Saturday, November 29, 2008

Go One, Go All!

Sunday November 30th, 2008
Gran Canaria, Canary Islands

The day of departure for our Atlantic crossing has finally come. We have filled every nook and cranny with food, topped up on fuel, finished the last load of laundry, repaired, replaced or rendered every project that needed to be done. The exception for that would be the new head sail. That project never came to fruition so we'll roll along with our newly 13 patched marvel, attach the storm sail and hope for a nice down wind run. Though there is visibly no wind around here at the moment, we may have to motor out a day before it fills in. Then according to our weather faxes it's filling in nicely out of the NNE. Just the way we like it. As the old sailing adage goes, "Sail south until the butter melts, then head west". This is supposed to be the best way to find the trade winds that are to take you off to the Caribbean. Again though, according to our weather faxes, it ain't quite filling in yet. The risk of waiting too long is that we might not make landfall before Christmas and we would like to avoid that. If we get stuck in the doldrums it could take a really long time. 2700 miles to go and we carry enough fuel to make it roughly 160 motoring hours, or about 7 days, so we certainly want to conserve that as much as we can.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends tomorrow. 2008 proved to be a record breaker as the weather officials had predicted. For the first time on record, six consecutive tropical cyclones (Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike) made landfall on the US mainland and a record three major hurricanes (Gustav, Ike and Paloma) struck Cuba. This is also the first Atlantic season to have a major hurricane (Category 3) form in five consecutive months (July: Bertha, August: Gustav, September: Ike, October: Omar, November: Paloma). Now that it's over on paper, let's just hope mother nature realizes this and doesn't throw in a late in the game hit like 2005 which delivered one after Christmas. We always pray for wind, but now we're going to be specific, not too much, not too little. Picky aren't we.

Go one, go all! So there are many ways to get across on ocean or around the world. You can single hand it like the competitors in the Vendee Globe Challenge. They solo sail their 60 ft. beauties easterly around the world. They departed from France in November, with their newest technologies and designs they are even trying to set records of making it around the world in 80 days! Then there is the mass exodus of the ARC or Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. A rally, as the name suggests, promotes strength in numbers. Numbers they certainly have, 240 of them. We wished them well and waved them off as they departed out of Gran Canaria last Sunday for their own Atlantic crossing. What a zoo that was. For many it is their first ocean crossing, for some, repeat offenders. We are sure we'll be seeing many of them once we have reached the other side.

For us, this crossing is the beginning of the end in some ways. Our last major puddle jump. We can hardly believe that 8 months ago we were working our way across the Indian Ocean and in 8 months time we are likely to be back at home. 4 years in the blink of an eye. It is a dream journey to be on. We will be sending out regular journal entries to this mail list and the blog site. You can also track our daily position from the tracking link on the front page of our web site. With all this time on our hands, hopefully we will catch up the web site and upload the last few countries at our next internet connection. Time will certainly be on our side, lets hope the wind and waves play along.

So that's it. Feel free to write us any time. We love to stay connected. We'll be thinking of you all while you chop down those Christmas trees and shop till you drop. See you on the other side!

Won't you join us and ... Sail on!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Out of the Med

Sunday October 19,2008
Atlantic Ocean
coordinates 34 40.863N,007 26.748E

All is well on Ohana Kai and we have finally broke free of the Mediterranean Sea and have crept/beat our way out the Straight of Gibraltar and into the Atlantic Ocean en route to the Canary Islands. It has been an amazing month since we last wrote to you. We covered two more countries, and most importantly had a spectacular visit with Lisa's parents.
The quick recap...
Departed Italy end of August with a two day stop over in Porto Pollo, Sardinia for some windsurfing and skim boarding.
3 overnights to reach Barcelona Spain, find the heaven of a marina in Port Forum. First week we spent preparing for our company. Lisa's parents were coming for a good long visit and the boat needed some loving before their arrival. The main sail, the dodger and biminy made their way to the sail repair shop for a pricey but much needed and well done overhaul. New zippers, new seams and patches all around. Lisa's parents, Nonnie and Nonno to the boys, have had the opportunity to visit Ohana Kai
in ports of Mexico, New Zealand and Thailand but this time they wanted to become a part of the crew and do some real sailing. So we broke them in right away. We had them doing sewing repair jobs on the dock, and hiking it with their backpacks on to the market and back for provisioning runs. Our smallest crew member Matthew did hit double digits and celebrated his 10th birthday the same week. So we took time out to see a bit of Barcelona, the aquarium and Gaudi's La Sagrada Familia. The Sagrada
Familia is a fascinating and wondrous cathedral dreamt up and designed by Gaudi. He has an amazing ability to incorporate nature as he sees it into every curve and point, copula and pillar he creates.

