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.

Puerto de Sóller to Sa Foradada and back again

Easy to climb into the imagination of the many who came before when the land erupts poetically and the sea whispers and bangs. Caves stealthily cut back from initial view and faces carved of stone seem simply to be frozen tales where the gods were put to sleep. Patterns of climbing green grazing grounds are etched and brushed over the landscape, lorded over by peaks clouded in mist.  And that is just the sail.

The stretch between Sa Dragonera and Puerto de Soller contains so much to draw out the mind.  Practically, how did they build THAT, THERE, and WHEN?!  Fantastically, thoughts move along the storied history of cultures that traveled along the same water for so many years.  And I am sure at some point, Justin and I will be able to convince the kids to put down their books and take a look.

Puerto de Soller captured us for several days.  We managed to catch an evening of beach bonfires and coordinated Mallorcan dancing in the square during the celebration of Sant Joan.  With Madame Geneva anchored close to shore, we dinghied into the beach and watched as the old and young, rich and poor, tattooed and pearled raised opposing arms and came together and apart.  So tantalizing was their dance, with only the final dance showing any signs of touch, that the relief came when switching partners.

We decided to pop out for a couple of days to Sa Foradada, a bay nearby that interested Justin because of the eye in the rock.  The large cliff lifted high and sharply, penetrated by a single hole that from the bay offered a keen blue eye looking back at you.  The water was so clear that when I dropped the anchor in seventy feet, I saw it hit the sand.  We ended up moving to a fifty-five foot anchorage when a day boat left.  Kayaks out, the kids took to the rocky and steep shore.

Below Madame Geneva was weed and sand, but when we took Clover, our dinghy, about, the vast but clear depth showed large boulders.  Purple jellyfish were everywhere.  When the kids expressed concern of an attack, Justin simply said, “It’s a jelly fish.  It’s basically a plant.”  And then later, “Just stay in front of it.  Don’t get behind it.”

I kayaked out along the shore.  The bay curved like an excited backwards C, tight at the top then enthusiastically elongated at the end.  Toward the top was the Blue Eye of the cliff.  In the belly of the C, where Madame Geneva was, lapping waves drawn to the jutting rocks seem to be captured, swept into a mysterious hole with low, loud thwump. A sound made only by occupying the void.

As dusk slowly settled, the kids and I were up in the cockpit.  Beds were made, screens were put up.  The kids would camp outside on the boat tonight.  The only sound was the echoing shout of one of our kids.  Occasionally a boat would go past the bay along the coast and cause a delayed soft swell rolling Madame Geneva, and again those waves would gently slap the rocks.  From nowhere, a long cresting wave perpendicular to the shore appeared followed by large swell to Madame Geneva’s beam.  “Justin, Justin!” I yelled.  He came up from below, not seeing the crest but seeing the bizarre waves coming at us.  The kids were freaked.  I was freaked.  Something created that wave.  Something big.  Justin blew it off, telling the kids that it was just the wake of a boat.  Nite nite.

Later, when it was just Justin and I, he said, “What was that???!”

Stay tuned and much love.  Nite nite.

Palma to San Telmo to Puerto de Soller

When we left Palma, you could’ve skipped a stone.  So still was the water.  We dropped the bow mooring lines well ahead of the stern/dock lines, not because we now had a functioning bow thruster but simply because it was that calm.  We bid adieu to our Russian neighbor, unfazed by our squashing fenders as our boats rubbed beam, and we made our exit.  Watching the city diminish in size but not impression, we loved that we would be returning.

Our boat issues (there are always issues, whether old boat or new) were seemingly electrical this go around.  Basically, our American electric was not compatible with the European shore power.  “Why didn’t you think of that BEFORE you left for Europe?” you ask.  We asked.  We searched.  We spoke to quite a few on this side and that of the pond, but the answers were vague and expensive.  One electrician told us that you just need a blue cord.  Another told us you must pay about $12,000 and buy a custom made, extremely large, dirty and loud converter/transformer that will need to be rolled out to the dock (and somehow stored on board while not at dock) to plug in. The short of it is that you can step the voltage (110 to 220) but changing the frequency involves dynamics that are borderline political.

So we are going without shore power.  Simple, right?  Well…here’s the kick.  Our forward batteries (bow thruster, windlass for the anchor) will only charge on AC (so shore power or generator).  With Med mooring docking, we are a bit mindful of running the generator for extended periods of time and thus have not run it sufficiently to charge the batteries (thus the bow thruster, and later the windlass, not working).  And of course, having Madame Geneva off the grid for as long as we have had has led to a rather steep decline in charge. The electrician took the batteries off for a bit of a spa treatment (read charging) and we were ready to go!

