October 15, 2016 - Last Night on Tenaya
Tonight is my last night on Tenaya. Ever. We brought her to Port d'Andratx near Palma on Mallorca, in Spain's Balearic archipelago, and spent the last two weeks lavishing her with attention. I love this boat more than what's reasonable for an inanimate object. She's been my home, my vehicle to see the world, my sanctuary.
Jim and I came aboard as two very independent people who cared a great deal for one another but didn't spend a lot of time together. Now we are pretty much intertwined. Not because living in approximately 250 square feet has us bumping into each other on a regular basis, but because when we're crossing oceans, enduring bad weather in anchorages, solving problems, and making a multitude of decisions, we have to be on the same wavelength. We have to trust each other. Our lives depend on it.
As I look around the main cabin, I see the floor between the galley and chart table where we huddled together one stormy night, on passage between Tonga and Fiji, as lightning struck all around us, just waiting for it to hit the mast. I see the oven where I baked so many loaves of bread and the stove that I must have turned on 5,000 times. I see the chart table where I used the chartplotter, radios and sat phone, and read much appreciated emails when we were in faraway places. I see Jim reading his iPad on the other settee that becomes our hotbunk on passages and is where dozens and dozens of new island friends felt padded furniture for the first time. I see the forward cabin stuffed with two suitcases, two backpacks, a duffle bag and a large Pelican case packed with all our belongings and I remember friends and family who stayed there.
I see Jimmy Cornell's World Cruising Routes in the portside bookcase and remember all the times I got lost in the pages dreaming of places we would go. I'm leaving it on board so the new owners, whoever they may be, can do the same. I see the Greek Waters Pilot and Turkish Waters and Cyprus Pilot that Rod and Lu Heikell signed for us in Istanbul. Because they are also addressed to Tenaya, they will stay too. I see the Wempe clock that Marnix of Nova Yachting gave us when we took delivery of Tenaya. Jim took it off the wall because we thought it would be fun to have in the Sprinter, but the blank wall and dark spot looked so sad that he put it back. It belongs on Tenaya. I hope the new owners come to love her half as much as I do.
May 5, 2016 - It's Weird Going Home Again
It's not that I haven't wanted to write in the 20 months since my last post here, it's just that I've been adjusting. This whole time.
When I returned to the US last year, I couldn't imagine living on land for an entire winter. Would I like it? Would I miss Tenaya terribly? How would it all work out? It's weird going home after 15 years.
Jim and I emptied our storage locker and sorted things into two piles: one for charity and one for a U-Haul bound for the mountains. Besides five bikes and bundles of skis, snowboards, and various bulky boots, there were over 100 banker boxes bulging with books. We were used to living at sea level and now we were hauling heavy armloads up stairs at 8,000 feet. I feared one of us might have a heart attack.
We survived. We nested. And now we're ending our second winter in Mammoth. Our condo looks more like an aisle in World Market scattered with Ikea shelves than our friends' tastefully decorated homes, but it's filled with memories of Belgium, the San Blas Islands, the Galapagos, New Zealand, Australia, Vanuatu, Papua New Guinea, Thailand, Turkey and Albania, and we're comfortable here.
Living aboard full-time and traveling to remote places without internet, we lost track of what was going on in the world - minor political events worldwide, movies, food... What's with salted chocolate and the bacon bonanza? Last year we played crazy catch-up. This season, after sailing from Istanbul to Venice with constant internet, we hardly missed a beat.
About living on land - I've got to say that it's nice, really nice, to hear the wind howling at night and just roll over and go back to sleep. No getting up to check if we've left something on deck that might go over the side, or, if at anchor, our proximity to calamity. If thunder cracks nearby, there is no mad rush to gather all the electronics and stuff them into the microwave. And my washer, dryer and bathtub ... I love those more than you can imagine. But, do you know what hit me most? The sense of relief. I could relax. I could stop moving, stop planning, stop the low grade worrying I hadn't even realized existed. It was like a current that ran through my body for years had suddenly been switched off. All I wanted to do was to breathe the dry, fresh air and go nowhere. Two years ago, the thought of going months without needing a translation dictionary would have made me feel stagnant. Something changed when I came back to land. I stopped and smelled the pine trees. My course changed.
Last year I had a colon cancer scare. The doctors at Stanford got it all, but not before we bought an Outback to ensure timely travel across the Sierra. In October we picked up a new Sprinter 4x4 cargo van. So, as much as I wanted to avoid the consumerism, we jumped back in.
The van is our current project. Our next adventure. Yep, I'm ready to travel again, just with breaks in between. We're fitting it out ourselves to be a roving home like Tenaya, only smaller and with wheels. Although we've been to 50 other countries, we haven't seen much of our own.
Last year was fun sailing the Aegean coast of Turkey, across Greece and up the Adriatic to Albania, Montenegro, Croatia, and into Venice, Italy, but it pales in comparison to our time in the Pacific. The people we met were nice and we liked them, don't get me wrong, it's just not the same as sailing into an anchorage and being the only boat, the only foreigners, for miles around.
Our plan has always been to sail as long as it was fun or until we ran out of money. They both happened about the same time and grandkids came along. So, we've listed Tenaya for sale. This summer we will sail her to Mallorca, Spain and leave her with our broker. Tears well in my eyes whenever I think of parting with her. I'm looking ahead, though, and working on the Sprinter and anticipating traveling around North America is pretty exciting too.
September 10, 2014 - 10 Reasons Why I Don’t Want to Stop Traveling for Six Months
If it were up to me, I wouldn’t go. I would stay here in Turkey aboard my sailboat. But I can’t. Standard tourist visas allow travelers to stay for 90 out of 180 days and my time is up next week. Jim and I are storing Tenaya on big metal stilts in a concrete yard at a marina in Istanbul. Then we’re flying to San Francisco. Going back to the US scares the hell out of me.
1. What will happen to my simple, unhurried way of life?
Now I walk, take public transportation, paddle my kayak and sail at the speed of a slow jog. There are no traffic lanes. God love those on the 580 when I get behind the wheel of my Passat wagon for the first time in two years.
2. I cannot imagine not being immersed in nature.
I have just completed a voyage in the Black Sea. As dawn broke over the water each morning, clouds infused with light from the rising sun radiated pink and red across the eastern sky. The super moon illuminated the undulating sea for two full nights.
3. I will miss the challenge of communicating with a limited vocabulary.
I love making barnyard sounds to figure out if cheese is made from cow or goats’ milk, or what type of meat is on my plate. It’s fun, most of the time, to relate with people through hand signals, facial expressions and body contortions. How uneventful simple conversations will be when I can just say the words.
4. I doubt strangers will open up and talk to me, but I’m going to try. At least once.
“Hi, my name is Katie. I’m a tourist,” I’ll say with a humbled expression. No shit, they’re probably thinking. But, it’s a good a conversation starter and I’ve met a lot of really nice people that way. I’m thinking if I try that in California though, people might just glare at me or say, "Go back to Bumfuck".
6. I hope I can avoid the mine-is-the-only-way attitude.
Traveling has opened my eyes to other cultures, traditions and points of view. Sometimes I’m not sure of my own feelings anymore, like the night I shot five possums in Fiordland. I had never killed anything but a cockroach on purpose, but New Zealanders hate possums because they are decimating the bird populations and ravaging vulnerable vegetation. Flightless kiwis are endangered; introduced possums flourish. Billy, the only person living in all of Doubtful Sound, was on a mission to keep their population in check and I was in the passenger seat of his ute with a shotgun propped against my knee. It just happened.
7. I dread all the stuff and the trash it generates.
I’m used to having very little stuff. I’m also obsessed with trash. Packaging is discarded at once, if possible, and ingredients are stored in reusable containers. Any plastic is cut into small pieces and all our rubbish stays on board until we reach a place with proper disposal facilities. During months in isolated island groups, the amount never fills a kitchen-sized bag. It’s a hard habit to break, but I’m pretty sure if I start flattening all the trash at our friends’ and relatives’ homes, we’ll be looking for campsites in no time.
8. I fear having a smart phone.
Watching people in Sydney, Jayapura, Phuket and Ho Chi Minh City ignore their companions to fixate on their phones seemed weird, and rude. I’m still coming to terms with this new version of ‘social’ and hope I don’t get sucked into checking Facebook all the time.
9. I wonder if old friends will have time to tell me their stories or care about hearing mine.
This will be the first time in 14 years that I will spend so much time in my home country. I am looking forward to seeing old friends; I hope they can fit me into their busy schedules. If so, will we slide back into familiarity, feel strained and uncomfortable, or have nothing in common anymore?
10. I’m terrified that I might adapt to that world and not want to leave.
That happens sometimes. I spend time in an anchorage, village or town, make friends and start to feel like I belong. Then the time comes to move on and my heart breaks.
April 24, 2014
I can see the headline now: Middle-Aged Woman Spontaneously Combusts While Traveling in Thailand
And the story goes….
April 6, 2014 - Shit Happens, Kids Should Still Sail
Oh my God. No. My heart stopped as I read the first post in a womens' sailing group about the plight of Rebel Heart. I don't know the family but certainly feel a connection with Charlotte. She started the group and has a wonderfully honest, well-written blog. Many people have left empathetic, caring, supportive messages for her there. But some have written scathing, hateful words. The same is true for comments after the many news articles.
I can only imagine that the vitriol has been spewed by people completely unaware of the sailing and traveling lifestyle, by people afraid to take any risks. How boring their lives must be. I think Helen Keller says it best: "Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing."
Regardless of where you live, what you do, bad things can happen. Rotten luck. Living aboard and sailing with children is no more dangerous than living on land. It's just different. The boat kids I've met are bright, articulate, well-rounded, interesting, capable young people. Yachties go to some pretty amazing places and learn all kinds of fascinating things. Imagine doing that with little kids! Being surrounded by nature, exposing them to other cultures, teaching them about the world by actually being out there, helping them learn first hand about marine biology, oceanography, geography, astronomy, cultural anthropology, architecture... the list goes on. What a fabulous foundation for their futures.
March 14, 2014 - Shipping Tenaya to Europe
When we left the Netherlands eight years ago, we only planned to sail to the Mediterranean Sea. I had no idea if I would ever feel comfortable with sailing, but I liked the idea of staying in Europe and having the ability to travel aboard my home. We spent two years in the Med and then went to the Caribbean for the winter with plans to return. We stayed two years. After talking to others who had been in the Pacific, the warm waters, plentiful anchorages and multitude of islands sounded ideal so we changed our plans and headed through the Panama Canal instead.
New Zealand is spectacular and I was thrilled to spend two summers there, one driving around the South Island in our campervan, the other sailing around the country. Vanuatu is wild and wonderful and it was there that I learned how to really connect with local people. We had amazing experiences in both countries and I would have been happy spending the rest of my life sailing back and forth between the two.
But Jim doesn't like doing the same thing for very long. He wanted to go further west and see new places so we came up with a plan: Australia to Papua New Guinea to Palau to Borneo. Well if we were going that far west, we might as well finish sailing around the world. That would be kind of cool. It was the first time we ever considered circumnavigating. I pulled out Jimmy Cornell's Sailing Routes and started researching online. I put together an itinerary that had us sailing south from Borneo, past Jakarta into the Indian Ocean, and across to South Africa. Then back to the Caribbean where we would tie our knot although its tail would stretch back to Italy.
We bought guide books for the Indian Ocean and South Africa. We read books on the ivory trade because my grandfather was an ivory trader in Zanzibar and I wanted to see that area. I read the autobiography of early African explorer, Morton Stanley. But the more we read about Africa, the more we realized that it would be much easier to reach the areas we want to visit by air and land. Not by our boat. We didn't want to have to worry about her. And the Caribbean... we've already visited every island between Tobago Cays and Tortola, some twice. Except to spend more time on Dominica, we have no desire to return.
So we've changed our plans. Again. We've decided to ship Tenaya back to Europe from Phuket, Thailand. We found a company, Peters and May, that will ship her all the way to Antwerp. Now we can sail to the Baltic, maybe even to St. Petersburg, Russia! Or, we can sail over to England and up the Thames. And if we want to go back to the Med, it will be easy because we'll be going the right direction for the prevailing winds. I'm so excited, I'll be able to use my down comforter again!
