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!


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.

This One Goes to Eleven (.8)

At anchor in Isle des Saintes this morning, Madame Geneva spins off the tail end of her scope.  Literally.  We don’t have but three feet left of the rode that extends from the two hundred feet of anchor chain.  Surrounded by the peaks and crags of this cluster of islands, we are set in seventy-five feet of water.  At sea is not too far away.  The southwest tip of Guadeloupe emerges and hides in the haze as bursts of heavy rain deluge.  Gusts of wind rapidly descend the slope of the steep hill of the Isle de Cabrits (Island of Goats) and cause Madame Geneva to hover between serene stillness and alert attention.  She whips and holds but her swing is consistent.  The anchor alarm is set and although her trail looks a bit like the early drawings of the most fastidious of children, there is a pattern to the madness and Madame Geneva does not cross the line.

We set sail from St. Pierre, Martinique at dawn thirty.  The ride was anticipated to be a bit sporty, and what was expected was delivered.  Close reaching our way through 25 knots of breeze with seven-foot waves, and a few ten footers, we took water across the bow, the deck and quite a few times into the cockpit.  We had a reef in the main, and only half of the genoa out, and yet still Madame Geneva quickly made her way.  The channel crossing was sloshy.  The waves taken over the deck wept through the vents and drenched the salon.  Iron stomach Gherty stayed below reading and occasionally reporting the various states of utter disarray from below.  Cushions and pillows went flying.  Untethered pencils, in the old steins from Beaufort’s pirate extravaganza 2015, amateurishly pitched.    We dropped the sails just outside of Prince Rupert Bay in Dominica and were met quickly thereafter by Alexis, one of the PAYS trusted escorts.

Hard to write of Dominica and not feel the comparison to what was.  Less than a year ago, we traveled this way and how different the experience.  The once lush lands were decimated by Hurricane Maria.  Six months after the hurricane came in fury, with winds over 200mph (a number simply inconceivable to most but begs of written words from Their Eyes were Watching God), the people of Dominica have been hard at work to remove the vast amounts of debris brought to the coast from mudslides and fierce winds.  Some houses fared better than others but most lost their roofs.  Many by the banks of what seemed a docile creek found their homes in six to seven feet of mud, trees, and various other things the raging river picked up.  We heard tale of the ghostlike, the God-like, cries of the wind as Maria shifted from a Category 3 to Category 5 plus hurricane.  All stayed home and expected that night to be their last.

The tours of the island shifted from the once prideful bounty the land and water offered to the resilence of the people and the awe of Mother Nature.  The landscape has changed but already six months in, Dominica is still a beautiful island.  It is just hard to know Heaven on Earth and find instead a land in limbo.  http://fringesquirrel.com/madamegeneva/2017/04/04/dominica/

Of course, all of that did not deter us.  We jumped the gorge, we dipped in the hot spring mineral baths (now tepid), and we traveled the Indian River.  PAYS had an appreciation week for the boats so we found ourselves amongst many other traveling families, including one from New Zealand and another from France.  The kids (and some adults) all engaged in wild games of Red Rover.  Soccer, toilet tag, and other random spirited activities were met with screams of delight and yes, some tears.  At the barbeque, we danced to long loved sounds of Reggae…lovely is the freedom in losing yourself to rhythm.

In no condition to be uptight: Captains Tim, Pete and Justin clear customs in a Dominican’s kitchen!

And when the weather window appeared for our exit, we took it.  The wind and waves had been up.  The trades were so strong that the prudent mariner must abide.  Still the quietest day, a quick respite, was called for Wednesday.  The choice to batter, pounding to weather, to Marie Gallante or to gracefully reach for the saints seemed rather simple.  When you have been shown the beauty and destruction of God, you must go reaching for the saints.

We dropped our mooring lines at mid-morning.  We raised our main, with the reef still tied, and let out the slightest of jib.  Leaving the lee of Dominica, we were taken rather suddenly by a massive down draught that sent the lovely Madame on her side.  She quickly recovered and we moved through the shifty breeze, wondering what the white caps of the channel meant…how high the sea, how strong the wind.  The passage was only seventeen miles and we had prepared for the worst.  We had sailed close hauled for so long, I had almost forgotten how pleasant it is to reach.  While the wind was blowing hard in the upper twenties with gusts up to thirty, the waves were at the beam.  Justin found a nice groove and we went sailing along, excitedly calling out speeds in the tens as we rode down some of the ten-foot waves.   But wait, this one goes to eleven…(.8)!