We have decided that increasing our solar is both practical and frankly necessary.  At the least, the panels will create trickle charge to the batteries and remove our constant diligence and concern governing the starting of the engine or the generator in order to keep our house bank happy.  And so we will be returning to Palma the first week of July for the install of some stainless and solar.

So we motored along north and east in the still, calm water.  A lovely, easy cruise along the resorts and shores of Mallorca.  And then we seemingly stopped moving forward. We break down the problem.  We remain calm about it.  It isn’t like we can’t see land, and it certainly isn’t like we have the weather fiercely against us.  But without wind, we have no sail option.  With no propulsion, we do have concern of current pushing us ashore (and not in a beachy inconvenient kind of way), but we are not in danger.  Justin figures the issue is either the transmission or the propeller.  Eventually we work that a fishing line wrapped the propeller and we manage to unwrap that without having to dive.  We were prepared to head to anchor if necessary, but we needn’t.

Wind rose in our favor about Punta Na Foradada.  Up the main!  Out the jib!!  And we were sailing in the Mediterranean!  Close hauled, seven to eight knots, Madame Geneva made her way.  How quickly we fell into the sail.  The scope of the coast changed quickly to a more ragged and steep climb, and the water was a deep and yet bright blue.  Cue the dolphin!  A very large male bottlenose dolphin came alongside and I doubt any other mammal could have provided a better welcoming.  Larger than our lowcountry dolphin, but as curious and friendly, the bull gracefully swam at the surface around Madame Geneva and then swam on.

As the cliffs jutted further up and out, and the sea carved crevices well in between, it was hard not to allow the mind to wander.  We approached Sa Dragonera and Justin and I saw the sleeping dragon, even if the kids had their eyes in books and gave only the slightest of nods to our excitement.  Quinn did remark, “More like an alligator.”  Once we anchored in San Telmo, opposite the dragon, their curiosity increased.  We decided, although only a mile from our anchor, it would be best to either take the ferry over or to sail and anchor Madame Geneva when we were ready to trek along the spine, and more carefully around the nostrils.  The open ocean on the either side, should the weather turn, would be foolish in our dinghy.

The next days were spent swimming in the, once in, very refreshing waters of the Med.  We moored the first night but quickly grew accustomed to the tight anchorage and chose a sandy spot to drop our anchor, just off the swimming hole (marked by strung together floats).  The kids could swim ashore and we could follow by dinghy with supplies as necessary.  The wind was light, picking up in the afternoon.  We watched the various shenanigans of day boats, large yachts and naked Germans (they were always naked).  A shift pointed Madame Geneva toward Sa Dragonera, with her stern firmly at the swimming hole.  This was a new direction.  The wind was light and although our anchor was in no danger of dragging, we found ourselves rather concerned of our proximity to the swimming floats.  Should we drift over, we were those guys sure but we also had the propeller and keel to fret about.  We had four times depth of chain out, and given the conditions, we could certainly shorten.  We watched as we drifted within ten feet of the ropes.

Start the engine!  Engage the anchor!  We decided to bring in ten feet of chain to be sure we wouldn’t drift any further (again the anchor was well dug and not moving…we were just squirreling about at an odd direction).  We started what should have been a simple maneuver and instead nothing.  The windlass would not turn on.  Our minds went to the batteries.  Our berth was torn apart and the batteries were fine.  And yet nothing from the windlass.  We continued to watch the stern.  If we crossed the line, we simply could no longer engage the propeller.  Justin figured it out.  A fuse had blown. We had a short time to work it out and he did.  We could have motored our way around the problem a bit.

This was not a big deal, in the grand scheme of things. There were no astronauts in danger of burning up upon reentry but it is rather symbolic of the delicacy of our situation.  Sailing is about extreme highs and gut dropping lows. There is rarely a moment of “eh”. The sudden shift between the incredible euphoria and the drastic fury of things going wrong can be a bit of a psychological poke (not really the word I want to use here).  And when you feel the defeat of being depressed, or nervous of the situation, it is hard not to feel the shame of looking about you and seeing how surreal and fortuitous the life around and within you.