January 1, 2014 - Letter to Tenaya
How much longer will you carry me across the seas? To spend days and nights away from the sight of land. To let me see the sun, orange and full, rise behind the clouds to light a new day. To feel it bake my bare skin. To watch the shadows grow long in high latitudes. To savor it slowly setting in the west, the colors never the same - sometimes vivid reds, pinks and oranges, other times simply grey.
How much longer will I feel your slow, silent sway under a sky lit by a billion stars? To feel you dance as the sea rolls beneath us? To glide effortlessly as your sails carry us along in quiet solitude. To wonder how far we will heel before you bring us upright again. To know you will keep me safe when thunder roars and lightning shoots across the sky. To feel the calm after a squall.
How much longer will you bring me to new places? To see land where yesterday there was only water. To arrive at remote islands with no cars, no pavement, no wifi. To lands where people travel in dugout canoes. To meet local people who will teach me about their lives. To villages where people pass down stories about how things began, weaving spirits and nature into the tapestry of their history. To taste new and unusual foods.
How much longer will I learn things on land while you wait patiently at anchor? To see that fresh eggs will not break if carried in a bowl of sand. To be told there is a plant to help bring a child into the world and another to keep that from happening. To watch kids run around with bush knives the length of their arms and realize they will not poke out their eyes or chop off their fingers and toes. To learn a stick can mend broken bones. To be assured a certain leaf put under ones head at night will guarantee a lover’s return.
How much longer will you be my home? To invite strangers to visit and see their boats tied to your stern. To bring out dinghy loads of kids to explore you, squealing with delight. To dig through your tool locker and fix things for islanders who have no supplies. To bake a chocolate cake for a child's birthday. To have new friends teach me to bake cassava in your oven. To have tears well up in my eyes when it comes time to say good-bye.
How much longer will you show me creatures of the sea? To watch quietly as turtles swim by. To coo at dolphins frolicking at your bow. To stand in awe as a whale surfaces close to your side. To watch seabirds soar for miles around us. To be thrilled when they come close and anxious when they land. To know boobies will sleep through the night and be gone at first light. To know smaller, more vulnerable birds will come to rest and probably die.
How much longer will I hear the water lapping at your hull? The squeak of your boom. The wind whistle in your rigging. The clang of a halyard in a gale. The hum of your engine on a calm day. The bong of your ladder folding after a swim.
How much longer will my senses be sharp, my heart full of wonder, as I sit in your cockpit immersed in nature?
How much longer will I live so simply yet so fully?
October 11, 2011 - A new perspective
People set off on sailboats for as many reasons as there are boats. For adventure, to see the world, to avoid growing stale in an occupation, to spend quality time with kids, to add spice to retirement, to drop out of society, to make new and different friends, to "live the dream" ... the list goes on.
To "live the dream" has never occurred to me. I have no preconceived notion of a dream life. All my life I have just wanted to have fun so have made choices to achieve that goal. Sailing and seeing new parts of the world are fun. When we took off on Tenaya from Holland five years ago my goals were simple. To somehow get this boat from the safety of our Dutch marina down the Atlantic coast and into the Mediterranean with Jim and my newly acquired skills. It was daunting and a little frightening because I was sailing off into the unknown, but I find those emotions exciting. And excitement is fun.
Somewhere off the Atlantic coast of Spain I began to relax. It seemed we were going to make it to the southern shores of this marvelous country as scheduled. I was beginning to actually enjoy sailing. Reading French, Spanish and Portuguese guide books piqued my interest. There were so many places to see!
Fast forward to today. The moon is full, it is 0300 and I am in the cockpit standing my 5 hour watch. I have evolved in five years and my perception of travel has changed. Now I don't just want to see places, I want to experience them as fully as possible. Rather than sitting in the cockpit of a yacht sharing sundowners in a tropical paradise with other yachties, which has never been high on my to-do list, I much prefer sitting in a village, town or place of natural beauty in a far off land talking to a local person. Whether it be a villager in Vanuatu or a kayaking guide in New Zealand, I don't care. From them I can learn about their country and culture and get to know this particular person.
Snorkeling and diving are wonderful parts of this life on the water. But just as special, and maybe more so, are the opportunities to explore on shore. To see the places that have taken so long to reach. To meet the people and hear their stories. And to share my stories. My life, which I take for granted, usually intrigues those who live on land. Locals teach me things and I teach them things. I am a traveler who has chosen to visit their world and peek inside. Each interaction opens my eyes a little more to the world.
August 8, 2010 - Was it that bad?
Is it because I've only sailed two days in the past two months or was this just a particularly uncomfortable passage? It was only an 80 mile overnighter for God's sake!
As I bounced about my sea bunk after my one and only 6 hour watch, thoughts that don't usually make their way to consciousness were running wildly through my head as sleep eluded me. Why am I here? What am I doing? Do I really want to sail a long way again next year? And what about those plans to move out of the coconut milk run ... Do I really want to sail in harsher conditions?
The short trip from Moorea to Huahine was forecast to have easterly winds of 10-12 knots and 1.7 meter seas. That's about as easy as it gets. We were hoping for enough wind to sail and keep the engine off. Fortunately the wind was closer to 15 knots but still not enough to keep the sails from flappering loudly as we sailed on a broad reach. The seas, though small, were like an angry washing machine furiously churning choppy waves in every direction. Not normally one to complain about the sea state, and quick to criticize those who do, I was anything but happy and pretty agitated myself.
But as I slowly climbed into the cockpit at 0600 to take over the watch and saw magnificently green, steep Huahine ahead I began to relax. We were almost there and would soon be anchored inside the protected lagoon. Drifting slowly while awaiting the sun to rise higher in the sky, I scanned the shore for entrance buoys and leading marks for the pass. Before long all our concentration was devoted to following the route into the lagoon and down the narrow buoyed channel to our idyllic destination on the island's eastern side.
Floating peacefully at anchor in 4 meters of incredibly clear, turquoise water I was content. Only two other boats shared this tranquil location. I could think of no place I'd rather be. The previous night quickly faded to a blurry memory.
June, 2010 - A long passage, a long time
I love being at sea! I was prepared for thirty or more days between the Galapagos and Marquesas Islands and felt a little cheated that we made the 3,000 mile crossing in just nineteen.
Having a third person meant I got plenty of sleep. I didn't have to spend all my off-watch time trying to grab what winks I could. I was free to read, cook, keep Tenaya tidy and relax on deck. I never tire of the vast ocean and the ever-changing sky. My eyes are always peeled for birds, dolphins and whales. Night watches are my favorite when I am alone with just the wind, the water and Tenaya uttering their sounds.
Some people sail for the social aspects and seem to prefer time with others in anchorages more than actually sailing. I am more of a loner though I do enjoy visits with new friends. I sail for the solitude and to enjoy the journey as much as exploring the destination. Jim understands this and, although more social than I, is happy to read or work quietly.
I am not cut out for having crew on board. Friends and family visiting .... fine. I enjoy that. But another long term person, no. We had the perfect crew mate, helpful and willing to crawl into the engine room, climb up the mast and don mask and snorkel to dive under the boat mid-ocean. He was even an EMT and willing to cook. And still I had a hard time. I was not nice to him when he annoyed me, which was often, and I feel badly about that.
So it is hard to think of our long journey from Curacao to Panama to the Galapagos to the Marquesas without the cloud of unhappiness. It was a wonderful voyage and we saw some breathtaking places with amazing animals. But by the time Jim and I were alone again I feared I had done irreparable damage to our relationship. He had asked me to be pleasant and have a happy ship but I just could not.
But after a few days with the boat back to normal and just the two of us I was smiling again. Laughter quickly followed. Jim and I had a marvelous time exploring the magical Marquesas Islands together. All was good again.
January 31, 2010 - Living on board, living on land
During the six months Tenaya was stored on the hard in Tortola I never really adjusted to life on land. Yes, I loved seeing family and friends. And I certainly enjoyed sleeping through the night in a bed that was rock steady instead of steadily rocking! Sure, riding my bike over to Trader Joe's for a few groceries or stopping at In-and-Out for a double double and a strawberry shake on my way back from the storage locker was nice. And I quickly appreciated the close proximity of Home Depot as Jim and I did projects around the kids' house. But I still felt like a fish out of water.
There was too much stuff ... too many buildings, too many cars, too many people and way too much trash. All this clutter seemed to hide the natural elements, except rain of course. But light, temperature and natural scents, like those of trees, were easily masked. I felt most comfortable in our campsite at Tuolumne Meadows where the rhythm of the day blended best with mine. Up at first light, hiking or kayaking most of the day, enjoying time with old and new friends, a simple meal, then crawling into my sleeping bag shortly after dark suits me. Being outside in the fresh air unencumbered by walls, obligations, TV or too much internet keeps a smile on my face and migraines at bay.
Today we crossed paths with a couple we first met in Oakland and again here in the Caribbean. Jim and I were dinghying to the end of the anchorage to hike up two small hills when Susie called from their boat. We were invited to join them and other cruisers for brunch at the yacht club. We've never been to a yacht club before! Off I went to meet new people wearing a baggy sleeveless t-shirt that has been worn several times since it's last washing, a pair of faded, saltwater stained shorts and flat, less-than-squeaky-clean hair. I was planning to shower after the hike as it's been a few days since my last. Never in a hundred years would I have gone to a Sunday brunch in that condition in California but I didn't think twice today. And do you know what? I don't think it mattered a bit. Everyone I met was friendly, interesting, and happy to share stories of boats, places and projects. The unpretentiousness of this nomadic lifestyle is refreshing.
Living and traveling on Tenaya is at the same time more simple and more complicated than living on land. I don't have much stuff yet it is always with me. If something breaks Jim or I must fix it. Sometimes there is so little wind we must motor to our next destination but other times we are thrown about and doused by waves as we beat into the wind. We go days, sometimes weeks, without the company of others. Friendships and conversations are more meaningful as we don't have the time to really get to know people before speaking from the heart. But each evening I have time to relax in the cockpit and watch a beautiful sunset. And appreciate it. And appreciate my life on Tenaya.
May 24, 2009 - End of a very good year
Sailing today was bittersweet. The wind was light and the sea was calm as we tacked then gybed south then west then south again from Trellis Bay to Nanny Cay, Tortola. I thought again how lucky I am to have had so many wonderful times sailing aboard Tenaya, both in light and stronger winds. I love all of it. Being outdoors and traveling to new places suits me and I could keep going for quite some time. Unfortunately, I have to stop now for six months.
Tenaya is being stored on the hard for hurricane season and we'll be going back to the US until November. Part of me wishes we were keeping to our original plan of sailing back to Europe. If so, we would be leaving Bermuda and heading for the Azores about now. We could have done that. Cruise the Atlantic Islands for a few months, return to the Caribbean in December and continue on to Panama. I wouldn't have to stop sailing. Who planned this anyway?
I guess I did. After sailing pretty much non-stop for a year, around the western Mediterranean, through the Canaries, across the Atlantic and up the Caribbean I thought a break before heading to the South Pacific was a good idea. Now I'm not so sure, though perhaps appreciation will rear its practical head once I'm on terra firma.
I'm not normally a worrying person but I'm worried about Tenaya sitting in a cradle in a field in a place that gets really, really hot, is really, really humid and has hurricanes. I hope she will be all right. Over the next week we will do our best to prepare her to withstand our absence. I'll leave her with a heavy heart and, without a doubt, will be following the Caribbean weather like never before. I will be happy to return in November and get on with sailing and exploring.
May 5, 2009 - Buddy the Barracuda
I've just spent the most relaxing two weeks I can remember. After a leisurely but constant push north through the Windward and Leeward Islands of the Caribbean we arrived in the British Virgin Islands with time to see friends before flying to the US for Easter. Now back, we have six weeks in which to explore the BVI more extensively before hauling out for the hurricane season. This area has a well-deserved reputation for fabulous snorkeling and diving. The downside is that most of the nice anchorages have mooring balls to keep the throngs on yachts, mostly charterers, from tearing up the seabed with their anchors. These balls cost $25-30 a night, a sum that doesn't fit into our current downsized budget. So we've found a wonderful anchorage that offers good protection in a quiet, natural setting.
