July 22, 2008

Pico this!

To make friends and use the internet we sailed from Flores to the Island of Fial. Upon our arrival we met half a dozen incredible people and have been skipping from one meal to the next chatting the days away with like minded people from all over the world. The first obvious activity for us all to do was to climb Pico, the local volcano. So plans were sorted one evening over dinner and wine. These pictures taken by Johan tell the story better than words.

First peak:

Hitching a ride to the base:

Underestimating the climb:

Showing off for the ladies:

Wine from Pico Grapes, Cheese from Pico Cows, Bread from Pico Bakers, and hot Coffee from Seattle:

Everyone making it to the top at the same time:

Sitting on top of the world:

The descent:

A blow out!:

A repair:

The trial:

And parting shots:

July 21, 2008

Island of Flowers

The pleasant customs official casually waited dockside in shiny tall boots, and a freshly ironed uniform as we inflated our Dinghy and readied our selves for land. We rowed in, weathered, jet lagged but wired, to presented our papers. We eere very surprised to find that the ground beneath our feet was no longer familiar. Both Glory and I, like coiled springs swaggered along, growing woozy but excited as the young customs officer giggled, and removed his starched new hat. We had become people of the sea and land was making us feel sick, but we had made it to the most beautiful place on earth.

“Isla Flores”…the name doesn’t do it justice. To build a reasonable expectation for what this place is like they should have called it, “Island where flowers found in the shops flourish intensely and bloom on every available inch of land, along roads, trails and all property lines". Thats what I would have called it, and maybe they did at its now abreviated. A month at sea with subtle variations in scenery, readied us for the most beautiful place on earth. We hopped around by foot, lead by one flower patch to the next, for a few days until we had covered all the directions from the boat and every available road. We found trails that led to volcano lakes, waterfalls with swimming holes, light houses, endless views and unbelievable beauty.
Queso-fresco and warm local bread broken on an old rock wall overlooking old pastures and green lush hillsides was our first meal. Fresh bread, organic tomatoes, cucumbers, endless variations of cheese and ridiculously cheap local wine have filled our bellies each day and has become another world for us to explore.
We have discovered that cheese is not actually orange vacupacked and square cut, it is alive, wrapped in wax usually round and full of flavours that awaken parts of the tongue that I didn’t know existed. Tomatoes grown wild are rippled with shape and color. Potatoes grabbed directly from the earth taste like apples and bread can have so much flavour you begin to crave its taste alone. Corn from the stalk does not explode with perfect kernels in every row, it comes miss-shaped with fewer yet flavour packed bites. Wine costs 69 cents a litre and if you want a ten euro bottle then you might have to go to a speciality store.

Life is pretty good over here guys. I have not been to a more beautiful place.
.” The stillness of the cobble stone roads and old rock homes, set against all these flowers has been such an inspiring experience. As the afternoon comes around the families come out the parks for barbeques, guys fish along the shore and kids jump tirelessly into the water from the public docks. Family units are strong and people spend a lot of time growing their own food or catching it and then eating it together.

Its hard not to smile all day long around here. The richness of our lives seems to have increased. We can walk to where our food is sold and we can look over and see the hill it grew on or go meet the cow it came from. The food, the air and the scenery are fresh and giving of life. The scale of these towns seem like they were built around a human rather than an auto mobile. Since we are not inside a car we catch smiles and “bon dias´” rather than fingers and honks. When we bump into people it spurs conversation and we continue to meet new interesting people everyday.

Portuguese is a different language. It sounds like French to Glory, Russian to me, and some how it’s structurally close to Spanish. English is prevalent but not as much as I thought, usually in places of business. The young kids don’t seem to know it, and that really surprises me.

What comes to mind the strongest are all the people I know that need to see this place the way it is now. It's a really special place.

July 16, 2008

Crossing the Atlantic

Atlantic Crossing:
The water became a canvass for all the colors the sun could throw at us, and the sky displayed endless new cloud formations right above, way above and afar. The moon lit up our nights and the sun rose earlier each day as we flew east with the wind. It was like gliding. We were caught in an endless moment where we were “right” with the wind and “right” with the soft roll of big ancient waves from other storms steadily encouraging us on and letting us be.