What better way to combat that than to go sailing! We chose to pull anchor the next day and head to Sa Dragonera.  The anchorages however were not accommodating (by that I mean, a patch or two of sand surrounded by rocks.  We could land the anchor but we weren’t confident the chain could survive a wind shift).  To the complete displeasure of our crew, we decided to head out and around to Puerto de Soller.  They rallied after a bit. We were unable to actually go sailing, as the slight wind was on the nose.  Justin stopped the boat and Quinn and I went for a swim, in depths unknown…

Gherty and Quinn opted for a dinghy ride, and then a swim a bit later.  The few hours passed quickly.  The tall cliffs, lined with years of ferocious change, began to break and offer glimpses into valleys and terraces.  Caves at the sea’s lips dug dark were often hidden until passed. Mountains, erupting with a pale grey, almost concrete, rock, still brought forth vast pockets of deep evergreen.  And still, the blue of the Mediterranean, so different from the tantalizing turquoise of the Caribbean and the steel of the north Atlantic, danced so smoothly.  The waters did not ripple so much as offer distortion.

We rounded into the hidden harbor of Puerto de Soller.  We were fortunate on timing and managed a quick and seamless anchoring.  The many sailboats were tucked together tightly, with often only twenty feet of space between.  The quay and beaches surround the harbor.  Cafes line the coastal road.  The tram from Soller rides along the harbor and stops at the quay. The mountains stretch and protect.  And it is hard to imagine a more perfect place.

Stumbled into 2 (not 1) free Miro and Picasso exhibits. You know…free world class art. Getting really used to this.

Much love and stay tuned.

PS Justin also figured out why the water maker wasn’t working and we have WATER!!!

Quinn blog

Mallorca, Spain

The date is 6/19/18

By Quinn Walling

So, we have been in Mallorca for 2 whole weeks. It is amazing. It has a church that has been there for 800 years, crazy right? Eventually we got our bikes out. It took a while to get all the rust and salt off, but we did it.

Before we got our bikes out we went on a carriage ride around town. We saw an awesome Cathedral that was really old. It had Gargoyles. It was really cool inside.

It was fun riding our bikes through town, but hard. We rode them to a fort that had cool sculptures. It was pretty small. And today I’m being SUPER bored writing this blog.

Stay tuned to my parents  (not me please because I don’t want to write anymore.)

Gherty blog

Mallorca, Spain

6-19-18       Gherty’s blog

three old and cool places

Even though this isn’t the first thing we did I’m going to start with it. It is when we went on a carriage ride (with a horse) around the cathedral (for some of that don’t know a cathedral is a giant church) The drivers name was Manolo and the horses was Vicky.

I brought my camera with me and took loads of pictures, some I will post on the blog. Just maybe not this one. There are pictures of the cathedral and some parts of the city. The cathedral is very old, it is 800 years old!!!!!

We are in Palma right now it is a huge city in Mallorca.

One of the other highlights of this trip is the castle. We rode part of the way then we started walking up the stairs. The stairs were very slippery because of how many people walked up them. Most of Palma was like that.

It took forever to get up the steps and most of us were out of breath when we made it. When we got up we saw the castle, but surprise, surprise we had to have tickets. Thankfully mom said she would go and get the tickets. When she came back we were all thirsty, again mom came to the rescue because she’s always prepared. She brought bubble water and regular water.

The castle was a museum and a castle at the same time. Of course, there wasn’t a king anymore, but you could still go in most of the rooms. We went around trying to find secret passages we think we might’ve found one, but it could just be another exit.

There were three floors the bottom one had a bunch of statues the middle was sort of like a big round porch. The top was a roof and had a hole in the middle of it. There were towers, but we couldn’t go in them unfortunately.

Another thing is the fort it was cool and had sculptures everywhere. It also had a place on the roof where we could go. By the way Palma has these huge gulls and we saw one of them up on the roof. On the winter solstice the sun would shine directly though the stained glass and make a kaleidoscope!!!! I hope we’ll be there.

Here’s a picture.

That’s it! By ‘till next time! G.W.

Che blog

Mallorca Spain

Date: unknown.

Today I am going to talk about this amazing place called Spain! not a long time ago we Took a carriage ride with a guy named Manolo and the horse is named Vicky. Vicky had brown skin, caring eyes, and long mane. The ride was amazing, looking at all the buildings and the artefacts. There were swallows diving to get the small bugs. When we were done we had lunch.