And here we've stayed for two weeks. It's been wonderful. Tenaya is resting quietly over sand and turtle grass with two stern lines tied to shore. The water is so clear I can see everything swimming below including pointy-nosed ballyhoos and bar jacks, traditional looking "Jesus fish" as I call them because they resemble the fish some people like to put on their cars. Turtles surface nearby and stingrays of various sizes glide by throughout the day. A large spotted eagle ray, quite a majestic creature, swims by slowly so I can clearly see his spots and long tail. My favorite creature though is Buddy. He's a barracuda between 3 and 4 feet long that likes to hang out under our boat. It makes me a little nervous to get in the water when he's here, but since he's almost always here I just get on with it and jump in. He is curious and comes to see what's up when he hears the first splash of the day. Fortunately he doesn't get too close, just hovers a short distance away. As the day progresses he generally doesn't react to a splash off the boat so then I swim across the bay and back. At the comfortable distance of .3NM each direction I swim at a leisurely pace and enjoy the feeling of gliding though the clear, tepid water.
After lunch I sit in the shade of the cockpit reading while Buddy hovers about 6 feet off the port side. Here I can see him and I imagine he can see me. If I walk up to the bow he slowly follows, then returns just after I duck back into the cockpit. One night I decided to do an experiment and shine our brightest light into the water to see what it might attract. Eventually Buddy came into view, the only thing that did.
I've always had pets and miss not having one now. Maybe imagining this wild creature could be a sort of pet is comforting to me in some way. I'd prefer to think of him in that way rather than to imagine he could rip a gaping wound in my body while I'm swimming.
January 7, 2009 - We made it!
Sitting at the chart table as Tenaya gently sways at anchor, in a protected bay on Barbados, dawn breaks. Having arrived only four days ago, the memory of our crossing is already starting to fade. My overall impression is one of wonder and excitement. I was never scared or lonely. There were times when my heart beat a bit faster but I knew those moments would pass and that our strong boat would carry us through if we did the right things. I loved being away from land and people, surrounded only by nature.
Yesterday I went ashore and walked on land for the first time in nearly 3 weeks. My legs felt a little wobbly as I tied up the dinghy and searched for a trash can. As I walked along the Careenage, the narrow finger of water protruding into the center of Bridgetown, I realized how good it felt to stretch my legs. Two cruise ships are in town from which most of the people with faded, bleached skin have been disgorged. We were approached twice by drivers offering shuttle service to them. "Oh my God, we look like we're from a cruise ship!" I spat in disbelief to Jim. I'm feeling a bit more salty than that! No one can tell though. No one knows what we've just been through except the few other voyagers anchored in the bay. I still look the same but inside I have changed. I can endure many days and miles away from land with only my partner and myself responsible for our well-being. Knowing that I can stay here as long as I want makes me feel fortunate. There is no schedule. I don't have to be anywhere until April 5 when our flight leaves Tortola. I'm not on holiday, this is my life. Sometimes basic chores are inconvenient and difficult, but I truly value the simplicity. I have time. Time to enjoy, explore, learn and relax. Think I'll go for a swim now.
December 4, 2008 - It's time!
The time has come to release Tenaya from her comfortable berth, throw off the docklines and head out to sea. I've been looking forward to this moment for months now and it is finally here. Excitement wriggles through my bones but a little apprehension has a hold of my left foot and is trying to attach to terra firma. I imagine it is my common sense trying to protect me. I won't let it. It can't stop me. I want to be sailing. I want to be at sea for days and days and days. The idea of crossing with a group seems stifling to me. Rather, I look forward to self-sufficiency and solitude. Learning new things about myself, enjoying this experience with Jim and relishing the voyage are my main objectives. Arriving in the Caribbean where the water is warm, the wind is consistent and the anchorages plentiful...that's a major objective too.
November 21, 2008 - Storing Groceries
I think it is completely normal to dismantle various pieces of furniture to put away my groceries. I've just returned from shopping for a few things and honestly, it is taking as much time to store this stuff as it did to ride to the store and buy it. This is how it goes:
1. Lift up the back cushions of the starboard settee (couch) and dig out the bike bag. Put the settee back together.
2. Lift up the port v-berth bed and pull out my backpack. Put the bed back together being careful to line up the boards so the cushion will fit nicely.
3. Unlock my bike that is stored on deck and hoist it over the lifelines to the pontoon.
4. Attach the bike bag, sling on the backpack and ride to the store.
5. This is the fun part, getting to see the neighborhoods, learning my way around and getting a little exercise.
6. At the store I lock my bike in an inconspicuous place and try to smuggle by bags into the store. If caught they need to be stored at a counter or in a locker. I don't always remember to take my wallet, glasses and shopping list out first.
7. After checking out and bagging all the groceries I roll the cart over to a trash can and take as many things out of their cardboard packaging as possible, keeping roaches off Tenaya and saving valuable space. This gives people in line something to watch and ponder. I can carry six bags of granola cereal without their boxes and one bag of salad greens in my bike bag. My backpack holds the rest. Today it was yogurt, six lemons (we both have sore throats), green beans, mushrooms, camomile tea, calamari rings, chicken, pesto and juice.
8. Find the bike, unlock it and attach the bag to the rack, then sling the backpack onto my back. I'm very happy to have my big Eastpak complete with chest strap and waist belt when I have heavy things.
9. Back at the boat I unhook the bike bag, lay down the bike and lift the groceries over the lifelines. Then I hoist the bike up. Today Jim helped me but sometimes he's busy or not around.
10. Unload the bags and lay everything out on the galley counter. Begin storing. Fridge stuff first. Veggies and lemons go in the net above the counter.
11. Unsnap the carpet in the galley and lift up the door in the floor. Store the juice. Put the floor back together.
12. Lift up the back cushions of the port settee and lift out the middle seat cushion. Store the pesto. Put the settee back together.
13. Lift up the middle cushion of the bed in the aft cabin. Pull off the second board. Store the cereal in the cereal bag. Put the bed back together.
14. Lift up the starboard cushion of the bed in the aft cabin. Pull off the first board. Store the tea in the tea and snacks bag. Put the bed back together.
15. Lift up the back cushion of the starboard settee and replace the bike bag. Put the settee back together.
16. Lift up the cushion of the port bunk in the v-berth and store the backpack. Put the bed back together.
17. I'm done! Brew a cup of tea.
People might wonder what I do with my time when in port. Besides seeing the sites, a lot of time is spent tearing apart the boat and putting it back together whenever I shop, whenever we need most anything. I think nothing of it, it's just the way it goes. I wouldn't change a thing. I love living aboard Tenaya.
November 6, 2008 - Election
Today I am happy to be American and am proud of my fellow citizens for electing Barack Obama as our next president. To paraphrase Desmond Tutu, there is a new spring in my step and my shoulders are straighter.
September 25, 2008 - No Need for Speed
Last week I flew to the USA to load up on things we need for crossing the Atlantic. Five days is a very short time to spend at a home that is rarely visited but I was lucky to meet up with two old friends. The first was flying through Las Vegas after attending our 30 year high school reunion and we were able to spend several hours together between her flights. After a jubilant meeting in baggage claim and a flurry of words and hugs it seemed only last month that we had seen each other. Traveling together, even in the distant past, has a way of securing friendships. We found ourselves chatting, lunching and even exercising before hitting the Cheesecake Factory for a delicious, decadent treat, something we have always enjoyed. Her visit was too short.
Another friend came to visit from out of town. He settled into the historic hotel in town but we spent the majority of two days together. We had a great time hanging out and doing errands. He remembered my fondness for cars and my competitive nature. I used to subscribe to Car and Driver, knew horsepower and torque stats and loved driving fast in cars that handled well. Once I got a ticket in my first Audi Quattro for going "95+" in the Mojave desert of California. The patrolman couldn't catch me until I turned off onto another highway. He was excited to show me his radar and explained I was pulling away from him and he didn't hold any hope of catching me until I turned onto the other highway. I joked that he needed a Mustang, new for the CHP at the time, and he said one was on its way. Sure enough, a few minutes later one pulled up. The patrolmen were very nice but I still got the ticket. Anyway, my friend had heard of a place in Las Vegas with electric cars that were fast and loads of fun. I was a bit hesitant as I haven't been driving much the last several years, only when I return to the states. I drive our VW Passat wagon, hardly a car to inspire aggressive driving. But it sounded like fun and Jim encouraged me to go.
I found myself sitting in a kart at the end of a line of very enthusiastic men. In another time I would have felt the need to beat at least one of them and preferably more. That was my nature. As we raced around the track I was more concerned about staying out of their way than trying to pick the best line. I knew to set up early and increase speed coming out of the turns but I was going plenty fast as it was. The course was 12 laps. My friend lapped me 3 times. He was a bit disillusioned with my performance. It seems he pictured us racing each other in white-knuckled competition to a photo finish.
Somewhere along the way I have lost the need for speed. Is it because I am older? Because I haven't driven much in 8 years? Because I mainly drive a sailboat these days? I don't know. It is a strange feeling to realize that I have changed so much.
August 11, 2008 - Winter in the Caribbean
We have traveled to some wonderful places since my last entry. Loads of beautiful places and heaps of great experiences are etched in my mind. I can't say there is a place I prefer over another but some definitely stand out in my mind; the beauty of Corsica, the opulence of Monte Carlo, the passion of Italy. I enjoy visiting new towns and anchorages. Although it usually feels like we are leaving too soon, I am happy to throw off the dock lines and be moving again. Leaving means arriving somewhere new. That is exciting.
Staying in one spot for a long time seems both boring and suffocating. Being berthed in the same location for the entire winter was not appealing at all. I would prefer to keep moving but the Med. is not a great place to sail in the winter. Winds can be fierce and it gets cold. So, what should we do?
Cross the Atlantic and spend the winter cruising the Caribbean! Warm water, warm temperatures, nearly 20 different courtesy flags and the ability to keep moving. Then in early May head back across, sail straight for Sicily and pick up where we left off. Croatia, Greece and Turkey are all alluring destinations.
I am really, really longing to be at sea for an extended period of time. Day after day out of the sight of land and only thinking and acting in the moment with the ocean all around us sounds just wonderful to me. I like being with Jim and I am happy alone. When I first mentioned crossing Jim didn't seem real excited. He likes to worry and is very cautious. The idea floated around in his head for a few weeks and eventually piqued his interest. He could not come up with a good reason not to do it.
I have seen the Balearic Islands, the South of France, Corsica, the Italian Riviera and hiked between the five towns of Cinque Terre. I have been to Pompeii, sailed along the Almalfi Coast and discovered the beautiful Pontine Islands that I had not known existed. Last season gave us six months of constant coastal cruising experience in the tricky tides of the north and along the Atlantic coast. This season we have become comfortable anchoring in many different situations and have med. mooring down. It is time to take the next step.
Crossing the Atlantic from East to West is a fairly simple affair. With good weather information we can avoid the worst of any weather. Our Hallberg Rassy is a very well-built yacht. Jim and I are the weak links in the overall scheme. From our experience I'm confident we will do well provided we get enough sleep and we are both able now to sleep soundly in a bouncing boat. We are comfortable and settled on the boat and can exist long periods of time on board.
While Jim is busy ordering a windvane, researching sat phones, inventorying and ordering spare parts, learning celestial navigation and reading all the "How to" books, I am buying and storing food and supplies in my mind and reading about all the places to see once we are there. Should we arrive at Barbados, St. Lucia or go further south to the Grenadines? More research is needed. I know in my heart this is a good decision because I get a warm and happy feeling whenever the thought comes to mind and I picture us out far, far away.
June 18, 2008 - Swimming at Last!
Swimming … snorkeling … diving off the stern … Life is good!
Each morning begins with a dive off the stern and a swim when we are at anchor. After breakfast we are off to explore either on foot, in the dinghy or snorkeling. After lunch we have siesta, a custom that we’ve taken as our own. More exploring, reading or researching fill the rest of the time. This lifestyle agrees with me, I enjoy it very much.
We anchored off a beach of fine white sand and large flat rocks. A pine forest was just beyond the sand. A hotel was about a kilometer down the beach so only the heartiest sun worshippers, including all the naturists, were basking and swimming here. What a great idea! Now my skin is various shades of brown and red and not much white. Sunscreen would have been a good idea.
We sailed to an island off the southern coast of Mallorca that is a national park and as such is protected and has restrictions. There are 50 moorings laid and in June visitors can stay a maximum of 2 nights. In July and August it drops to one night. A wide natural harbor, it is surrounded by steep hills covered in the native shrubs. The cliff at the entrance is topped with a 14th century castle. The natural vegetation consists mainly of wild olive, juniper and pines. Everyone is allowed to hike to the castle but to explore further requires authorization. We asked to visit the museum and lighthouse and were granted permission. The exercise felt good and the sights and smells were fabulous. Although it was hot and sunny the path was shaded in parts by pine and olive trees and there was a pleasant sea breeze. Blowing up the steep pitch from the sea, the breeze brought with it the fragrant smell of rosemary as we climbed the switchbacks to the lighthouse. How I wanted to take a few sprigs back to the boat and add to our dinner but touching the plants was not allowed. Big whiffs had to suffice.