Laura of Colorado, Derek of THEWORLDBYSEA and Ben the metaphysics master (all former all star crew) will appreciate the 2,470 knautical mile/ 24-day venture into our personal frontier of experience. These are the stats in order of impressiveness: Not a drop of water came inside the boat*, we didn’t run out of fuel**, the automatic steering systems worked*** twenty of those days and we sailed with the wind behind the beam never to exceeded 15knots (10 apparent). For all the wet passports, soggy moldy clothes and days of drying stuff out on other sailing adventures we earned this blissful spinnaker driven crossing. I kept looking at Morning Glory and shaking my head, “sailing isn’t supposed to be like this, I mean, its supposed to be like this, but its not really like this, even though we do it in hopes that we get days like this, but we don’t really, but we are now”.

Gains and losses: We lost two fishing poles with their reels, but somehow fish would occasionally jump on deck anyway and we came right up on one free life ring. We made friends twice with two passing sailboats that came within ten meters and we were blessed with five dolphin escorts. On board there was a full moon costume party, a birthday party with balloons and carrot bread, potlucks and gourmet meals, pedicures, backrubs, and a frenzy of reading.

I cleared my backlog of books, who of us can say that we’ve read the reference books on our shelves? He he, I have a small shelf, but I am actually reading about famous storms of the 1950’s. I am studying weather; it’s fascinating and relevant. I haven’t learned anything really but I have become more acutely aware and I know what pages the clouds are on in my books and where to read about what s going on now, and as my American childhood mentor used to say “knowing is half the battle.”

We started a basil plant, and we completed the journey with out consciously consuming processed sugar, alcohol or caffeine. The challenge in that came while stocking the boat, once we set off it was out of site and out of mind.
A neat part of our month at sea was our radio hour. Months ago I bargained for an out of date short wave radio that had been used as a shelf display and got it for ten cents on the dollar. We depended fully on it for our weather information. A former sailor by the name of “Herb” on the east coast of America voluntarily looks at the Atlantic weather information and corresponds with boats crossing the Atlantic via Single Side Band radios that cost thousands to buy and install properly. With jury rigged alligator clips and ten feet of randomly strung wire, we could hear Herb and the boaters talking clearly from a thousand miles away on our fifteen dollar double A radio. Unbeknownst to them we tracked them and Herb’s recommendations. For about three days there were two boats within eighty miles of us that guided us around the doldrums of the Azores high.

As Captain there are so many voices one fears when preparing for something that’s beyond your level of experience. Daydreams of the boat sinking and the town’s people saying, “He left with out a life raft!” Then there is getting caught in a storm and feeling that pang of regret for having bought an IPOD instead of a heavy weather jib. Or knocking your rudder off months prior, hammering it a few times back into place and calling it good. Setting off with batteries that don’t hold a charge, going to the cheapest welder in town to rebuild your masthead chain plate. These things remain on your mind and the knot in your stomach doesn’t loosen till you see land again. Once you do then comes the fear of running into stuff again, but you look around and relish all your good luck and you soak up that sense of empowerment that land provides in this situation, and you think “few”, but in fact this time those fears were just fear.
Going now is the only way to go and less is more. Plenty have done more with less than our little boat. Read the biographies, and less of the preparatory magazines that fill your mind full of equipment you “need” before you can go sailing. There are plenty of good books to ready someone to go, but they are too long, you’re never ready. They can do as much to keep people in the harbor as they do to launch them after their dreams.

All in all we had a fantastic crossing, and I look forward to the next.

*One rouge wave caught us off guard and splashed a wee bit into the companionway and made it to the galley floor. No personal items casualties.
**We bobbed around for a few days waiting for wind during the first thousand miles and it seemed imprudent to fire up the engine with so much ahead of us, anyway we’re a sailboat.
***The electric tiller pilot worked when there was hardly any wind and when we motored and the wind vane worked when there was at least six knots apparent wind and three knots over water.