Next day we were up and about planning what to do. We finally made up our minds. We are going to go to a castle! First, we had to take a bike ride to get to the bottom of the hill. When we got there, we were ready to start hiking. It was not a steep mountain, but it was kind of hard. Surprising it did not take long. When we finally got the top of the hill we saw the castle. There was a road before the castle. We had to walk up some stairs though. We were going in, then all of the sudden we were stopped by someone. The person said we had to get tickets. Dad asked where? The person said at the bottom of the hill! We were going to start making are way down then a family said it was just by the road. We thanked them, and mom got the tickets. When we got in the castle, it was AMAZING. There were tons of cool artwork and sculptures and there are three floors. Mom and dad said we (the kids) can go and explore. While we were looking for secret tunnels, we passed a stone staircase, when we heard voices down the staircase! we finally met up with dad and mom and told them of the voices. A little while later I discovered that when you are on the second floor you can hear the people down below that are next to the staircase. Later in like an hour, we finally decided to go back to the boat, but we had to eat so we when somewhere. When we got back to the boat it was dark outside, so we had to go to bed.

Next day we went on a wooden train. It took a while to get to the train station, but we made it. The train ride was cool. Eventually, we were half way there and we went under a tunnel that was super long and dark. Thanks to the lights it was not so dark. See, we have a thing where we hold our breaths and see how long we can last without getting more air, but we all didn’t have enough breath to hold it in that long. It took around five minutes to get out of the tunnel. We had been in the train for an hour. When we got to the other train station, we got off and explored for a while. We walked around the town We Eventually we made are way into a museum. there were three floors, one, was the basement. One, was the first floor. Then there was the second floor. There were lots of cool things. one was a teapot that looked like it took a LONG time to make. While we were in the museum I looked out the window of the second floor and I saw a garden. We went there to the garden and saw some cool sculptures. Dad said we can get ice cream so we did. After we went to go get something to eat. Then we went to bed.

Verdad….todos bien (big time)

We’ve been “assimilating” for 10 days now. Working on boat issues, language issues, jet lag behavior issues and “wrapping our heads around this most amazing and unlikely turn in our adventure” issues.

Medieval castles and cathedrals…check.

Tight alleyway cafes and food to write about…check.

Parks with geocache finds for the kids and shady cafes for Kelly and Me are ridiculously common. Vistas across ultramodern and unfathomably old architecture are the norm. Spanish, French, Italian, German, Russian, Chinese, Dutch and UK dialects intermingle. English is ok. Attempts at proper Spanish and Catalan are appreciated and encouraged though I’m sure there are some translations behind the bar that equate to “worst American attempt to order an Aperol Spritz and pizza EVER!”

Long and the short of it is that we opted for the Med instead of carrying on west to the Pacific simply because the children had seen white beaches, iron shores, jungle flora and heard Bob Marley. They knew how to identify the birds, reef fish and the chicken fingers and fries with “salad”. There’s no way to say we did it all, A lifetime of experience awaits in the Caribbean, but it was time to turn this experience on its head….done and done!

We haven’t left Palma except for a brief 2 night stint anchored in Palmanova (which was wonderful) a few miles up the coast to wait out a full marina and grab a new boat slip for another week.

The bicycles have been dug out of the forepeak locker, assembled, lubed and tires filled. It’s “bomba de aire” for air pump if anybody is interested. We’ve followed the bayside bike paths and locked em to a pole so we could walk (hike) up steep, narrow alleys lined with bougainvillea, laundry lines and asymmetrical houses.

Deep into Castillo de Bellver high upon the hill we perused Roman marble statuary ruins. A stunning gothic stone room with half a figure (the lower half) had Gherty exclaiming that this was the museum of “the gross parts”.

Upon approaching the Cathedral de Palma, the most dominating and magnificent structure in the old city Che asked if there was a fountain or fish in the reflecting pond because why would there be terraced seating here? (See above for the impetus for the seating).

They’re soaking it up. They cop to the fact unwittingly all the time. Quinn yelled “usted Englais” laughing that it means “you English”. Che is in noodle aficionado heaven. Gherty has been carefully and thoughtfully using her money to buy treats and keepsakes for the best possible value (a brilliant mix of MomMom and Mommy).

I must apologize to our friends and loyal readers for the lack of salty tales and deep blue adventures thus far. This place simply has the crew of Madame Geneva bewitched and in no immediate hurry to weigh anchor. Plus, Med style mooring is so sketchy in one of the busiest of European harbors it’s simply a relief to be tied up nicely and snugly.

Oh, and, in 1 1/2 hours Spain plays Portugal in the first round of the World Cup and we’ll be watching it live….in Spain. It’s going to be FANTASTICO!!!

