DVD store well into the city that sold “Los Simpsons”.  I strapped on my backpack and came home with a bag full of groceries, a couple of pots (also something I was seeking) and quite a few episodes of the Simpsons.  Recommence the language education!

Yet there was one more thing to get in Palma.  To play the DVDs, we needed to run the generator as none of the laptops onboard had players.  While I love doing a load of laundry and running some AC, I also kind of like to run a bit more cleanly and not require that we burn diesel just to teach the kids Spanish through osmosis.  We needed an external, USB powered DVD player.  Have you ever tried to find an external DVD drive in a foreign city?  Do people even really use DVDs anymore?

I set out on Saturday morning while the kids attended a rollerblading clinic.  I walked everywhere.  Each potential store was oddly closed (even though the hours posted said otherwise).  From one end of town to the other, I sought out an antiquated technology in hopes of a simple solution to the boundaries our kids face when wanting to meet other kids.  They were working on their Spanish, practicing daily with Babbel, asking for help at stores and restaurants but you typically don’t engage kids your own age by asking them where the bathroom is.

Did I mention it was hot?  I stopped at a local express grocery to see if they had something (there is typically a very odd collection of fruit, meats, milk, wine, and electronics).  I left with wine.  I had a shoulder bag and in that bag, it went.  At long last, I found what I thought to be my best bet.  I was running short on time.  We wanted to leave the dock and head to an anchorage around noon.  I found a DVD and gaming store with electronics in the window.  Suffice to say, they did not have an external DVD drive “in stock” but the kind salesman walked me out and pointed at a pawn shop.

What a find!  I walk in and not one, not two, but three Rip Stiks!  And a pair of rollerblades in my size.  And an external DVD player.  I left the shop, with my arms full and the idea that I could rollerblade back to the marina.  The ride started flat. I knew I was on a hill and that the marina lay down by the sea, but it was flat to start.  My idea was to ride a bit, walk down the hill, and then ride again back along the quay.  It was rather a brilliant plan.  And with all brilliant plans, there was just a tiny inherent flaw.

I strapped on the blades and shifted about my baggage so that my shoulder bag with the wine was a ‘backpack’ and my grocery bag held one Rip Stik and I carried the other two in my hands.  I was doing well.  I made it a few blocks before the decline of the road made for a quicker ride than I was ready for.  I started to get nervous.  I tried putting my knees together to break.  I couldn’t really sit back because if I fell on the wine, well the wine would break.  I opted for a slow turn onto another road to decrease my speed…except that ended up being a proper decline.  I abandoned the Rip Stiks and just started yelling (in English), “I cannot break!  I cannot break!”  Finally, in my last desperate move, I slide out to the side, saving the wine, and seriously bruising my hip.  I removed the rollerblades, picked up the Rip Stiks and limped my way back.

I will say, without doubt, that everyone was happy with the booty.  And now, I know where the pawn shop is.

Much love and stay tuned.

My Lady of Spain

We have been off the grid for another month now. We’ve made fresh water from sea water nearly every night to drink, shower and wash dishes. We’ve generated our own power, grilled our food and entertained ourselves over family Yahtzee, backgammon, books on tape and movies. Laundry gets washed aboard and wet swimsuits and towels hang from the lifelines with clothespins to air dry. We’re a close family. Really, really close. Yep, it can get tight in here but that’s one of the reasons we do it. I say when asked “the fuse is lit and we only get this time with these children so let’s not squander it”. As I write this in the cockpit in Puerto Andratx, Mallorca, I could easily take 3 big steps in any direction on board and grab one of my children for a hug (which thankfully I will still willingly get). Quinn literally is hanging from the bimini over my shoulder right now asking me what I’m doing. Che’s nose is buried in his e-book on the settee across the cockpit and Gherty has climbed back into her berth after French toast to read directly under me. Probably 3 feet below me as I write.

It’s a rare opportunity to be this close…for years now, with these most important people as they grow and we explore together. We have argued about big things and the minutia of minute to minute tedium. I have reminded Kelly and Kelly reminds me that this is no different than at home except that we get to see this world from an odd angle…

Kelly is lecturing Che in her patient “to be clear….so I don’t have to say this again later although history has shown that i will and it makes my head hurt” signature style about his prospects for having free time on his laptop today based on his indiscretions yesterday. You know, normal parent stuff- stuffed into 350 square feet in a foreign country 24/7.

I’m constantly amazed at Kelly’s ability to do so many things at once. And incredibly well. She has been managing a project back home that would drive others to drink if it was their only task. She’s been working out several large situations back home via conference calls that HAVE driven people to drink….at anchor, 6 hours ahead, in a bikini. She has made sure our crew has sunblock on, dry towels, full water bottles and still has managed to buy a stylish Spanish hat, fancy European shoes and climb onto the quay from the dinghy on hands ands and knees (with incredible grace) for a family dinner at a waterside Italian restaurant al fresco. She orders an Aperol Spritz in passable (ok, awkward) Spanish, overorders european delights to be sure not to miss anything and then ENJOYS watching World Cup futbol under an umbrella over vino tinto (Catalan for “dark red wine”-by far her most fluent Spanish).

OK. Now I’m just boasting. But, seriously, a 4 mile hike up Dragonera in stifling heat to amazing views and literally thousands of unafraid lizards climbing all over us with unending enthusiasm and encouragement for hot complaining kids wilting in the heat yesterday. She picks up our first mooring ball expertly breaking our streak of anchoring for weeks (which she goes masterfully as well). She gets dressed to European standards, dinghies into a new town and drags 3 exhausted children to eat bolognaise.

Quinn hyper-thermic

Kelly has given me everything. As the marina pilot said yesterday when we stumbled into Andratx to find the only available mooring out of hundreds on a busy high season Saturday, “Yoo a Lookie man”.

I love her more than words can say. For now this trite blog post will have to suffice since keeping this boat upright is my other offering and floating serenely at anchor in the Med has proven thus far to leave me in awe of my most favorite woman. There’s no point in trying to match her brilliance. I’ll just have to wait for our next scary passage at sea to feel life sized again.

Stay tuned. Much much love.