The following pages chronicle the journey of the sailing vessel Pelagic and her crew. We are a family of 5; Michael, Amy, Zander, Porter and Anakena, taking our 42' Hallberg Rassy as far as we can comfortably go in three years. We left Oregon in September 2014, participated in the 2014 Baja Haha, continued on through the Panama Canal, into the Caribbean, up the coast of the US to Maritime Canada and from there crossed the Atlantic. After an arrival in Ireland we toured Scotland, then sailed down to France, Portugal and on to Morocco. In January of 2016 we slowed down considerably and enrolled the kids in a local Spanish school in Sanlucar de Guadiana for a few months. In the spring of 2016 we crossed the Atlantic towards the Caribbean. We are now in the Pacific, officially on our way home, albeit via a very circuitous path. We are currently in French Polynesia and looking at weather windows to Hawaii before finally making landfall back in the Pacific Northwest.
Currently our exact location is not available. Our spot coverage will pick us back up in Hawaii towards the end of May, 2017.
Our favorite sailing quote:
"If anythings gonna happen, it's gonna happen out there boss!" Captain Ron
We said goodbye to my Aunt Jayne today after a week of fun in Belize. She also got to experience a less than comfortable ride up to Cozumel and a rocket haul out and return to the water.
Belize was fantastic; warm water, beautiful islands and great snorkeling. On top of that there were only a few miles between islands so it was a huge vacation for us. The sailing was fantastic with about 15 knots of constant trade wind. It was a really wonderful week in paradise.
Our trip up to the Yucatan was a little bumpy, but we had a massive current with us and I'm sure it was our fastest passage yet. We went over 200 miles in one 24 hour period which is racing for us. At one point we recorded a 4 knot current. So although it was uncomfortable, it was fast and we were in Cozumel a whole day early.
We had hoped to dive a little in Cozumel, but after Mike dove on the boat to check things out, he noticed a small crack in the rudder. That doesn't seem too bad at first, but boats sink because of the loss of a rudder, so we were immediately apprehensive. Serendipitously we were anchored about a quarter of a mile from a huge travel lift. Since it was a Sunday we had to wait until the next day to check out their schedule and availability. Monday morning Mike went in to talk to the yard manager and by 9 am we were lining up to go in the travel lift for a haul out. By noon we had three guys working on the rudder from a different yard. We were expecting to haul out in Maine and do a bottom paint and sand (something you have to do at least every other year to keep the growth off the bottom). For some reason the stars were all aligned for us and since we had already paid to pull the boat out it made sense to do it all here. Mike was able to find a crew of 8 painters to sand and paint the bottom, for a fraction of what it would cost in the states. By 5 pm the whole boat had been painted and by the next day noon we had a second coat on and the boat was ready to go back in the water. Nothing in the sailing world (not to mention in Mexico) is this convenient. We lucked out hugely! Now we have a safe rudder and sparkly bottom!
Next up a little jog around the Yucatan Peninsula. We will keep you posted.
Hi, We are back in Mexico! We are riding the Gulf Stream north from Belize and getting a 4 knot boost on a beam reach; we should be in Cozumel in about 2 hours and it is 22 miles away. The kids are looking forward to having Mexican food again as it has been sorely missed while we were in Central America. Of all the countries we have visited, Mexico has been everyone's cultural and culinary favorite.
Belize was fantastic. We entered the barrier reef at the far South near Guatemala and cruised the islands all the way to the North with only one stop on the mainland to drop off Amy's mom in Belize city. The navigation inside the reef was tricky as we often had only 1-2 feet of water under the keel. We caught a nice barracuda and had it for dinner along with some conch fritters. Porter collected the conch and also pulled in the 3' barracuda. Belize is free of ciguatera so the fish was safe to eat. Anchoring at night in the lee of islands provided calm sleeping conditions with the cool trade winds blowing in the hatches. The snorkeling and diving was a pleasure since the water visibility was easily 60' and the reef was healthy with numerous hard and soft corals. At one anchorage we had a 4.5' barracuda stay near the boat for 2 days. The kids named him Barry and every time we looked over the side, we would see him hovering around and under the boat. We went swimming with him and despite his sharp teeth and watchful eye, he was quite harmless. We fed him table scraps like a puppy and were sad to see him go when we sailed away.
We just left Roatan after 4 days of visiting the island. Mike still can't go in the water and in fact had to have his stitches removed and re-stitched, so it is back to square one for him. Per Doctors orders, he was to take it easy and keep his leg rested. He took the opportunity to get a sailmaker to repair our jib and do some other catching up with stateside business that only required some wifi. We also did 6 weeks worth of laundry. Laundry has been difficult on our trip. I choose to wash it myself whenever I can at a laundry mat or at a marina, but those options are few and far between. I think I have lamented before about the laundry issue, but this time we just didn't have any options for quite some time. Instead we did a few small boat washes, but boat clean is not real clean. In fact it makes me smile to see the kids appreciate what at home is just a normal occurrence; clean laundry in their dressers. As if laundry fairies come regularly. Now, when we get a fresh load of laundry done, they have their heads in the bags inhaling the sweet smells of detergent. They are starting to appreciate things they never used to. Since they have to do their own dishes, new sponge day has also become a highlight! While we were in Roatan they were having unseasonable high winds, so we were limited with where we could snorkel. We spent some time in French's Harbor at a Marine Park exploring the outer reef that protects the island. The highlight was a visit from a 5 foot barracuda that shadowed us for most of our dive. I think he was a resident, and although we had heard about him, it was still unnerving when he finally decided to show up. Barracuda have a very low cuddle factor and even a friendly fish looks menacing.