Manténganse al tanto. mucho amor.

Stay tuned. Much love.

How did I get here?!

A journey begins with one step, or in our case forty-five hundred miles.  This floating family has found themselves in the simply astonishing land of Mallorca in the Balearic Islands of Spain, where it rains of blood and blows dry, fast, then still.  Madame Geneva, our sailing vessel of now three years, arrived by ship and we arrived by plane(s).

The overnight from Philadelphia to Barcelona was pleasant if you consider being squashed into uncomfortable chairs, staying up all night, and momentarily losing Big Froggy agreeable. We were even served dinner on the plane!  When given the option between pasta and chicken, I asked, “What is the chicken?”  The response was something like, “This,” and a steamy plastic box was gently shoved in my face.  I went with the pasta and another glass of wine.

Madame Geneva was docked at Real Club Nautico Palma.  She looked bare without her canvas but was otherwise well put together.  Justin’s excitement involved getting things together until he finally looked over at me and realized maybe we should get a proper bite before we dive into work.  We slipped over to the club where we dined in very proper fashion. Seemingly elegant, they welcomed our ratty tribe into the restaurant where tall windows created a panoramic view of the great marina.  Sandwiches were surprisingly only a couple euro.  There was nary a complaint from the tired crew, once fed.

Palma is filled with walking wonder.  The relatively arid climate is thick with succulent vegetation. Palms, not so startlingly, are abundant.  Brightly colored flowering bushes and vines spread through the cultivated pathways and parks.  The civil organization is alone worthy of praise.  Designated bike paths, pedestrian designations, and crosswalks everywhere, despite a multiple lane, high in traffic, street running along the coast.  From our boat, we had quite a view of the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma (Gothic Roman Catholic, which is as cool as it sounds) as well as many other buildings of such grand architectural style that it is hard not to get lost in the smallest detail of the cornices, buttresses and gargoyles.

In truth, the first few hours alone offered us exactly what we were looking for. How simple to encourage the depth (or frankly the scratching) of study of culture, arts, character and language by sitting in one of a few tables inside a bustling cafe with most of its guests sitting in the square with an early gothic cathedral adorning its border.

All slept in the next day, but still I found myself roaming the streets before the rest awoke. My back, sore from days before the flight, was rather tense and I decidedly needed some fawning over. My study of Spanish was (is) grossly neglected and when I thought whether I was more capable of asking for a massage and the implied consequence or a pedicure (where I could get a chair massage at the same time!), I went with walking into a nail salon and pointing at my feet while saying “pedicure”. Who would’ve known that you just had to remove the “e” and add an “a”?! I spent my time wisely and decided to study up on my lessons in Babbel. This was only awkward when I was working on the dictation part and they had me saying “guau” repeatedly. Apparently making animal sounds in public is alarming in any culture.

We found ourselves later strolling down the quay toward a large park, with promises to the children of loads of geocache not only along the way but in the park itself (which also had a castle). Distractions of various order found Justin and I chatting with an interesting couple at a seaside cafe. From Poland/Libya and South Africa and yet well versed in travel by sea and incredibly versed in life in Mallorca, they provided us with an itinerary that may prove we will never leave this land (well at least the surrounding sea).

The “walk” (yes, we still must use this term especially as this one ended up with a foot clock of seven miles) led us through street stairways and into gardens and cafes for bathroom/beverage breaks. I wish I could honestly say just the cafes for the bathroom breaks. When, at last, we meandered our way out of the park (with promises to return, as much still had to be explored including the castle!), down a long and busy street with local traffic, we were pleased to stumble into a Mexican/tapas restaurant. To say the kids were bone tired is akin to calling the sea blue…does it really matter how tired or how blue?

Justin walks in and says, “Is ok por ninos?” It is possible he used more Spanish than that but that’s what I heard. The response was, “Why? Did you read our trip advisor review?” We settled into the back and had a wonderful meal, sampling all sorts of great food and drink. The server and owner were great. We had almost made it out of the restaurant representing America in great fashion (they thought we were from Norway or Sweden because of how well behaved the children were), when Quinn fell into the aisle on top of the server, Che tripped up on Quinn and I stumbled on top of them. Ahhh, so close.

We awoke the next day to a boat painted red. Lest we think it a curse inflicted solely on us, we realized all the boats and the dock shared our messy haze. The blood rains had fallen in the night. Dust pulled from the Sahara desert, and mixed with precipitation, made for a morning both biblical and scientifically curious. You decide.

captains note: really called “blood rain” this is one of the most bizarre and amazing natural phenomenon we’ve seen to date. Red mud falling on the boat from the Sahara Dessert. We’re in something way different now!