It still boggles my mind a bit to realize we are sailing in the Mediterranean and we don’t have to leave until we want to. I am so pleased that we have had good wind for nice sailing and beautiful weather for swimming. Life is good!
May 20, 2008 - Sailing at Last!
The day we set off from Almerimar was hectic with unforeseen projects and problems until the last minute. I was both pleased and relieved when we cast off the dock lines in front of the marina office and were truly on our way. We motored out past the breakwater and turned into the sea, right into the wind. What a wind it was! I had trouble keeping my balance while collecting and storing the fenders and lines. Jim staggered as he rigged the high lifelines. While we were still heading into the wind we rolled out the mainsail. After the jib was set and we were on course Jim rigged the preventer so we wouldn't’t accidentally jibe. All this while we were jostling about in the confused meter-sized waves. It was gloriously sunny and we were thrilled to be moving.
I took the helm immediately and enjoyed hand-steering for my one hour watch. When Jim took over I had nothing to do but enjoy. We alternated in lengthening watches. As the wind backed and came over the beam Jim trimmed the main using the electric winch. All of a sudden there was a bang and the main flogged and the boom thrashed about. Yikes! What was that? Turns out Jim forgot to undo the preventer before cranking in the main. Whoops. One of the blocks on the traveler had blown apart from the stress. Had he cranked by hand he wouldn’t have been able to tighten it so much and the problem would have been averted. This is the downside of power winches. Fortunately he was able to jury rig with a snatch block and we continued without delay.
The mistake coupled with the increasing wind and our high boat speed (up to 10 kts.) had me on edge. After about 30 miles and nearly 5 hours of sailing we rounded Cabo de Gata. Darkness was approaching and we still had 25 kt. winds. Because we were going the same direction as the wind we couldn’t stay on our intended course and had to jibe every hour or two, a little stressful for our first day out. I found that I was fine while at the helm but when I just sat in the cockpit I felt really, really anxious. Jim suggested I try to rest so I went below and crawled into the sea bunk. It is a wonderful little space at sea, kind of like a warm cocoon. The back cushioned section of the port settee opens upward and is held in place with a line attached to a hook on the ceiling. A fleece blanket under a cotton sheet covers the cold leather upholstery and my down comforter and pillow, both covered with the same smooth cotton, make a cozy sanctuary. The lee cloth kept me from rolling onto the saloon sole. I didn’t sleep in the wind and waves but I rested. And I felt safe.
When it was time to jibe again I crawled out, put on my foulies and relieved Jim at the helm. Jibing was exciting in the dark with this much wind. I couldn’t read the wind gauge so had to rely on the feel of it on my neck to judge where to steer. This was most important while Jim had the preventers off. Poor steering while the boat rolled off waves could be dangerous and result in an accidental jibe. This part was actually fun.
After jibing and while I was sitting in the cockpit doing nothing I got very, very anxious. I wanted nothing more that to just get off the boat. Time seemed to stop. There was so much wind, it was so dark and we were rolling and heaving so much that I could never imagine subjecting myself to weeks of this. I could barely get through each minute. Finally I confessed to Jim that I was having a hard time and really, really wanted to go back to the safety of the sea berth. Thankfully he told me to go. I was fine as long as I was curled up in my comfy cocoon. We continued in this way of me going up to help jibe and then returning to the safety of the sea berth until the wind died about 4:00 am. Jim turned on the engine and I fell sound asleep for 3 hours.
I awoke refreshed. It was a new day. No wind. Calm seas. Peaceful. I took the helm so Jim could sleep for a few hours. My anxiety was gone. I gazed around at the beautiful coastline and endless sea. It was surreal. We were actually living our dream – sailing in the Mediterranean. By the time we reached Cartagena, 24 hours after leaving Almerimar, I was happy we chose to sail directly there.
The next leg from Cartagena to Calpe was much more relaxed. Winds no greater than 18kts. with only a few jibes and calm seas made for a lovely voyage. I kept watch nearly the entire night so Jim could sleep. Alone in the cockpit with the full moon and my favorite music playing while we coasted along was absolutely magical.
We jumped into this season with both feet. Neither of us felt the least bit seasick and we were both able to sleep during each leg. When I get back on my road bike after being off for a while I always allow 3 rides for my body to adjust and get back into the feel of it. This sailing thing only took two days! We’ve already seen two interesting and very different Spanish cities and had some fantastic sailing. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings.
May 10, 2008 - Boat Projects
It was sunny and warm when Jim and I arrived at Almerimar marina after nearly 24 hours of travel. The deck seemed narrower than I remembered as we wrestled our overloaded duffle bags from the bow to the cockpit. As I stepped down the companionway ladder for the first time in 6 weeks all sorts of good memories and feelings came flooding back. I was happy to be here.
No longer am I wishing for more time to settle into our Boulder City place or to explore that area. Now that I’m here I’m ready to move on.
Lots of projects need to be completed before we take off. Some are mandatory and others are a bit more optional but it’s nice to do them in port where there are shops and helping hands.
Varnishing. My first attempt was in March before we left for the US. I sanded around the companionway and got really dizzy. Don’t think the two are related but I was down and out for a couple of days with the boat spinning and feeling queasy so Jim had to put the first 3 coats on. Now that we’re back I’ve put two more coats on and am waiting for a day of little wind to do the last coat. I read an article that says practice makes perfect and that even if it isn’t a beautiful job the wood is still protected. Good. I’m sure I’ll get many chances to perfect my technique.
Provisioning. Yes, I know there are stores all over Spain, all over the Mediterranean for that fact. But something in me says I should be prepared and have plenty of stores on board before we set off. So I’ve been shopping. We’ve got plenty of pasta, rice, tortillas (corn and flour), oats, nuts, dried and canned fruit, cheese, eggs, cabbage, frozen shrimp, calamari and chicken. I’ve also frozen bananas and strawberries to mix with tetra-packed juice for smoothies. We’ve got long-life yogurt that doesn’t require refrigeration and lots of tuna and peanut butter and jelly for lunches. A few loaves of wheat bread are in the freezer and some apples and limes are in the fridge. I’m set. Now Jim needs to finish his projects so we can be off!
February 1, 2008 - Physical Exam
The cruising life isn’t just sailing. Or even just sailing and traveling. Life continues on a variety of fronts - family obligations, investment management, banking and medical stuff. Most things can be handled online, but not a medical examination. So, as long as we’re in Antwerp where we already have a doctor, Jim and I decided to have physical exams.
“You can take off your clothes now” our doctor said from the other side of the desk as he picked up the phone to answer a call. Jim and I looked at each other. Okay. Off came nearly everything. There we sat in our underpants until he finished his call. No paper capes, gowns or blankets. Just white flesh and a little cotton. We tried to look casual and comfortable. This is how it is done in Belgium.
Jim was lead out to another room and I stayed there. He had his blood taken and was given a sonogram before returning. I had the usual weight, height, and blood pressure checks. Then the nurse had me lie on the table. She attached electrodes to my legs and torso and recorded the information. Next it was onto the exercise bike, still clad only in my undies. Electrodes again. I peddled for 6 minutes with increasing resistance. By the last minute I was huffing and puffing. After 2 minutes my heart rate had slowed to an acceptable level. Whew, passed that one.
Jim and the doctor came back into the room. I was told to sit on the table while Jim took a test to test his lung functions. After a few inhales and exhales the doctor was satisfied and sent him over to the bike. “You can put on shoes if you’d like.” With electrodes stuck all over his torso, and wearing only his Jockeys and Merrrills, Jim began pedaling. After a few minutes he forgot about sucking in his belly. His end result was better than mine.
The doctor gave me a sonogram to check my organs. He explained what he saw and then sent me down the hall with a cup. When I returned I had my lung function test. Finally we were able to get dressed. The results of all the tests will be ready in a few days, printed in English. The total cost: 140 euros. 70 euros each.
I like the fact that in Western Europe the body is accepted as just a body. Everyone has one. It’s not necessarily sexual. And it is not taboo.
December 16, 2007 - Antwerp
Jim and I are in Antwerp. My knee surgery went well last week and I started physical therapy the following day. We’ve rented a one-bedroom apartment nearby. While sitting at the table or a comfy chair, I can watch the city go by on the busy street outside. My favorite part of this place, which seems excessively large after living on a 40’ sailboat, is the bathtub. It is huge, deep and long. No water-saving inserts in the showerhead, just plenty of water and pressure. Unlimited. Makes me feel gluttonous. Even before living aboard Tenaya I was water-conscious. Having spent most my life in San Diego and Mammoth, where water is precious, I can’t bring myself to waste it. But boy am I enjoying it!
November 30, 2007 - Mom
Several years ago she began to show signs of dementia. My aunt came to San Diego to live with her and help around the house. They shared a two-room apartment when it was time to move to a retirement home. They were very close. Two years ago my aunt Rose had a heart attack and died at the age of 93. I was heartbroken as I adored her. My mom was devastated. This was one event she could grasp.
For more than two years she has been living at a wonderful Alzheimer’s care facility in Alpine, San Diego County. The owner and staff are amazingly kind, caring and attentive. It feels like a home there, warm and comfortable, not like an institution. I’d fixed her room up nicely, two comfortable chairs and a small couch around a coffee table and TV. Her Hummels, family photos and pictures were all displayed and lots of silk plants and flowers warmed up the room. The large sliding glass door looked out onto the green grounds and the room felt comfortable and serene.
When I arrived yesterday to begin to sort her things I felt an overwhelming sorrow. Each and every employee came to greet me and most had tears in their eyes too. Many shared with me stories of my mom, Peggy. She had the biggest sweet tooth you’ve ever seen and no matter what type of mood she was in, if someone offered her candy she would light up like a Christmas tree and her world would be perfect again. I knew this reaction so I always brought a small bag of See’s candy along. I arrived in San Diego last Wednesday night and visited her the following day, Thanksgiving. She wasn’t interested in the candy at all. A very bad sign. Although she would drink she wasn’t eating. Another bad sign. She’d fallen the week before and the pain had been increasing. My brother came down the following day and we decided to have her taken to the hospital for x-rays, pain management, and better comfort. The x-rays revealed a compression fracture in her lower back. She stayed in the hospital for 3 days and was discharged back to her home.
I took this opportunity to rush out to our condo in Boulder City, NV Tuesday morning to retrieve some warm clothes and check on the place. Wednesday morning as I was preparing to return to San Diego the owner called. Mom was having difficulty breathing and she was going back to the hospital. I left at once. Mom’s nurse at the hospital called me twice to update me on her condition. My brother, Dwight, called while I was driving down the 15 near the 10 in San Bernardino county. She had died. He’d driven down from the courthouse in Fontana but didn’t get there in time either. He took care of what needed to be done at the hospital so I was able to meet him at my condo in La Mesa. I had no desire to go to the hospital. I didn’t want to see her or remember her that way. Now my last memory of her is looking up at me when I said “Hi Mom” and she said “Kate”. I held her hand and petted her forehead trying to ease her pain.
Now she is out of pain. I’m going to believe in heaven and that she and Rose are there together along with the rest of their family. They are all happy and together again. I am incredibly sad. The hole in my heart that had been slowly healing from the loss of my aunt has just been ripped open again. Time will heal it eventually. I have many good memories and no regrets. I'm looking forward to getting back to Spain and being with Jim on Tenaya. I believe now I can devote myself wholeheartedly to our sailing adventure without any other worries or concerns.
November 16, 2007 - Home
Where do you live? Where is your home? Easy questions for most people to answer. They have one. The place where they live, where their treasures, mementos and just stuff is kept. Where the bed feels just right. Where they feel, well, at home. That's why they look at me oddly while awaiting my answer. I wrinkle my face and begin babbling. Their confused expressions invariably turn to incomprehension and sometimes even pity. Seriously, they've got to be thinking, it's really not a difficult question. But it is.