Our goal with our new crew members on board was to reach Gibraltar. In the Mediterranean you are truly at the mercy of the wind gods and you may or may not find the right weather windows to get where you want in time. They can get angry at a moments notice, sending fierce winds and stay angry as long as they feel like it. So when you see a weather window you take it an run. We took Nonnie and Nonno for their first day off the docks and gave them an exuberant sail with 20+ knot winds and square
seas and an overnight sail. We tucked them each into a corner of the boat and they did great. We made our way out to the Balaeras Islands to see what we could see. A quick stop at Menorca and Mallorca let us all stretch our legs, view some lovely piazzas, cave formations and taste some more pizza. With their sea legs a little stronger we decided to make the big push back toward the mainland. The winds were perfect so we blew right past Ibiza and in the middle of the night very unceremoniously
crossed back into the Western Hemisphere. Our new crew members braved a double overnighter this time and we sailed for Cartagena, arriving at the Yacht Port Marina, just in time for the Romano y Cartagenian festival. Tribes of men dressed in costume and walking the street performing mock battles, was great fun to see. We walked a beautiful esplanade, designed for foot traffic only, each evening. It was always graced with young and old and while you strolled sights, sounds and tastes filled your
every sense. We really began to get the hang of tapas bars, or snacky dinners as the boys call them. Small plates of tasty morsels you point and order, consume and converse with your companions.

The next four days were a succession of long day hops, motoring and sailing each night, stopping at an anchorage or marina in this order: Ensenada de Terreros, a rolly but protected from the wind anchorage;
Club de Mar in Almeria, a nice port side tie for us, showers, dinner and some internet;
Puerto de Motril, another port side tie to a very high sided concrete public quay, they unfortunately charge for the days you touch the quay not the 24 hour period and though we are actually there for less than 12 hours we have to pay for 2 days, no amenities to speak of, we're not happy;
Maribella Marina, we believe we have entered the smaller and less official of the two marina's available here, hopefully for a smaller price, they squeeze us in and we end up staying for two days and having the gin rummy marathon of the year while we wait for a storm to pass. Whew!

Though we are told we are traveling in the driest part of Spain we had seen only rain and grey skies for days. We made the final push for the Rock of Gibraltar in rain and thunder,lumpy and large square seas with lots of wind behind us. Our new crew was earning their stripes on this trip. We wove our way through massive container ships that anchor due east of the Rock as they await their turn to round the point and refuel. Rounding Europa Point, we are thankful to be out of the fray and made our
way to the Spanish Anchorage in the north of the bay. The border between Spain and Gibraltar is just next to a fully functioning and (noisy) official airport runway that you get to walk across any time you need to cross the border. The next day we found a place in Marina Bay Marina and planned our inland trip to see the Rock and Seville, Spain. We visited the macaque apes, the WWII tunnels and the St. Michaels Cathedral built into caves within the Rock of Gibraltar. In Seville, we had a marvelous
time and we saw everything; Andalucian Horses, flamingo dancers, every piazza, plaza and cathedral. We viewed the points where some of the greatest navigators in Magellan and Columbus likely departed for their journeys and meandered our own daily treks through cobble stone streets. Best of all we enjoyed every minute possible with our Nonnie and Nonno and we salute them for their over 650 nautical mile journey on the s/v Ohana Kai.