Convinced we had to take a gentler approach with the kids, we decided to venture to the Cathedral Palma and really just have a lazy scenic day. After lunch and gelato, we requested a carriage ride, hoping for an English educational tour of the town. We were led to an English speaking guide, who led us to Manolo, who spoke with gravel in the throat and sparingly of anything, whether English or Spanish. His approach was simple. He would steer us along and point to a building and say “casa” in such a way that the dust swept through and it mattered not that we knew no more about this house than that. It was a house that had lived by the lives through it. Pause and imagine. The horse was named “Vicky” much to everyone’s delight. We rounded about the stone streets through narrow passages, past several cathedrals, museums, squares. I know this because Manolo said “cathedral”, “museo”, and “centro”. Views of overhanging verandas, ever ornate frieze work, architectural ornaments, mosaics, and tall doorways (fit for a horse) perfected the ride.

Mallorca pearl museum

The club accommodated us until Monday, and is allowing us to return on Wednesday so we had to slip the lines yesterday to head up the coast (a grand three miles!) to anchor. This could have gone more smoothly but we are in need of an electrician to help with the charger for the bow thruster. As it is, we have none. So obviously the wind picked up significantly as we left the slip. Our fuel being low, we made for the fuel dock. With no bow thruster and a strong wind pushing us into the dock, Justin and I simply shook our heads. We watched as another boat just went in bow first and crashed into the dock. Ahhh, yachting.

Much love and stay tuned.

Life is short. Let’s go big.

Madame Geneva and her faithful crew are poised for our next adventure. This time it requires a bit more than provisioning, planning and topping off fuel tanks though.

April found us in Nonsuch Bay, Antigua with buddy boats, Karadow, Merlin and Ti Amo. All thinking a quick jaunt upwind to Barbuda would be a great last bash before we put our girl to bed in Jolly Harbour for an undeniable family emergency and our friends continued North to the northeast US. Captain Pete from Merlin hovered alongside of us at anchor that morning and we discussed ideas for our departure. Captains Tim, Pete, and I decided we would take a shortcut through the Spithead channel at roughly 30° north magnetic and skirt the reef on our way to Barbuda since, why not? We sailed single file through the reef watching obvious hazards on both sides popping out of and just under the crystal turquoise water as the channel grew narrower and the ocean swells started to come into play. Merlin, reacting to his chart plotter, went hard to starboard when depths looked reasonable only to stop abruptly and spin around calling out 12 feet of water over the reef on the radio. He bravely continued in the lead down the channel trying to get free of the reef while we both followed. I’m guessing it was a coral head or maybe a finger of reef not on the charts but my depth sounder went from a tense 12 feet to 7.5 feet with an ocean swell rolling under us towards the end! Our dear Madame requires 7 feet of water to avoid grounding! We spun in circles second-guessing ourselves and crept seaward until we saw a much kinder 28 feet below the keel and 5 foot swells from the east. That was one hell of a way to start the morning. Once offshore we all settled into a nice broad reach to even downwind sail around the north end of the island having heard from a fellow cruiser that the waves in Barbuda were making the anchorage is untenable. As we commonly do, we made a plan only to do something entirely different. Perhaps out of prudence perhaps for other reasons we decided to go back to Jolly Harbour and put our girl in the marina so we could fly home. Our friends very sweetly came in for the night as well so all the children (7 in total) could have one more night of fun together. That would be the end of our spring cruise but far from the end of this adventure.

We bid farewell to our friends wishing them a safe journey north and promising to rally when they come through Charleston and to feed them well when they do. The crew of Madame Geneva had to get home. Kelly’s brother Joe had been fighting bravely for five years at this point and his fight was coming to an end so we made hurried plans and caught a flight the next day back to Charleston. The timing could not have been better we all were blessed to spend some wonderful weeks with Joe before he caught his biggest and final wave.

There is no argument against family being the most important thing in life. So us being there and seeing my parents and Kelly’s family was right on time. That said, the five that live on our boat have made a big decision to continue with an adventure I never dared dream we would be lucky enough to embark upon.

I have been back in Antigua for eight days now stripping Madame Geneva of all of her canvas, sails, loose bits, pickling the water maker, water systems fuel systems, etc. because those are the requirements to load your home at sea onto a freighter and ship her to the Mediterranean for the next adventure.