My address is in Mammoth Lakes, California. That is where our house is, where my mail goes, where some of my best friends live and where I might like to live again someday. When I go to the US now I spend most of my time in the San Diego area. La Mesa to be precise. My mom lives nearby. We bought the condo there when she sold her house and moved into a retirement home. She sold my room ... the one I grew up in. I haven't gotten over that one yet. When Jim retired we bought a condo in income tax-free Nevada. Boulder City, near Las Vegas and Lake Mead, to be our US home. I spend most of the year living and traveling aboard Tenaya.
This week I am in Antwerp where we lived for 3 years. I know my way around and feel pretty comfortable going about my daily routine. The lady at the waffle stand recognizes me. So does the lady at Neuhaus chocolates. So does the pancake lady at the Sunday market. (All these sweet things, bad sign!) The man in the bread shop chatted like I'd just returned from a holiday. He taught me how to count in flemish. Some of the stylists recognized me when I went for a haircut. My knee doctor's receptionist remembered me, or my name anyway. Most of my american friends have gone back home and my only belgian friend moved to Ireland. I'm not sure if I can call the other belgians I know friends although I like them very much. I like the people here. To generalize, they are polite, reserved, helpful and friendly. I have some history here. I can get by pretty well with my poor flemish, though often resorting to "spreckt u engels, alsjeblieft?" At the moment we are staying in a hotel, so how can this be home? I'm just another tourist.
We've spent less than 20 days in our new US base in Boulder City. It's a comfortable condo close to Lake Mead where we've gone kayaking and hiking. It is sparsely furnished and has no TV or internet. We poach wifi. The garage holds our toys, keepsakes and treasures. My neighbors are strangers, I don't know anyone in town although the people are friendly and very welcoming to newcomers. The local issues and politics are a mystery to me. Nobody recognizes me. I'm just getting to know my way around there. It doesn't feel like home. I'm just another tourist.
When I go to Mammoth I stay with friends or in a hotel in Bishop, a lower elevation. I drive by my house and I'm not sure I remember the layout inside exactly, or the shape of the back deck. The luxury to pick my ski days is non-existent - I'm not there long enough to be choosy. It's been 7 years since I left and the town has changed a lot. It's becoming a full-fledged resort. The spirit has changed and many old friends and acquaintances have left town to be replaced by the type of people who can afford to buy there now. People have attitudes. Maybe I had one too. Some businesses are flourishing. Others are gone or have changed hands. Fancy new shops, restaurants and bars have opened. Complete blocks have been leveled and replaced with new buildings. It's the last place I lived in the US, where my business was, where our house still is, where I'm registered to vote, but it doesn't feel like home anymore. I am just another tourist.
I was born in La Mesa and lived in various parts of San Diego county until I was 26. Holidays and my job as a sales rep. brought be back several times each year but I was disengaged. I had met Jim, moved away, and had a new life. When we bought the condo in 2001 it was as an investment property that I could use while visiting my mom and aunt. In my heart Mammoth was home even though we had moved to Belgium. Parts of San Diego have grown like crazy since I left in 1986. La Mesa, an old area, remains very much the same. I go to the same mall my mom took me to as a kid. Each Easter Sunday, as long as my brother obliged or until my dad went to Vietnam, I'm not sure which, we'd hop in our big american car and drive to the mall after Mass. My dad would take pictures of us dressed up in our Easter clothes in front of the big Easter bunny statue. The bunny is long gone and the Broadway dept. store is now Macy's and Montgomery Ward is now a WalMart. But it's still Grossmont Shopping Center. My next door neighbor and I grew up on the same street. I still have some old friends there and have made some new ones. I have history there. But when I visit I go to the tourist places. The zoo, Point Loma lighthouse, Seaport Village, downtown. I am just another tourist.
Last year we stayed at Aquadelta marina in Holland. It was a pleasant place in a quiet location on the Grevelingenmeer, a beautiful lake. I met some really nice people and grew to feel comfortable there. Because we took possession of Tenaya there, Jim and I first lived aboard there, and I learned to sail there, I'll always have a special fondness for Bruinisse. Although she is Swedish, it feels like that is Tenaya's home. I was just another tourist.
I spend most of my time on Tenaya. The books I've just read and the books I plan to read next are there. The lockers are filled with my clothes, personal stuff and stuff for Tenaya. The galley contains my favorite spices, ingredients and cookware. There are a few silly things around that reflect my personality - a bouquet of fake tulips from Volendam poked into a hole in the table, a stuffed lizard as my pet, a Kipling monkey named Jim and brightly colored pillows in the main saloon. She is a moving home. I can explore a new town and come back to Tenaya, cuddle up under my orange fleece blanket and feel at home. We can be miles from land, in good weather or bad, and we are at home. Now we are in Almerimar for the winter. I'm taking spanish lessons, have joined the gym and am learning my way around. I am just another tourist. But I am at home on Tenaya.
November 15, 2007 - Clueless
Yesterday I received an e-mail from my brother that got me thinking. He has recently been appointed to the bench (a judge) after working in the District Attorney's office for over 20 years. He wrote that the toughest part is starting over. He'd gone from being the senior person with most of the answers to the new person who's mostly clueless and was feeling helpless, confused and disoriented, adding that he'll get there eventually.
Helpless, confused, disoriented and clueless? Welcome to my life! I've been feeling this way for so long that I simply accept the feelings. I'd forgotten the comfortable confidence I had living in Mammoth, running my own business and snowboarding with my friends in a town that was home. With a home. In my home country where language and customs are just a part of life and rarely considered. Life was easy. Then I moved to Europe. Then I moved onto a sailboat. Then we started cruising.
Language and cultural differences are the biggest hurdles. I've taken French and Dutch language lessons, and am now taking Spanish lessons, but still struggle. Sometimes I can grasp a news broadcast or an article but most of the time I cannot. Conversations go on around me where I have no idea what is being said. In a way this is nice - avoids unintended eavesdropping. I can imagine they are all intellectual conversations, not banal blathering.
Cultural differences are more subtle. Some people are soft-spoken, reserved, polite, and helpful. Others are very outgoing, friendly and quite colorful. Some seem wary of foreigners, some want to engage. I want to be sensitive to cultural ways so I observe. I try to behave and dress accordingly. But often times I just don't get it. I'm completely clueless.
I've come to accept moving through life in a perpetual state of cluelessness. I need to keep my eyes and ears open all the time. Always looking to learn. It is a constant challenge, sometimes exhausting. A joke in Mammoth is that after a few years of living there your brains are apt to turn to mush. The underlying idea is that with all the playing there is to do (skiing, snowboarding, cycling, hiking, climbing, fishing) there is little time left for cultural events and a personal quest for knowledge. Meaningful conversations are rare. So, although it was a comfortable, confident life, it was also a little stagnate. Now each day really does bring new opportunities. Being the tourist, the outsider, I can ask silly questions and engage the locals. It really is interesting and an opportunity .... to be clueless. But I hope I get there eventually.
November 2, 2007 - Bike Ride
It's cooling down a little here, mostly the nights. Days are still warm enough for shorts and tee shirts. Today Jim and I rode our bikes west along the boardwalk until it ended, then pushed them through the sand along the beach until we came to another boardwalk. When that ended we rode along the road. A short distance seems fairly significant on our fold-up bikes with wide-butt saddles! 2 hours is the maximum riding time for comfort with those things. Anyway, after riding for 1/2 an hour we came to a sign for a castle and what we guessed by a road sign were some sort of Roman ruins so decided to have a look. The nicely paved road that started towards our destination eventually passed it and appeared to keep going. I saw a small path going in the right direction so we pushed our bikes up the dirt path to another road and rode back towards the building. We found the fortress-like building on top of a hill but the sign in front says it is the Guardias Viejas and dates from the 19th century so that wasn't our Roman ruin. Had a look around anyway and climbed to the top for a spectacular view up and down the coast. It's a windy day and dozens of kite surfers and wind surfers were out in the nearby bay. What fun those guys looked like they were having! It doesn't seem that long ago (but I guess 10 years) that I would have figured out a way to try it, either meeting people or signing up for lessons. Now I feel I'm too old and not strong enough - quite pathetic aren't I? Back to the bikes, not wanting to ride or walk them down the steep path back to the road we arrived on, Jim suggested we try another direction. Acres and acres of plastic greenhouses covered the land between where we stood and our marina. I figured there must be roads through them so let's go explore. Jim wasn't having much of that as we would now be riding into the wind (fairly stiff). We found the shorter route back to where we'd seen the road sign and then followed the road signs back to Almerimar. We discovered parts of the resort we'd not seen before, missing it by walking and riding on the boardwalk. Less than a kilometer from Tenaya my pedal wobbled and I stopped immediately. This had happened before. Somehow the crank unwinds until my right pedal (always the right one) nearly falls off. I think it must be threaded backwards to allow this. We tried to screw it back in but it wasn't easy and we didn't want to strip the fine plastic threads so I ended up walking back. Jim was sweet and walked with me. Had the tables been turned I would probably have ridden back. That's the difference between us. He's nice. I'm impatient and maybe not so nice all the time. Back at the boat with tools at hand Jim was able to fix it as best as possible. He's great at fixing stuff. Good thing for our lifestyle!
October 7, 2007 - The Algarve, Morocco, San Diego and Almerimar
I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I've made an entry here. We had a quick trip through the Algarve, southern Portugal and the southern Atlantic part of Spain, to get to Rota in time to meet our friends that would be joining Jim to sail into the Mediterranean. I left Jim, Dan and Lori Lynn there and worked my way to Madrid to fly to San Diego to see my mom. I was able to fly to Madrid a couple of days early so Tenaya could be on her way as quickly as possible. Dan and Lori Lynn didn't have loads of time and Jim wanted to get into the Med., to Morocco and then to a marina near Malaga where our friends would depart and I would arrive. My flight to San Diego wasn't until Sept. 20 so I was able to spend 2 days exploring Madrid. The first day was devoted to the Prado museum. I hadn't realized it housed so many flemish primitives. I knew Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights was there (I love that painting, thanks Corinne for introducing me) and was thrilled to see so many others from that period. The weather was warm and perfect for walking around in the city. What beautiful architecture!
It was nice to be back in San Diego and to see my mom. I had a whirlwind trip visiting her and shopping for Tenaya. Jim arrived at a marina in Malaga but they would only let him stay on a day-to-day basis. He was worried he would have to leave for Almerimar, 100 miles away and where we wanted to winter, before I would return. He's fine sailing Tenaya by himself but it is easier with 2 people. There was a lot of debris in the water so better to have a look-out and share the duties. I was able to get a new flight back (American Airlines was very helpful) on Sept. 25 using FF miles. Business Class was available so that was perfect since it was going to take me quite a while to get to Malaga. I arrived the morning of the 27th. The red-eye from San Diego to Chicago left at 11:00 pm and arrived in Chicago at 4:45 am. Not bad because the Admiral's Club opened at 5:00 am and I was able to get a booth with a long bench seat, kick off my shoes, use my pack as a pillow, and sleep for several hours. Each time I woke up they had mini-muffins or fruit to nibble on. It made my 12 hour layover pretty comfortable. Earlier I thought I might go into town and visit the Art Institute but I was pretty tired and thought I'd better stay put. The Iberia flight to Madrid was great. What nice seats they have! They nearly fold out flat! I was able to sleep a bit, not normal for me on flights.
Jim met me at the airport and we took a cab back to Tenaya. How strange it was boarding her in a marina I hadn't been to before. I slept the day away and in the evening we took a walk around the resort town of Benalmadena. The following morning we left and headed east.
Now we've been in Almerimar over a week. We're all settled in, Tenaya had a good cleaning and we are getting to know the neighborhood. It's a resort community, not an established Spanish town or city, so I was concerned how we would like it. I think it will be fine as all things necessary for comfortable living are available. Nice showers, a laundromat and a fluff-n-fold, a well-stocked supermarket and very good produce market as well as many restaurants, a couple of chandleries and several rental car agencies. Quite a few people winter here so there are social opportunities as well. We are looking forward to exploring southern Spain this winter. We'd like to spend a month in Nov.-Dec. and a month in March-April in the US but otherwise stay and travel from here.
It's strange to be here in a permanent berth again, but nice in a way. After so many weeks of going somewhere I'm happy to be somewhere for a while. We can go sailing if we choose and not have to worry about someone taking our spot. I'm looking forward to daysailing. Sailing just for the fun of it with no other destination or time constraints.
September 11, 2007 - Rest in Lagos
Hanging out in Lagos for over a week has made me a bit stir-crazy. At last our electronic problems are fixed (although another problem found) and we are able to move on. We were having such a good time with newly found friends, Pam and Andy on Kandarik, yesterday that we didn't get up to the shop to pay our bill before closing time. Thus, another day in the marina. Worked out perfectly though as today has light winds and rain. It is nice to have the luxury of time.