Much love and stay tuned.

Ou Revoir Martinique

2 weeks here and we’re off at dawn for Dominica. We have a cache of school supplies we’re smuggling from Martinique to donate since the island is still reeling from September’s hurricane. We’ve heard there’s opportunities to swing a hammer and help out as well. We’re game…and have a hammer.

My parents joined us for a week’s holiday while kelly flew home to take care of some business. We all had a great time exploring the island by car (a clown car, 6 jammed into a 4 seater with kids occasionally in the trunk!) and showing Grandma and Grandpa this beautiful island. A week on land – though we slept on board the Madame moored in Le Marin- was a big change for us. Traffic, parking, planning and ignoring the forecasts was the polar opposite of our current way of living but also reassuring that we are doing what we are meant to do. The zoo was amazing, botanical gardens, rainforest drives and beaches on Martinique are magnificent. It was really a special treat to get to spend the time with children and grands in paradise!

How much did I miss Kelly? Well, I missed her on her birthday for the first time, homeschooled as best I could, had a Super Bowl part at anchor with friends we’ve been cruising with and enjoyed/endured howling winds and squalls with kids on the boat without the half of me that is steadying, thinking and logical. Needless to say, I wasn’t right until Kelly was back but she’s here now and we’re back in our groove.

We headed up the coast a very short way to Anse Mitan to rally with our friends the Sperrys on s/v Caradow. A shuddering engine offshore had me hove-to, swimming in deep blue water under the boat with a knife cutting a fishing net and polypropylene line from our prop hastily before the next squall arrived. Never a dull moment!

Next day we buggared across the bay to Fort Du France to anchor at the city’s edge for CARNIVAL!!! The last 2 days were indeed the finale. Like New Orleans during Mardi Gras there is a heavy grinding sound ashore like a fright train or a tornado pounding from mid afternoon until you pass out. This is thousands of people partying in the streets, marching bands replete with conch shells, bamboo drums, horns of all varieties and chanting. We saw Jab Jab- a band of revelers covered in mud and motor oil marching and jamming down the street. We saw young men in tu tu’s and fishnet stockings, every young woman was dressed (and undressed) to impress. We stumbled into a historic building midday to find a troupe of French artists painting faces for the big night. We, of course, left there looking glittery and fantastic!

We cheered the bands. I brought the ship’s bell from Madame Geneva to ring along with the drum corps. Che, Gherty and Quinn played pick up futbol in the park with local French Antilles boys in the dark, faces painted, in costume, no common language, amazing. The kids lived it, we lived it, this is what boat schooling is about, this is why we do what we do. I felt lucky to be here with my amazing family living this life. Enough said.

2 days and one freezer we ordered UPS from the states (which travelled to France, Louisville, and then Martinique) later, we have frozen meat, the kids are eating ICE CREAM onboard and we’re ready for dawn patrol to sail to Dominica with our friends on s/v Caradow and s/v Merlin to rally with 2 more boats already in Prince Rupert Bay. I think we’re at 12 children, 10 adults and 5 boats! All headed north-ish all living this. All is well.

Stay tuned. Much Love!

The Time I Went to the Zoo by Che

.  we went to the zoo in Martinique and had loads of fun. I am going to tell you about the animals. There so much animals I only got to pick three. They are coatis, golden pheasants and capybara. Let talk about the golden pheasants shall we

The golden pheasant lives in western China, but population have been established by the United Kingdom, Canada the united states, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, the Falkland Islands, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. In England they may be found in East Anglia in the dense forest landscape of the Breckland as well as Tresco on the isles of Scilly.