This was completely new to me so a five day delay in the loading process, two of which had me anchored in the industrial harbor of St. John’s baking in the tropical sun with no canvas up for entire days, was naïvely unexpected. Once madame Geneva was allowed to come alongside the freighter it became obvious what the delays were. The delays were caused simply because this is a ridiculously difficult process. They must have had 30 yachts of all sizes from 40 to 80 feet on board in a jigsaw sort of pattern being hoisted by giant crane’s. Once in the cradles aboard the deck the cradles were welded physically to the ships (like with fire) All boats were strapped down with hurricane straps. I will say that my approach to the ship with its cranes and freeboard towering over my head was flawless except for the part where a plastic shopping bag was sucked into my bow thruster leaving me partially unable to steer as the ship approached a few meters away. No harm no foul just another example of how glamorous things can be and how quickly the expected does not deliver and the unexpected can bite you.Gherty’s friend Pecan has bravely volunteered to stay aboard for the crossing boasting to be the first in our family across an ocean by sea

This has been the longest I have been away from my family since we became one and I have been sick over it since day two. It’s with mixed emotions I will fly back today as I miss them all so much I can think of little else. I also know that today will be my last day in the Caribbean which for the last few years has given Kelly, Che, Gherty, Quinn and me a life so extraordinary I am humbled to recount it.

The melancholy of leaving here is tempered though in knowing that we will be back. In fact we have little choice. After Our next adventures in the Med we can’t say exactly what we will do but we know we will sail back across the Atlantic Ocean as a family and there is little choice but to land in the Caribbean. And that will be all right with me.

Our Madame set sail today as well and I will be following her voyage via marine tracker. She will arrive in Palma, Mallorca, Spain in the Balearic islands in roughly 2 1/2 weeks. We are working furiously to get things settled at Folly Beach and will join her at the first week of June. Of this I can say with complete confidence “I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen”.

And that is why this so much fun.

Stay tuned, much love!

Complacency

Yesterday, Che asked me what complacency was.  I replied that complacency was a reflection of taking things for granted.  Because things have been going well, we forget to take the typical precaution to avoid issue.  Such a little foreshadower, that Che.

After our swinging evening at anchor off the Ilet des Cabrits, we spotted a previously moored boat leaving and rapidly took our positions.  There is nothing rapid about trying to bring in a hundred feet of rope and another two hundred feet of chain.  The rope needs to be carefully watched as it snags and bunches in the winch.  When raising an anchor to go off to sea, there is little rush.  You watch the chain for complication or stress.  You watch the distances from fellow anchored boats to ensure safety from collision.  You extend your thankfulness and grace to the place you are leaving.  When raising an anchor for a better location (a settled and still mooring just yards off the beach and rocks in this case), you watch for suspects.   Is that guy on the bow more ready than I?  Is his anchor retrieval better?   What is that boat doing?  Your generosity for neighbors is, well, rather limited.

We found our new spot rather idyllic.  So close were we to the shore, it seemed we could touch the rocks.  The gentle waves lapped at the coast.  The pelicans clumsily dove for their dinner and the blue herons peered out into the clear water in hopes of theirs.  Gherty inflated the kayaks and the kids went exploring.

The dinghy ride into town, Terre-de-Haut, was a bit adventurous and wet. We arrived nothing short of drenched. Justin left us on the dock so we could sun-dry while he cleared us in. From Madame Geneva to town, we had to pass what seemed the open sea. Waves came greedily grabbing for the bow. The spray was not sparing. The sun dried us rather sufficiently and we gradually made our way to the town square where we ran into our friends.

The Saints are simply lovely. Terre-de-Haute is an easy town with lots of fantastic French restaurants and shops. The street is largely pedestrian with the occasional influx of vehicular traffic (when we finally rented an electric car, the diversions around the town were much of the trip). We practiced our French to the tolerant Saints of the Saints. I discovered, after many years of schooling, that my pronunciation of “beaucoup” was closer in fact to “beau cul”…which made for quite the impression when coupled with merci.

We invited Caradow over to the settled side for a bon fire and hike up to Fort Josephine, only to realize that much of the island coverage was manchineel, an extremely toxic tree (in fact the reason for Ponce de Leon’s demise). Our trail adventuring was well worth the climb, with epic views of the cluster of islands and the great variations of sea.

if I’m forced to wear socks I’m wearing the hell out of them!