That luxury is running out though as we still have three more days to sail to Rota to meet Dan and Lori on the 16th. I'd wanted to arrive a day early to organize, clean and prepare for my own trip. There is an anchorage en route that I'd really, really like to stop at and spend a couple of days so time is getting tight. Something we are now unaccustomed to.
We have been meeting people going both on the Blue Water Rally around the world and the ARC across the Atlantic to the Caribbean, and others heading west on their own. It stirs a desire inside me to go west to the Canaries instead of east into the Mediterranean. Our Bay of Biscay crossing gave me a glimpse of multiple days out of sight of land and I was just getting into a rhythm when land appeared again. We crossed in company with another couple so although we had the security knowing someone was nearby, I felt cheated that we weren't out there by ourselves. I really want to experience a longer time out of sight of land. Just be on the sea day in and day out. I don't really care where we go because I'm sure it will be an interesting adventure on land as well.
Back to the Med. since that is where we are headed.... I've been reading our cruising guides to Southern Spain as well as our Rough Guide, Culture Shock Spain, and a cycling book in preparation for winter there. I don't know if we'll have enough time to visit every place I'd like to see! So many things sound so interesting! I'd love to be able to ski in Spain's Sierra Nevada mountains after skiing and snowboarding so many years in California's Sierra Nevada. Sevilla, Granada, Madrid are mandatory, not to mention many of the small towns and villages in between. Time management is more important than I would have thought. Speaking of which, I'd best get my body moving over to the market to pick up some fresh bread, fruit and veggies for the next few days. No cookies! 1 kilo of large cooked shrimp is 7.99 euros so I might buy another kilo or two. Glad we have a freezer!
September 2, 2007 - Spain and Portugal
It seems like we flew down the Atlantic coast of Portugal. Because we stopped for over a week in a few different spots, and because we didn't even leave Holland until the end of June, we now have to hurry to get past Gibraltar, visit Morocco and get back to southern Spain in time to secure a nice winter berth. No marinas will take our reservation so we have to show up and hope there is room. We have a couple that we would prefer and will try those first before re-examining the options. I am flying back to San Diego to see my mom for the second half of September and that was going to slow us down further. Now it looks like some friends (Dan and Lori Lynn) will join him during that time. They can move further east, have a nice visit and a fun adventure all at the same time.
The Atlantic coast of Spain was absolutely gorgeous. I could have spent a year there exploring all the rias, towns and even venturing inland. There weren't many tourists and certainly no other Americans so it was really, really nice.
Portugal has been very nice as well. Of course Porto was touristy but that's to be expected. Same with Lisbon. Both were nice cities to explore. It was very easy to get around in Lisbon and get a feel of the city by riding the different themed cable cars. Although we only spent one day there we felt we saw a bit of it. Too bad we didn't have longer to spend in both cities as there are good museums, art galleries and many sights in each.
Portuguese is a language that is nearly impossible for me. Although it is a romance language like French, Spanish and Italian some letters are pronounced completely different. Ss and Xs are pronounced as sh or ch, Hs are silent and I haven't figured out the other rules. The only thing for certain is I can never guess how a word is spelled by hearing it spoken. I played a game with myself on the trains to Porto and Lisbon by guessing the spelling of a town before turning around to see how it was actually spelled. I didn't do very well. It passed the time though and taught me a little about the sounds. Mostly it taught me to be very polite with my greetings and to hope someone spoke english. I really like to be able to say a few words in the local language but this place is the most difficult I've been since Japan. Interestingly, both these languages have words that are close enough to confuse me for "thank you". Arigato and Obrigado(a). The people are very kind and seem to understand theirs is a difficult language for some of us. Their kind and helpful manner is much appreciated. Lots of times I ask the person I'm speaking with how to pronounce something and then I try. Sometimes successfully, other times not. The local person almost always warms up considerably.
The temperature is finally warm! We are in Lagos for several days while Jim will attempt to have our radar fixed. Yesterday we took the dinghy out to the grottos near the marina. They are magnificent! It was hot so I hopped out and into the ocean. The first time this year (except for a really quick dip north of the Arctic Circle). The water felt great. I didn't swim long as I was concerned about being able to get back into the dinghy. No problem although Jim said I reminded him of the seals coming ashore at the Cove in La Jolla. Guess my overweight body wasn't too graceful. Now that it's hot and I don't want to wear much I'm much more committed to losing weight. This year it has been so easy to eat lots of delicious cheese with bread and I picked up a bad habit of having a cookie box available when sailing that turned out to be available all the time. We also have almonds, peanuts, craisins and dried apricots stored on the counter. I have no will-power and am bummed about my sore knee so have been munching constantly for 2 months. Not good! Time for discipline!
August 13, 2007 - Scott and Amy on Board
It is much easier to sail with 4 people on board than just two. Scott and Amy (Jim's son and his longtime girlfriend) joined us in La Coruna and we've sailed into a few different spots so far, a couple of marinas and a couple of anchorages. We like anchorages much better with the privacy and self-sufficiency. I arranged watch and chores schedules so everyone shares in the work and fun. We have 2 hour watches with 2 people. The two on watch switch between helm and lookout. There are a lot of fishing balls to dodge! Scott and Amy are naturals at the helm and are both quite smart and quick to pick anything they are shown. Amy is a terrific cook which is an added bonus. It sure is nice to have some fresh ideas in the galley! On our passage yesterday from Camarinas to Portosin I was able to nap and read for nearly 4 hours without being needed at the helm. What a luxury! We are hand steering, not using the autopilot, so it takes a bit of concentration sometimes to keep on course with the current and swell. It is nice to have the help, and more importantly, the company of these two really nice people on board.
We've visited two rias so far and they are both beautiful. The towns are small and seem to be based on fishing. The land is hilly and filled with pine, oak and eucalyptus trees right down to the large protected bays. The hills, greenery and solitude are not at all what I pictured when I thought of Spain. My only other experiences have been in Barcelona, a city I am very fond of, but it is completely different. I am enjoying the slow pace and beautiful scenery here on the Spanish Atlantic coast. It's warm but not too hot and the water is still cool. I am beginning to give up hope of getting to water warm enough to swim comfortably this year. Oh well.... we are still having a great time.
August 3, 2007 - The Bay of Biscay
We made it! Jim and I crossed the Bay of Biscay and arrived in La Coruna the day before yesterday at daybreak. Each day brought different conditions, some comfortable, some not so comfortable and some exciting.
I had no idea what we would be hungry for and wanted to have some things prepared ahead of time in case I didn't want to spend much time in the galley. I knew from our Norway expedition that we wouldn't feel like eating heavy or spicy food. And I remembered something I'd read ... eat things that taste okay going down and coming back up again. So I made porridge and rice. A lot of rice. Too much rice. We ate all the soy pockets stuffed with rice but I still have some in the fridge. We ate all the porridge early and I made more on the day the weather was calm. With raisins and brown sugar, it was the perfect food. Jim had cooked up some bit sized chicken pieces in the wok that I had bagged into individual servings. I ate one with rice but Jim didn't have any until I fed it to him with peanut sauce and rice our first night in port.
I'd also learned from the Mahina trip to have a tupperware box filled with crackers, cookies and hard candies and to supply sliced apples and oranges daily. These were very convenient and kept our energy up. Drinking 2 packs of Emergen-C, taking Stugeron and drinking lots of water, tea and hot chocolate kept away seasickness. I did feel a little woosy on the windy day that Tenaya bucked and rolled when I'd go down below to use the head, but I think that was caused more by eating so many cookies without any proper food. I heated a can of beans and we both felt better. I haven't eaten a cookie since ....
I'm happy I have the Gill drop-seat bibs, allowing me to use the head without having to take off my harness and jacket. Trying to unzip the sidezip while holding up my long Musto (men's sized, too long) jacket while trying to keep my balance or hold onto to something was often frustrating during the worst of the bucking and rolling. I usually keep the head door open but I couldn't then as I would have been flung into the companionway ladder. The door was a good place to brace myself using my head with my left knee against the vanity, backs of legs at the toilet and right shoulder occasionally bouncing off the shower wall after a lateral stumble. I thought I had my sea legs but they were failing me that day. The galley is laid out well with a nook to wedge myself into at the sink and stove and again between the microwave and dry goods locker so I couldn't go too far there. Only the larger open area at the bottom of the companionway, between the chart table and galley, could I get quite a few steps and stumbles in before slamming into something. We both avoided that area as much as possible but had to cross it to get to the bunk. When it came time to sleep, once I'd taken off my foulies, crossed the danger area and crawled into the comfy bunk I was content to be tossed about knowing I could close my eyes and eventually sleep.
A several times at night both Jim and I slept in the cockpit instead of the bunk. That way we could hop up and help more quickly but still grab a few winks. More than once I'd wished for a lee cloth or just to be tied in as I was nearly tossed to the cockpit floor.
During the roughest time I remember thinking that maybe I wouldn't be excited about doing an ocean crossing if it meant that these conditions could last a lot longer. But then conditions improved and the dolphins visited. The sunrises and sunsets gave us beautiful shows and seeing the full moon and all the stars at night was magical. Now, two days after arrival, I am looking forward to our next passages knowing they will be to beautiful, relaxing rias where we can finally anchor. The tides in France were to great for us to feel confident in attempting it there as we need more experience in easier conditions. Anyway, I know there were uncomfortable and exciting times such as the night when the clouds completely covered the sky and obscured the full moon, we had 30 kts. of wind, 6-8 foot waves and swells coming from different directions, but I was never scared because I had confidence in Tenaya and in our ability to deal with what Mother Nature gave us. Thankfully she was kind and just gave us a little taste of her power. It was a good experience that went well. I still like sailing and this cruising lifestyle!
July 25, 2007 - Sailing with my Aches and Pains
it is raining today as a front passes over us. It is our fourth day in Brest so we've had some time to rest, clean Tenaya and see a bit of the city. Tomorrow I'll need to do laundry and prepare food for our Bay of Biscay crossing, but today I am curled up on the starboard settee reading. I went outside once - to take a shower and buy a baguette for breakfast. Jim has been busy plotting our course on one of the charts that arrived today (thanks to quick service from Imray) and putting in waypoints on both the chartplotter and his laptop. I have been happy sitting wrapped up in my fleece blanket (thanks to the Kipling crew) and reading Ice Bird, David Lewis' story of his Antarctic circumnavigation in 1972-74. Wow, what an adventure!
I realize that my minor discomforts once in a while are really meaningless. One of my fingernails is trying to fall off after slamming it in the garbage chute door of our condo in San Diego the night before flying back to Brussels and my left knee won't bend very far and hurts every time I climb or descend the companionway steps, walk more than 15 minutes or twist it accidentally. This was my good knee! I had a silly mishap that was probably funny for Jim to watch but he was gracious enough not to laugh. Our first day out, even before passing into the North Sea, I fell over the lower companionway hatch that we'd left in on purpose (something we'd seen on Mahina). I was talking on the mobile phone to the harbormaster at Roompot Marina so didn't properly brace myself in the chop as I stepped over and into the cockpit. My foot caught and I fell to the cockpit floor with the phone still to my ear. I finished my conversation crumpled on the floor. That was a month ago. It is still feels the same, making normal chores and positions associated with living on a sailboat a bit uncomfortable and sometimes impossible. I think I may have to visit the talented Dr. Lagae and knowledgeable Move to Cure practice again in Antwerp once Tenaya is in her winter berth.
Migraines have plagued me for years but for some reason are not much of a problem this year. I thought the stress of changing weather conditions, arriving at unfamiliar ports all the time, and not having a regular routine would wreak havoc with my head. Not so. I'm not sure why but I'm very, very pleased. I have a few theories: I am not focusing and worrying about so many pointless things and the things I am concerned with are dealt with and conquered. Also, I've stopped taking my prescription migraine medications and now just take two packets of Emergen-C each morning. It contains multi-vitamin supplements, including a high dose of vitamin C which inhibits the production of histamine. I started taking it for seasickness prevention on our Norway trip and found that I didn't have any headaches. For anyone that suffers from migraine this change is a really, really good thing.
So, all in all, this sailing life is a good thing for me. We have a sturdy sailboat, probably loaded up with more luxuries than necessary but they are appreciated, and I can travel with Jim aboard our home. I am a big "nester" so this the perfect way for me to travel.