The adult male is 90-105 cm (35 -41 in) in length, its tail accounting for two- thirds of the total length. It is not possible to mistake this creature with its golden crest and rump and the bright red body. The deep orange “cape” can be spread in display appearing as an amazing black and orange fan that covers all the face expect its bright yellow eye with a black pupil. Males have a golden-yellow crest with a hint of red at the tip which I think is cool. The face throat, chin, and the sides of the neck are rusty tan. The feathers on the neck are both yellow in all colors and the sides and cape is light orange. The upper back is green, and the rest of the back is golden-yellow. The top was blue whereas the part near the tail is red. Other characteristics of the male is the end of the tail. They are spotted with black dots. As well for the beginning of the tail. The male also has a scarlet breast, and scarlet and light chestnut flakes and underpart. The legs and toes are dull-yellow.

The female (hen) is much less showy, with a duller mottled brown plumage that is similar to the common pheasant.  She is darker and more slender that the hen of the species, with a shorter tail (half her 60-80 cm). the female breast and sides are barred buff and blackish brown, and the abdomen is plain whiteness. She has a white face and throat. Some feathers may later in their lifetime grow some male colors. Lower legs and feet are a dull yellow. Both female and male have yellow feet and yellow bills.

They feed on the ground of grain, insects, leaves and invertebrates, but they roost is in the trees. While they clumsily in short boosts. They like to run and sprint on the ground. If startled, they can suddenly burst upwards at great speed and with a weird wing sound. Golden pheasants lay 8 to 12 eggs at a time and will then incubate these for around 22-23 days! They tend to eat berries, grubs, seeds, and other types of vegetation. The male has a loud sound like Quinn, the call is send out in the breeding season.

The scientific name is chrysolophus pictus. The golden pheasants are commonly found in zoos, but sometimes they make a different breed have babies that are similar lady Amherst’s pheasant in their history. There are also different mutations of the golden pheasants known from birds in captivity, including the dark-throated, yellow, cinnamon, salmon, peach, splash, mahogany and silver. In farming, the wild type is referred to “red-golden” to differentiate it from these mutations. Now it is time for us to talk about the Capybara.


the capybara is one of the largest living rodent in the world. The capybara is also called (this                                               is going to sound weird) chiguire and carpincho. It has close relatives called the guinea pigs and rock cavies, but there are more like capybara. For example, the agouti, the chinchilla, and the coypu. Native to south America, the capybara inhabits savannas and the dense forest, mostly for hiding, anyway the capybara lives near large open bodies of water.  It is most likely that they can be found in groups of up to 100 Capybara, but usually live in groups of 10-20 capybara. The capybara is not a dangerous anima. But is sadly hunted and killed for the capybara meat and the skin, also for grease from it thick fatty skin which is used in trades. I am just wondering but who would want to do that

The capybara has heavy, barrel-shaped body and a short head, with reddish-brown fur on the upper part of its body that turns yellowish-brown underneath. Its sweat glands can be found in the surface of the hairy portions of its skin, an unusual trait among rodents. The animal does not have down hair, and its guard hair shows little from the over hair. Adult capybaras grow to 106 to 134 cm in length!  Standing 50 to 62 cm tall at the shoulder blade, and weighs around 35 to 66 kg, with an average in Venezuelan llanos of 48.9 kg. the top record weighs are 91 kg for a wild female capybara from brazil and 73.5 kg for a wild capybara from Uruguay. The capybara has slightly webbed feet and very short tails. Their hind legs are a little longer than the forelegs; they have three toes on their rear feet and four toes on their front feet. Their noses are rounded, with nostrils, and eyes and ears are near the top of their heads. The female capybara is kind of heavier than males. I thought the males where heavier than the females.

The capybaras are Herbivores. they eat all kinds of grasses and water plants as well as fruits and bark of trees. They are very picky feeders and feed on the leaves of one species and disregard the other species surrounding it. they eat a greater selection of plants during the dry season ,as fewer plants are available. While they eat grass during the wet season, they have to switch to more better reeds during the dry season. The capybara’s jaw hinge is not perfect, so they chew food by grinding back-and-forth rather than side-side.

They can have a lifespan of 8-10 years, but live less than four years in the wild, because they are “a favorite food of jaguar, puma, ocelot, eagle, and caiman”. The capybara is also the preferred prey of anaconda. Now it is time for the coati.

(Or is it???  Che may have gotten a bit zealous and overly ambitious with his report…)