Our bon fire was abruptly terminated when we realized the wood that had been gathered was the manchineel. The sign telling of the manchineel was on a tree that was not at all poisonous, and actually had a swing tied to it. We imagined imminent death and were relieved to find all perfectly fine the next day.

When we took leave of the mooring for our trip across the channel to Guadeloupe, we waved to our Kiwi friends who had just pulled up to grab a vacant mooring. Their one young son had already kayaked ashore with a bow and arrow. Their other son was snorkeling. And the father crouched low on the bow, sharpening his machete.

The sail to Guadeloupe was stellar. 15-20 knots of wind was just forward of the beam. Seas were 5-7 feet, long and slow. Madame Geneva surfed along at speeds in the tens. We came in the lee, around the point of Basse Terre, and sailed up the western coast. A last minute arrangement had been made for my sister, Pam, to meet us in Pigeon’s Island Anchorage and we would arrive a few hours ahead of her.

What a surprise to find not only Pam on the beach, but two of her sons as well! The next couple of days was a quick dunking into the life aboard Madame Geneva. We snorkeled in the great marine park. We sailed up the coast to Deshaies, a small fishing village. How incredibly different the journey was, without waves crashing over the bow. The sea was flat but with a good breeze. The anchorage was settled but rather full and we opted for a spot near the outside of the harbor. The depth and holding were good, and the worry nonexistent.

Our days in Deshaies were bittersweet. My sister and my nephews grabbed a taxi back to the airport. Our friends (Caradow, Merlin and Ti Amo) all met up for our last bit of French culture before journeying north and likely different ways. Our crew went on a hike one day on what was supposed to be a half mile up a trail to find a piece of Tupperware in the woods (long story) but found ourselves climbing quite the hill over rock and root. That hike ended up being 3.5 miles. The next day, all of the families (seventeen people in all) decided to hike over (and back) the mountain to one of the most beautiful beaches. That hike was 5.7 miles!

But sailing is a funny thing. I keep talking about the weather…but I must. The winds were changing. The westerlies were coming. There was a Front pushing down from the northeast that would create not only a dramatic change to the ever consistent trades but also a westerly swell of 12-17′. The captains discussed the options of the Leeward islands, and frankly most of those harbors kind of bank on the easterly winds. We decided on Nonsuch Bay in Antigua.

We set off after a morning of provisioning on Thursday. We had quite a night and morning of it as the generator kicked off, due to a rather large tree being suck in through the sea cock. Justin dove and wrestled the sea funk. Then he snaked the line until, through sheer will of the captain, the raw water flowed again. Generator restored, and refrigerators stocked, we were ready for Antigua.

The water off the coast of Guadeloupe took on a gorgeous green, in great contrast to a steel like blue created by the occasional cloud. Monteserrat laid brilliant in her greens, browns and grays. The wide streak of volcanic ash dominated her presence even from a distance. Guadeloupe gradually slipped by as we crept along her northern coast and passed the silky sands of the beach where we laid about the day before.

We turned off the motor once we felt the presence of a steady upwind. Close-hauled, and well heeled, we sailed briskly along at 9.5 knots. The sea was flat. No waves. Just a beautiful girl (the Madame, that is) out for a day’s ride.

We were three quarters across the channel when we heard the beeping, indicating low battery. This typically happens when MG gets on her side but best to run the engine to give the house bank a boost. Sailing still, we turned on the motor and left her out of gear. Simply lovely…until the boat noises changed. “Check the fuel!” But it was too late.

This boat has two fuel tanks with a transfer between. We know to leave the transfer closed but sometimes it is easy to forget what is closed and what isn’t. Ahh complacency. All the fuel from tank 2 (which is what we were using) shifted to tank 1. And when the last drop moved, effectively filling tank 1 entirely, the engine ran out of fuel and quit. At that point, it is a effort of patience. We slowed the sails and began to crawl along at 1.5 knots.

Justin bled the lines but we could not get the engine to pull from tank 1. I studied the manual for the diagram of the valves and what should and should not be open. And at last we filled tank 2 with our cans on deck. Justin at last started the engine.

We had options. We could have grabbed a mooring under sail (done that before). We could have towed MG with the dinghy to a mooring. And the sea was super settled. Still it was all a reminder of how important the checklist, even with such a benign crossing.

And as Justin says, “I am covered in fuel. We have a wrist rocket on deck. Hello, Antigua!”yep. Reading in the dinghy. Homeschooling…check!

And the kids. Well, they just sat there asking for ice pops and played games of “I am not touching you.”

Much love and stay tuned.