July 12, 2007 - Roughest Day Yet
We're in Cherbourg now, a nice place to relax. I needed to relax after our exciting trip from St. Vaast. It was only 27 miles but the conditions were the most challenging I've had. Jim didn't feel well when we left St. Vaast at 0715 but didn't make a big deal about it. After my first hour at the helm (we usually switch each hour) he still didn't look great so I said I would keep steering and he let me. Fine with me, I was having fun trying to stay on course with the cross current. The motor was on as we were heading into the wind. Again. The waves built as the morning progressed and the ride got more exciting. Eventually we were bashing into the waves and it felt like we were flying off the backsides. A couple of times I turned a little too much to port and the waves got us on the beam. Those were really rolly! Boat speed was 5 kts. but with the current (from abeam) we were moving along at over 8 kts. I finally figured out I should slow the boat down. What a difference! Much softer on the backsides of the waves. We still got smacked when sets came since the waves were so close together but it wasn't so bad. At one point we noticed the port side light was knocked off. It hung from its wire from the pulpit until we got to Cherbourg. Jim was in no condition to go to the bow and I didn't really want to leave the helm. He got a good douse when we were hit on the beam from a wave from a different direction than the usual sets. That's the first time water has come into our center cockpit. Wow, that made my heart pitter patter pretty fast for a while.
It was such an exciting, wild ride. I was actually having a blast in the waves. Before our trip with Mahina Expeditions I would have been scared to death and have gotten a migraine from the stress. Now I know both the boat and I can handle these conditions and worse so I just went with it and did the best I could. The hardest part was going 5 hours without the cookie box. Another thing we learned from Mahina was to have water and snacks available. I'd left the box down below since it was so early when we left and I couldn't bother Jim to leave his comfy bed in the cockpit. We have Bottomsiders cushions and this year I added fluffy pillows from Pier 1 made from sunbrella that are really comfortable. He wasn't going anywhere. Well, except to the cockpit floor when we really bounced around. So, no snacks for 5 hours. Might be a record for me.
We learned something very important that day and made a pact. If either of us is not feeling well in the morning then we will not leave. We were lucky that day because it was a short one and I felt fine and nothing happened but if something would have happened that required both of us, or his expertise in the engine room, then our safety would have been compromised. It's so easy to just go since the plan has been made, especially if the timing of the weather, currents, springs tides, etc. gets worse each day you delay. But now we will wait until we both feel fine.
July 5, 2007 - Haircut in France
It has been 9 days since we began our journey to the Med. Nearly 200 nautical miles and 3 towns so far. The winds have not been favorable, being on the nose everyday. It has made it easier for us to spend extra time exploring Nieuwpoort, Dunkerque and Boulogne.
Yesterday I got to practice what little, rusty french I know. A few courses while we lived near Brussels, my school studies, and the book "French for Cruisers" enables me to get by at a fairly basic level. I wanted a haircut and found a modern looking shop with stylish pictures in the window. Good enough for me. I went in and asked "Parlez-vous anglais, sil vous plait?" "Non" was the young, very chic woman's response as she smiled. Okay, here was my chance to practice. With mostly words and a few hand signals and facial expressions we communicated quite well. I'm very happy with the cut. I like it short so it can't get in my eyes, no matter how much wind, and so it won't require any work to look presentable. Also, the shampoo rinses out of it quickly, a nice thing when you never know how long the marina shower will stay on. Maybe I learned a lesson here. I didn't talk to much and got exactly what I wanted. Maybe I usually talk too much ...? My friends can answer that one!
June 26, 2007 - Ready to Cruise
I've been shopping and packing for a week. Whew. Normally I shop several times a week for fresh ingredients so the idea of buying so many canned and dry goods was a bit daunting. A 2 week plan multiplied out helped me figure the quantities. In France we're planning to eat in restaurants as often as possible and to buy fresh ingredients whenever we can, but I want to be ready in case we need to eat on board. We finished the last of the shopping today. Now I'm ready to push off tomorrow. Jim has been ready, just waiting for some repairs.
I guess there is always something else to be done before leaving but we should get going or we will do projects forever and never leave the dock. I'd really like to give Tenaya's deck and hull another good cleaning, the winches still need to be greased, the list goes on. We'll just have to do these and other chores on our way. Time to go! I'm ready! We're leaving tomorrow - yippee! I'll update this as I can along our way to Spain. Ciao for now.
June 13, 2007 - Norway Trip
Wow, what a fantastic trip we had to Norway! Mahina Tiare is a beautiful sailboat and carried us comfortably (except for the extra rocking by those of us with little practice at the helm in waves) for 1300 miles. From the course I expected to gain confidence, acquire offshore experience and learn a bit about the workings of the boat. I was curious how my body and mind would handle multi-day passages. What I didn’t expect was how much I’d learn about the cruising lifestyle and about myself.
Both John and Amanda are terrific instructors and really nice people. Their intellect, skill, easy-going style, and humor made us all feel very welcome and kept the classes interesting. I especially liked when Amanda would pipe up with a story, invariably hilarious. I just bought her cookbook, The Essential Galley Companion, yesterday here in San Diego at Seabreeze. Her meals were delicious and have inspired me to help Jim out in the galley. The expedition far exceeded my expectations, which were pretty high. I learned so much while having a wonderful time. Well except for the first day at sea when I was so seasick I was worthless. Hot water never tasted so good! Luckily I got over it once we docked in Risor and it never hit me again. Emergen-C, compazine and stugeron, along with lots of water, worked for me.
The west coast of Norway is absolutely beautiful. The fjords, islands, snow capped mountains, waterfalls and granite outcroppings are magnificent. Oh, and the picturesque towns! So many places looked like alpine environments but were at sea level … and this was the ocean. Just amazing. We took way, way too many scenic photos!
I had a particularly good day when we were anchored in Holandsfjorden, our first fjord. Jim and I hiked up to the base of the glacier over polished granite. A beautiful lake extends beyond the glacier's tongue ending at the terminal moraine. How great it felt to be in such a beautiful place! Scrambling up the rocks was such fun. I got to a part that was a little too steep and Jim had to talk me down. He followed a trail I didn't know existed. This was the first time I can remember that he's been upset with me. I understand though, a fall could have ended my life. It was so much fun though! Scampering down the rocks, I'd forgotten how I used to love trail running when I lived in Mammoth. Surrounded by beautiful mountains, waterfalls, the glacier and lake, something awoke deep inside me. Something long forgotten.
Wonderful events kept unfolding over the course of the three-week trip. I liked being completely immersed in sailing. No computer, no iPod, no outside concerns. I didn’t even read a newspaper when my fellow students nearly devoured their Review Heralds. Nothing else mattered to me but the sailing experience. Well, I did enjoy showers when they were convenient. How much I’ve changed in the last year. How much I’ve learned in the last month. I’m ready, excited, and looking forward to our own journey to the Mediterranean when I return to Holland next week.
May 2007 - Ready for Mahina Course
We've been back at Jachthaven Bruinisse for over a month and everything seems so comfortable and familiar. That will change tomorrow when we start our journey to Ellos, Sweden to meet John and Amanda and the rest of the crew for our Mahina Expedition on Friday. Tomorrow we're treating ourselves to a cab ride to the train station a few towns and 2 bus rides away. We'll still need to transfer trains to get to Brussels and then take another one to the hotel right at the airport. Pretty much an all day thing ... I love the fact that it is all possible by public transportation though, not a choice in Southern California or Nevada, our winter haunts.
Anyway, I'm very excited for this expedition. We've done one day of ocean sailing and over a hundred in lakes and canals since taking delivery of Tenaya so it's about time to do something more exciting. I'd be nervous if just Jim and I went out ourselves although I'm pretty sure we'd do okay if the weather and waves we're too bad. The confidence we'll gain from the experiences and lessons in the next 3 weeks should improve our skills drastically. Of course this is more important to me than Jim whose never had much of a problem with confidence.
Pictures and stories of Norway's coast have enchanted me. The scenery is absolutely gorgeous - I can't wait to be in fjords and look up to see glaciers ... from a sailboat! I love hiking to North Palisade glacier on the east side of the Sierra but come on, this is pretty cool! And puffins too... I've been doing some research on birds and we should see quite a few I've not seen before. I hope I have room for my binoculars and bird book. They both weigh more than I'd like and we have a weight limitation as well as not being allowed to have wheels on our bags. Luckily we have some Eastpak duffels without wheels ... Though those bags were just for stowage! How soft I am now!
Speaking of being in shape, apparently it is imperative to get the most out of the trip. I hope I'll be okay. I'm not in the shape I was in while I was going to physio back in Antwerp. After knee surgery in Oct. 2004 I went to an awesome physical therapist there that not only got my knee to not feel a bit of pain, but I was able to run again, something I hadn't done in 8 years. Lieven at www.movetocure.com had my legs strong and my endurance better than when I was snowboarding all the time. Because of him and the doctor that did the surgery, I'll definitely go back to Antwerp if I screw up my other knee! Don't want to think any bad thoughts now though....
So, my bag is packed, after having been packed and unpacked a couple of times a day for a week. I remember not needing much stuff when I backpacked, climbed Rainier or went kayaking in British Columbia, but it's been a while and I had to fight the desire to take a pair of socks for every day and a few other unnecessary comforts that just become unnecessary stuff. Tenaya is clean and ready to be left for 3 weeks, my US helpers (Robin and Marianne) are ready for my absence, Jim has talked to his kids and I've emailed my brother so there is nothing left to do but leave in the morning. No computer. Maybe no phone service. 1300 miles of sailing with 4 other students and 2 incredibly knowledgeable people. Finally the chance to experience high winds and waves at sea. A new country to explore. I can't wait!!!
April 2007 - Back on Board
It's so nice to be back on Tenaya. We've been in Holland 2 weeks and we finally got to sail yesterday. I was anxious as I backed her out of her berth although there was no wind. How rusty I felt! I motored for about 2 hours upwind in the glassy water. It was nice to have the calm weather to get up to speed. After lunch the wind picked up to 6 kts. and we rolled out the sails. What bliss to turn off the engine and glide along with only a handful of other boats, mostly commercial fishing boats, on the water. The sun ducked behind the clouds frequently bringing a chill but still, for April, the weather was lovely. We sailed with the wind over our stern for about 10 miles and took the long way back into Aquadelta marina by going around the island. Here the wind was on our beam and had increased to 13 - 15 kts. She finally heeled! What fun! Jim brought her back into our box as I'd like a little less wind my first attempt of the season. It was the perfect first day of the season. Today is cloudless and the wind is stronger. I was going to do a couple of loads of laundry before the weekend people get here but I suppose it's not really necessary. I'd rather sail!
We had one last sailing day this month before the sails came off. Nice wind and not too cold. Tenaya comes out of the water Nov. 8 or thereabouts and then we'll fly to San Diego. I don't really want to leave her as I like the simple lifestyle of living on board. I look forward to seeing our friends and family though, and to do some skiing.
Tuesday morning, Oct. 3 at 0430 Jim, Peter and I left Zierikzee to sail to Amsterdam. We went through the Roompot lock and out into the North Sea. I wanted our instructor with us on our first trip out there. The wind wasn't high, Force 3-4 but it was rolly from a storm that ended only hours before. I barely slept the night before, only 1 1/2 hours. I guess from being nervous and excited. The sunrise was really cool among all the storm clouds. It only rained a little in the early morning and then cleared up. Peter showed us a few new things that were quite helpful. I liked being on the ocean although I got queasy about half way. We went 78 miles that first day and came in at IJmuiden. Jim learned how to surf but by then I was planted at the leeward quarter not really interested in moving so I didn't practice. I sure hope I don't get seasick every time I get in 1 meter waves. It was still fun and I was fine as soon as we got into the box. Dinner was great since I hadn't eaten a thing since breakfast, not my usual style. I've never been seasick before so I hope this was unusual because I hadn't slept and was so nervous. Now I know the ocean is fun and isn't a big deal if the weather is good.
The next day we motored down the North Sea Canal to Amsterdam where Peter took the train home and we stayed for a couple of days being tourists.
After leaving Amsterdam we sailed to Volendam where the marina is right in the center of activity. Tenaya had a prime location along the quay on the jetty separating the marina from the lake, and across the water from the buildings at the waterfront. It was a fishing town before the Zuiderzee was closed off and drained and now it's primarily tourism based.