I hope to expand upon each of these parts of the trip on the blog soon. The web site is updated through Greece so enjoy. and our true position is updated daily on the tracker link. We were able to ride out the storm in Gibraltar fairly well. Only minor bumps and bruises for Bruce to repair. It was a force 11, which on the Beaufort Wind scale is one step below a hurricane. The worst storm Gibraltar has ever seen, depending on who you speak to. Many boats didn't fair so well and it's heart breaking
to only be able to sit by and watch destruction happen. I can only describe it like riding one of those mechanical bulls while tied to a concrete pier. No sleep that night but much to be thankful for. We enjoyed our time but we are ready to be done with the Med for the season. Looking forward to making landfall in the Canary Islands in just a few days.

Ghosts and things that go bump in the night.

October 31, 2008
Puerto Naos, Isla Lanzarote
coordinates 28 58.040N,013 32.178W

We had enjoyed our stay at Playa Francesca, Isla Graciosa. A tiny island with it's four old volcano cones, we had climbed and conquered one of them. The town provided us with some much needed produce and bread. The beach provided many opportunities for a sand forts and a bon fire. The weather was predicted to turn with winds out of the west making this location untenable so on we went. All 12 boats or so anchored here made the morning run to the next island of Lanzarote.

Puerto Naos, a fishing harbor afforded great protection and it was free. The guides we are using, we must keep in mind, are over 10 years old so we are never sure what we will find in the next location compared to what the text says. The channel marked into the harbor claims very shallow waters outside it's borders. We scoped it out, found what we though to be a suitable place to anchor amongst the smaller fishing vessels and prepared to wait out the winds. The Kelly's anchored a stone's throw
away decided to try to surprise us for Halloween, dressed as ghosts actually managed to climb aboard Ohana Kai without us even noticing. Great fun. We exchanged sugary goodies and chatted about the last 3 years. Specifically, we talked about how many times we had each run aground or hit something. The number is not important, you just don't want to be winning that contest with the highest number. As all good sailing stories go, we had jinxed ourselves. Not a half hour later, with everyone snug
in their boats, crunch, crunch, crunch. The tide was dropping much more than we had expected. We are back in the world of 2-3 meter tide changes. Luckily it sounds much worse than it is. The noise created when the keel grates the bottom will curl your toes and make your heart skip a beat but no damage done. We pulled up a bit of chain and gained a bit more depth. A few minutes later, across the radio waves, the Kelly's called out, "One more to the list", they bumped too. We continued to try
to anchor and reanchor over the next 4 days in this tight and crowded little space as the holding was crummy, and the space a minimum. Trying to not slide back onto unsuspecting neighbors with the increasing winds was the name of the game. We succeeded.

Much more fun was the discovery of an IKEA on this tiny little island. Who knew! We treated ourselves to some Swedish Meatballs and everyone got to pick out a treat to take home. Kelly girl got a new apron, Kelly boy, Tristan and Matthew each new pillows, Bruce got a jar of yummy Lingonberry sauce, Lisa a new cutting board and for Ohana Kai a sweet smelling new candle just in time for the holidays.
Then the big event! It's official, we have a teenager on board! Tristan turned 13 on November 2nd. As requested a small but fun pirate party was held in his honor, everyone in full dress with bandanas, parrots, hooks for hands. We ate popcorn cannon balls and of course watched Pirates of the Caribbean.

The winds were back in our favor so we made our way down to the next island of Fuerteventura.
coordinates 28 44.350N,013 51.830W
Tucked on the northern shore between Los Lobos, we were in search of surf. The unseasonable high winds and cool weather have been thwarting our adventures a bit. Bruce has been the only one, along with Kelly boy, to brave the waters with their thickest wet suits and catch a few waves. Apparently the rest of us hot house flowers are waiting more fair conditions. Until then we'll continue to explore the unique old volcanic landscapes and spanish style towns of the Canary Islands.

Lastly, we had the great fun of reuniting part of the Lawur crew with Ohana Kai. Our dear friend Robert was in London on business and managed to hop over to see us for a quick stay. It was just like old times and the wind even cooperated giving him a perfect 2 days of sailing. We miss our old cruising friends a ton.