August 29, 2008

Ive been touched.

I'm a PC guy. But on the day we departed to cross the Atlantic a trickle of rain shorted out my trusty laptop. On that precious laptop, were five years of pictures, journals of adventures, all my music, and Nautical Charts of the entire globe. At fifty bucks a chart in the store, my routine up untill that point was to print off my own charts as needed, as I went. So with my trusty printer and a reem of paper I was set for the world. Well, now chartless, we set off anyway. What the heck do yo need a chart of the open sea for? Well you dont untill you get to where your going, well that was a month away. ahhh young cruisers eh? So a month passes and we are marking our progress on a weather pilot and the GPS Satelight photographs. And it was untill we began to see Azorian light houses at night, that I began to freak out. You'd be surprised really how hard it is to see how far away a flashing light is. It can be ten miles away or fifteen feet when your eyes are tired. Anyway we made it fine as the sun rose, and my strategy became no need for maps (you cant buy maps if you wanted to where we were) just day time arivals and nightime sails. Sweet right? Well that worked for the next two months.

One day we left in the late afternoon for a random cove along the North Spanish coast. It was thirty miles away and I figured I could navigate in by lights. Ha! more often than not I find my self navigating in by lights and waking to discover a new beautifull place the next morning. Its great. Well the wind picked up as it does in the Bay of Biscay, along with the swell. So we rounded the last cape and found our selves in a confused swell, overcast dark night and the sound of breakers on both sides of the boat and no channel lights! No green and red! Or Red and Green as they do here. The depth sounding was eratic and the fun seemed to have left stage right. I remembered that my I-touch had a google maps program on it so I started to fuss around with it. Zooming in and in and in and in I found where I was heading and got a good look at the harbor. I switched on the Radar that I hate soo much and I matched up the out line of the satelite photos with the radar image. I continued to zoom in on the i-touch untill i could clearly see the channel and what appeared to be a trail of bubbles!!! I zoomed back out to see that that trail of bubbles lead to a boat, in the satelight photo that had just navigated the channel and was rounding into the harbor! HIS TRAIL WAS THERE. Again THERE WAS A BOAT in the photo and his trail of bubbles lead all the way back to where I was. Sorry for the reapeat, its for effect. There we were huddled over an glorified ipod following a bubble trail around rocks and safely into an unlit channel. I am still blown away. The photos on that itouch were in its memory and they were soo good that I could see rocks in the water and felt there was no need to get out and explore when I got there. ha!

Here is where it really gets good: We are sailing up the English channel on our way to Brighton. The English channel is littered with traffic from ferries, fisherman, pleasure cruisers to huge freightors bound for Panama, The coast gaurd is constantly on the radio warining people of weather and sea conditions. We even heard maydays as we were passing through. Well back in St. Thomas I got a huge cell phone bill. If anyone knows me really well this is a frequent occurence, but this time it wasnt my fault. Being on a sail boat my cell phone was picking up cell networks from passing cruise ships at a rediculous rate and its un beknownced to the user. Well its a flaw, but so uncommon that its not worth fixing, the cell companies just rebate the money. Anyway since my itouch is the most amaizing savior now I pull it out as I am getting passed port to port by a cheesy cruise ship. Poof I've got wi-fi in the English Channel.
Un freaking beleivable, I upload the local google maps, and write my Dad an email. One more Cruise ship bears down on us and it picks up its signal and sends my emails. If I were going the other way I would have had more time and could have downloaded all my emails.

Reunions, plotting a new course, and becoming outlaws!!!

We sailed on to the other side of Terceira to catch up with the Boyz from the Double Bruyn. Two years ago I met these pair of good value Quiwis in a boat yard in Florida. They had just bought a boat and were fitting it out to sail across the Atlantic. I bought the boat parked next to them and our adventure together began from there. Along with my cousin Laura we set out with hopes to conquer the world. We were four like minded sea beans in two pods. Over the last tow years our boats have gone on seperate adventures, but we had always kept in contact and not missed a beat. They sailed to the Azores the year before and left their boat there for major repairs. Upon Glory and I's arival in 'Ultima Noche' we happened to turn our VHF Radios just at the same moment as the Double Bryun, and the sound of Jon's voice fired us up like no other.
Sure enough as we weighed anchor John swam out to greet us, but not with out pulling the dinghy gone missing trick, where you untie someones dinghy and float off with it. Its pretty good, but its one of those freak occurances that only seems to happen when he's around, so I am conditioned to look for John, before I go looking for my missing raft. :) Good value though, theres never enough play in this life we live.