We walked the 3 km. to Edam, another fishing village turned tourist spot to search out cheese. We found cheese but also a lovely town with fabulous step-gabled houses along canals.
A short ferry ride took us to Marken to see the traditional green and white fishermen's homes and how they used to build their houses in clusters on the high points to avoid flooding. The homes were very compact. It was once an island but was connected to the mainland by a dike with a road on it in 1957.
Next we sailed to Hoorn, birthplace of Willem Schouten who discovered Cape Horn and named it after his hometown. We stayed in a regular marina near the town center but some yachts were moored in the canal running through the center which was very picturesque. The town has a natural marina which is guarded by a terrific tower built in 1532. There are many historical landmarks and nice shops. It was a wealthy town in the 17th century mainly due to the Dutch East India Company which had a base here. The prosperity is still reflected.
After that we visited Enkhuizen, another base for the Dutch East India Company. This was a beautiful town as well with many, many lovely historic buildings and lots of small, white drawbridges. The highlight was a trip to the Zuiderzee Museum, a two-part attraction. Inside houses ship models. furniture, costumes, all things nautical and a representation of a Dutch East India Co. warehouse. Outside is a reconstructed old Dutch village on the shores of the Zuiderzee from authentic buildings saved from the old towns along the Zuiderzee. Fishing was the livelihood of the townspeople and with this exhibition we are able to see what life was like back then, before the Zuiderzee was dammed up in the 1930s.
From there we went to Den Oever. Never saw the town as it was too far away. On the way we hit 1000 nautical miles on Tenaya so we celebrated with champagne. While enjoying the bubbly and some cheese and crackers we had company. Two customs officers. Our first visit. They were very friendly, talked a while from the pontoon and waited until we asked them aboard. They sat and chatted, mixing in their questions skillfully. As we had nothing to hide I guess we came across fine because they didn't ask to see any papers or anything. Oh well, didn't get to show off our organizational skills. One warned us not to go to Texel, our next planned stop. He said the current at the beginning of the harbor could be tricky. He suggested sailing to Den Helder and taking the ferry across. Jim thought we'd do fine as he'd checked the tidal charts and times and figured we'd get in there with less than a knot of current running. Kind of made me nervous.
We headed out of the lock of the Ijsselmeer and into the Waddenzee and over to the island of Texel. The wind was light and water was very calm. Perfect for a new spot for me! It was a perfect sail and we made it into the harbor and marina just fine. We stayed 2 nights so we could explore the island. There are expansive sandy beaches and sand dunes on the north side with forested woods that are quite unique. We took the bus from one end of the island to the other. Because we got a late start we didn't get a chance to go out on a shrimp boat or see Eco Mare, a marine rehab. center, 2 things I would have liked to have done. Don't think there will be a next time. I'll have to get better at squeezing more into a day. We got lazy spending all summer in a marina. I like this life of moving from town to town much, much better. It's so much more interesting.
Now we are heading down the canals back to Bruinisse. It is a picturesque journey through villages and countryside. Haarlem is a real treasure. A fantastic museum, the Teyler Museum, was the highlight for us. It was the first museum in the Netherlands, built in the 17th century and it hasn't changed much. Under it's beautiful roof is housed exhibits of fossils, minerals, scientific inventions and artwork. They provided more than enough info in english to captivate us longer than allowed. Truly my favorite museum ever. I enjoyed the Frans Hals museum and learning about Corrie Ten Boom's work at her house.
Traveling through the canals was interesting. We went through small towns and the countryside. It was quite beautiful. The only problem with going this late in the season was that the bridges didn't open as often as in the summer so we were stuck on Sunday because a whole group didn't open at all and then sometimes some would close at the same time so we would miss the next one and have to spend the night tied up to a dock and wait until the morning opening. It was rather slow going and by the end we were over the canal experience.
The day after we returned from our trip Jim's friend, Defea, from Hong Kong now living in Switzerland, visited us for the weekend. We sailed on Saturday but it was a little chilly to go out again Sunday.
There were a few more nice sailing days for us in October. Hardly anyone is out this time of year and the conditions are delightful.
We came to Antwerp because I flew to San Diego for 2 weeks and Jim would rather stay here by himself than Bruinisse. Also, it's easier for me to get to the Brussels airport from here than there. It's tough sometimes without a car.
It was great to spend all my time this trip in San Diego. I was able to spend a lot of time with my mom. She has dementia and probable Alzheimer's Disease but is doing pretty well. She is in a facility that has kind, caring owners and staff that make her feel comfortable and safe. If she needs medical attention she gets it promptly.
When I got back to Antwerp we did some shopping and then sailed back to Bruinisse in one day. The normal lock was closed so we had to exit the docks via a lock the big ships use. I was a little intimidated but what could we do? Luckily it was a Sunday and the dock workers were off so there wasn't much going on. There was hardly any traffic and it was interesting motoring that direction and seeing more of the Antwerp docks. The lock went well and we tied up to what the lockmaster call "the small ship in front", a large barge to me. But it was in front of a much larger vessel. The man on the small ship was nice and smiled when I was excited to see he had a pretty white cat on board. His dog finally stopped barking at us. When we untied and motored off he smiled widely and waved. Either very friendly or glad to be rid of us. They younger guys on the tanker in the middle smiled and waved too. Maybe because I smile and wave at everyone. I wonder if they just think I'm a crazy american and humor me. Were are the only american flag we've seen since we've been here. Sometimes those guys in the barges on the rivers wave first when I'm looking at them. That's cool.
The second part of the month we took some more lessons. There were times when I couldn't stop the leach on the jib from flappering. We have books on sail trim but I do better with a real person. Anyway I wanted to sail with someone and find out how to trim the sails properly, if it was possible to have them look good when reefed, and what to do with the backstay. I wanted everything to work as best they can. I've read in cruising articles that some guys barely pay attention to their sails and I don't want Jim thinking like that! He's already okay with the main fluttering and I'm sure that was costing us some speed.
The lessons were great! Peter, the instructor stopped those sails from flappering. Now I understand. I also understand that a reefed roller furled sail just might flapper a little, especially on one tack. I'm happy to let Jim be helmsman all the time because I love trimming the sails and watching the speed.
One weekend we sailed in company with our favorite neighbors (the ones that give us the Review Heralds) to Zierikzee. We rafted up in the center of town where about a million other people were as well. Where did they all come from? I thought the season was winding down. We were #5 of 7 in our row. Of course the guy inside of Ari wanted to leave at 0845 so we were up with the chickens. Jim and I sleep late if we can, especially on Sundays. Oh well... We had a nice walk around the town and dinner Saturday night with them and their friends and Sunday we sailed to the other end of that lake and saw a dolphin on the way.
On the 29th Jim and I rented a car and drove to Cologne to pick up his brother who had been working at his companies' trade show booth. We drove back to Bruinisse and sailed on the Grevelingmeer the next day. We had perfect weather and nice wind with very few boats on the water so a lovely day. Jim and Greg owned sailboats together years ago so this brought back fond memories. On Sunday we sailed back to Zierikzee where we left Tenaya in a berth and drove to Amsterdam. Greg flew back to L. A. Monday morning a little envious of Jim's new lifestyle. Of course at times I'm a little envious of his lifestyle! He has my dream car but I'd happily take his 16 year old daughter's Prius.
It rained this entire month. I'm pretty sure it was 30 days and 30 nights. In the beginning it was a nice change to be cool sleeping at night but enough is enough. We don't have a car, only bikes and we get wet when we ride into town to get groceries. We have wet clothes and wet towels hanging in the head. If we get a break in the weather for a few hours they go out on the lifelines. I have to be on constant rain alert or all is for naught. Sometimes it's not a perfect life, this living on a sailboat.
In the middle of the month we sailed to Vlissingen to register with the Netherlands customs office. This was the first marina that hoisted the american flag while we stayed. In town I bought some clogs at a fisherman's supply store. Hard leather uppers and rubber soles. They are comfy and perfect to slip on to leave the boat. Also great for walking around in the rain. Now I see why the old dutch men wear them.
A couple that has their boat on the same pontoon have become some of my favorite people. Why? Besides being nice, they give us their Review Heralds and Time magazines after they read them. It doesn't matter that the newspapers might be a few days old. Without high speed internet, and having expensive dial-up, we only check email and anything else only if it is absolutely necessary. We really have no clue of what is going on in the world as this town only sells newspapers in dutch and german. We can get english newspapers if we take the bus to Zierikzee, about 1 1/2 hour RT if we ride our bikes to the bus stop, longer if we walk. So their gifts are prized and we both read every line of every article.
At the end of the month one of Jim's friends, the person that took over his position at Eastpak, joined us with his wife and 2 little girls. We didn't have much wind but that made it perfect for the older of the two, Chloe, aged 5, to be at the helm. She was a natural. What fun to have Gilles, Elodie and their two adorable girls on board for the afternoon.
On August 30 we left for Antwerp. Spent the night in Wemeldinge because there is a place there that has yummy spare ribs. The next day we went on to Antwerp. It took a long time to get into the lock for the marina in the city center. Commercial ships have priority over sport yachts. I'm the person designated to call locks, bridges, marinas, etc. and when Jim wanted me to call back when we weren't invited to join the second opening I was hesitant but I called and they let us in. Maybe they'd forgotten about us. There was barely room though.
The beginning of the month started out with Jim's son, Scott, and his girlfriend, Amy, visiting us. The weather has been beautiful so we sailed and swam every day. A couple of nights we spent at anchor which was really nice. Amy prepared some delicious snacks and lunches for us. They are both such nice people, it was great having them on board before they go on to the next chapters of their lives - Amy to graduate school and Scott to a new job as Senior Designer with an architectural firm in the Bay Area.
We sailed just about every day this month. The hot, sunny days had us out even when there wasn't much wind just to anchor and swim. We anchored out quite a few nights. I love swimming first thing in the morning and then having my shower at the stern. I like this life!
On the 25th we headed towards Antwerp, stopping at Wemeldinge. We stayed at Willemdok in the center of Antwerp. It was really fun to sail up the river and around the bend and see the tower of the cathedral from Tenaya. Then coming into Willemdok it was cool to see all the buildings I'd seen so often but from the water. I'd had physical therapy and worked out in the building on the corner for over a year so it was kind of strange seeing it everyday and not working out. It was great to have a "city fix" and to do some shopping in a town that I knew. Jim's assistant when he ran Kipling, Anouk, visited us and brought her darling daughter, Jillian. While we were there the hot weather broke and it started to rain. It was bad timing as we were walking to the Plantin-Moretus museum with another couple. After a nice dinner they drove back to Brussels, maybe a little soggy. We had a pleasant afternoon and evening but they are moving to Chile so we may not see them again unless we sail a very long way.
The first 2 weeks of the month we sailed just about every day, either by ourselves or with an instructor. Some days it's fun by ourselves but some days I get a little scared, especially coming back into the marina. Jim finally had to tell me to stop telling everyone that we are just learning. Of course they can figure it out themselves. People are very kind though.
We had our first guests on board, the Fletcher's from Antwerp. We'd had a minor mishap the previous day and I was still a bit shaken so we entertained them in our berth. They were gracious about it.
The next day our neighbor, Bob, from HR43 Little Giant offered to go out with us to mellow me out. We accepted and had a delightful sail with him and his wife. It worked. I'm okay now.
All these months of anticipation and here we are all moved in on the boat. We're in a marina in Bruinisse, the Netherlands, called Aqua Delta. There is a sailing school here where we have been taking lessons. I was scared to death to leave the "box" and motor around the marina without some professional instruction. Tenaya seems huge and I want to learn how to handle her in all conditions. It looks like maneuvering in the marina might be the toughest part of this whole sailing thing. I don't remember it being this intimidating during our lessons in San Diego but then it wasn't our boat, they have fingers between the boats and there wasn't much wind. We've had quite a bit of wind, I wonder if it is always like this.
The month started out with a going away party in Antwerp for 3 of us american friends that were leaving this month. It was nice getting together with our husbands as it was usually just the women, but it was sad all the same knowing it would be the last time we'd all be together. How we will miss that wonderful city and our lives as ex-pat wives!
I spent 10 days in the U. S. this month. My mom lives in San Diego and I visit her several times a year. Also drove to Boulder City, NV and to Mammoth to ski and visit friends for a few days and also met up with my brother. We were back in San Diego in time for Mother's Day.
Life on Tenaya musings, observations & stories