We spent days and nights having potlucks and helping them ready the boat for the passage to England. We talked about where we were thinking of going, and we heard thier plans.
After a few days it seemed like we should head to England as well, to do something more challenging with our time. London is full of progressively minded NGO's with plent of opportunity for us to do something cool for a while. We copied maps and made plans to sail with them to England. We danced the nights away in Terceira then set off the same day with plenty of wind for England. A few days into it Glory and I got hit by a true gale that knocked our radar and wind generator tower down. And our third mate Wilson (wind vane paddle)who had gotten us safely half way across the Atlantic was blown to bits. All that remained of a three foot paddle was a three by five inch base. In the peak of the blow we were hove to for a few hours, and then on sea anchor for another six during the lightning. Amaizingly with the sails reefed and hove the boat was calm cool level and comfortable, it was so calm Glory and I went to bed. Sea anchor dind'nt work out as I expected, it seemed to hug the hull rather than drag to windward. We had all the electronics in the oven as lighting squalls were passing, and when we emerged the next morning to a lively sea and overcast day we had still somehow traveled one hundred and sixteen miles. The previous day with a following twenty five knott wind we had made a one hundred and fifty mile day. For Noche that defys the laws of physics. We were outlaws now but we had lost one of our crew and 'Wilson' we are sad to have lost you, but proud of Noche and the radar tower I hate anyway.

So the wind died and as sailors do, we looked at the Atlas and realized stopping in Spain would be freaking cool, so why not (without charts) we headed for Spain. Ha ha I love the sailing life, you can do exactly what you want to do on a day to day basis. We pulled into La Coruna next to our Dutch friend Yella from the Azores and woke him up by zooming around his boat and howling till he and a new lady (Fiona)friend peeked their heads out the hatch!! haha Another Reunion!

Spain!!! The wonderfull world of Spain!!! Cured procuto hanging from the rafters in everyshop, real funky cheeses that will blow your toe jam away, local seafood and Sangria. Thank the heavens we stopped here before we reached the land of blood pudding, bland tea, mushy pees and chips. People out walking the streets, napping mid day, old roman light houses peaking out from old spanish forts and spanish speaking organic farmers selling their goods on every corner. And again we pay nothing to have it in our front yard.

August 11, 2008

Mid Atlantic Magic

We couldn’t have expected how beautifull it was in the Azores. The five Islands that we visited all contained natural wonders worth a visit. Our pack of friends had grown by the day and its became one social even to the next.

We had to see more of the Islands and time is always running out. We ventured off from Horta at midnight and to send us off the people of Pico lit the sky with fireworkds of yet another festival. We arrived off the beaten track at the Island of Graciosa the next day. On Graciosa with in a full days hike there was another volcano, but within its perfectly intact rim lay a hidden a valley filled with birds, old growth forests and green pastures with graizing cows. Inside the volcano valley is a beautifull cave with fresh water lake etc. soo we spend all day hiking upto the rim and circlling around trying to get in. After back tracking and getting rather frustrated we saw a truck driving around deep in the Volcano then suddenly dissapear into the wall. The road that lead from town and interested with the rim trail on our map was actually a tunnel and they neglected to mention that the crossing of these paths was actually separated by a thousand verticle feet of cold hard lava. My frustration with the cartographer only simmered when we found a lone human in the very bottom of the volcano selling ice cream, postcards and tickets to an enormous cavern. The ice cream was so good infact it was Magnum’s newly realeased double chocolate dipped in caramel then again in chocolate, yeah its the one that is on the advertisement board but they never actually have, well they had it, so all was redeemed. But as you can imagine the guy was so lonely that being next to him was like a vortex of human contact and I could feel him thinking of words he knew in English so the urge to leave was growing as he began to form a sentence and eating an ice cream cone in front of someone risks a feeling of guilt and with a cone this good and un explored by my taste buds I didn’t want to risk it. I had to cut short his one human interaction by walking away from his lonely and curious stare from the doorway of his commerce shed so this new cone could have a fair chance, and then again walk strategically slow enough away so that I remained far enough behind Morning Glory so that she wouldn’t be inspired to have a bite. No worries it all worked with the new flavor, its wonderfull, but I got caught with the wrapper in hand as I caught up with Glory again and had just enough chocolate on the stick to ward off any hints of guilt.
With so much to tell, and soo little readers attention span:
Pause for a hot chick photo:

we walked around some more, stood in aw, saw stuff, did stuff, and eventually set sail for Terceira. All in all Graciosa was good but I would not return until the Marina is finished.

Here´s a great story befor I loose you. Glory and I rent bikes, que with Photo:

We ride around the Island of Terceira,

begining with a cheese farm, peaking with a free Sangria flooded local food fest, pause for photo:

Stopped for a nicest hat contest:

View back from first place:

A view from everyones list of a hundred things to do...ride a bike through old rock walled european country side for 12 euros:

and ending with a free tent at a camp site with hot showers and a free personal dinnner at a small vinyard´s wine house. Which turned out to be just some guys personal home and how we got him to serve us dinner, taste wine and admire every last fixture all the way into the new bathroom was a blend of his general hospitality, the language barrior and my strong desire to get into what I though was some top notch invite only restaurant. The whole day was magic. We ate to our fill of exotic pleasures for free, the excersize on the bike felt great and the scenery again is more than I can describe.

Where we rode has some interesting features. We glazed in salt and adorned in sweaty clothes, glided into this town of Biscote, to find the most dramatic coastline, worked into wine country. The volcanic shores over hundreds of years have been converted by man into fertile wine country. Everyone wants to know something about wine well here we go. In northern Terceira (an Island in the mid Atlantic) they build four walls and within reserve a small pit with fertile soil.
The grape vines are protected from the harsh marine environment by the walls and the sun and earth are aloud to do their work. Here´s an active lot.