We are headed to Belize, where we will pick up my Mom and my Aunt Jayne and have them with us for a week, exploring mostly inside the reef. Should be good sailing with very little swell and great snorkeling.
Arrived into Isla de Guanaja in Honduras just before sunset. We had a fantastic sail, mostly downwind, flying with a wing and wing sail configuration. Comfortable enough to cook, and basically enjoy life. No fish lately, but when the weather is rough we rarely fish, so the lines have only recently gone back in the water. A few squalls dotted the horizon during our short 150 mile passage, but fortunately even with our whisker pole out, we didn't get caught with any real shifting winds. Mostly just a few rain clouds to cool us down and give the boat a much needed wash down.
Guanaja is interesting. The villagers claim that it is the last Caribbean Island to be developed. Hurricane Mitch devastated this island almost 15 years ago. When Michael was here last, the island was devoid of trees, the hillsides were barren down to earth. The trees have since grown back, but instead of all the natives, they have planted pine trees on the island. It is strange to see pines lining a white sand beach. The big island of Guanaja has few houses on it and zero roads. There are a few small settlements dotted in the bays, but most of the locals, not transplanted from Europe, Canada or the USA, live on a very small island several hundred yards from the big island. It is like a little Venice; there are several canals that separate the small island, but otherwise the entire island is covered by houses and other buildings. There is very little soil on the island left, it has all been cemented over. Back it the day it was a series of small, flat islands with boardwalks connecting all the houses. Some of the walkways remain, but most have been replaced with cement after several hurricanes have passed. It is a strange little island, and like San Andres, it was British territory, so all the older people speak English. It has only been recently that the mainland Hondurans have started living on the island.
We had a fairly uneventful stay on the island. We spent half a day touring the island and taking a dinghy ride, but since Mike can't yet get in the water we didn't do any snorkeling or exploring of the outer cays. Instead we spent a whole day hanging out near a German restaurant that had wifi, walking trails and a makeshift playground for the kids to play in. It also had hammocks on the expansive patio, a pool table and a hummingbird feeder that regularly had 10 or more birds feeding from it. It was a small oasis and we got caught up on some housekeeping items; ordering spare parts, loading pics to the blog, checking it with our renters, paying bills, etc. There were also several other boats in the anchorage, and it was fun to get some socializing in. Still no other kid boats, but the kids had fun with the many pets the German couple had.
We up anchored at about 4 am so we could make the short 30 mile passage and not lose a whole day sailing to Roatan.
We are currently anchored snuggly behind a reef, next to small island that is the only other thing in the sea for as far as we can see. We sailed two nights under a full moon to get here and it feels so good to be on solid ground. For our first 24 hours we were still beating to weather, but fortunately we had an almost two knot current with us, so although it was hard, it was fast and we were all comforted by the fact that we would get to our destination quickly. By now the kids have become immune to getting seasick and they find their favorite places to hang out. Into our second day we rounded a reef and were able to angle about 45 degrees more to the west and our beating to weather became a run off the stern quarter and that made all the difference in the world. It was smooth and dare I say, enjoyable. The first time I've said that since we've entered the Atlantic.
When the sailing is comfortable so many other things can be appreciated. Before the moon rises the stars are brilliant and looking for shooting stars has become one of Ana's favorite things to do when her brothers start to drift off to sleep. She stays awake with the person on watch and it becomes her special time. She chats up a storm and I think she really enjoys that quiet time when everyone else is asleep. She can recognize a few of the constellations and last night noticed that the southern cross was very low on the horizon. We are officially leaving the Southern skies when we can no longer see that iconic constellation.
We sailed through several squalls, something we didn't experience in the Pacific. The clear skies almost immediately become dark, the winds pick up and within a few minutes the skies open and all of a sudden we are racing through a small storm. But almost as soon as it starts it ends and things calm back down. We have had the most consistent winds here in the Caribbean, about 15 knots from the East for the last 9 days. It is so different from the West Coast with its light variable winds that change directions with the warming of the land and often the non existent winds that we experienced for most of our run down Mexico and Central America. Last night we had the first squall that actually sucked all the wind away. We were sailing with the normal winds, a squall hit us, we got drenched, we had 10 minutes of racing along at 8 or 9 knots, trying to reef our sails as quickly as possible, and then all of a sudden it was still. The wind completely dropped off and it was a very eerie calm. Even when there is nothing else out here, the ocean never fails to show us how dramatic it can be.
We spent the day exploring the isolated small island, only a couple of hundred meters long, swimming and snorkeling and we ended the night with a huge bonfire on the beach. There is not another boat for miles and miles, and the low lying island barely rises above the horizon. It feels like we are anchored on the edge of the earth with the waves breaking on the reef to protects us. On the other side of the reef are large rollers, but we are nestled only 100 meters away in relatively calm water.
Tomorrow we will make the 150 mile run to the more populated Bay Islands of Honduras. We look forward to some diving and lots of snorkeling. The water here in the Atlantic is amazingly clear and we are loving it!
We had a fantastic short stay in the Chagres River, but boy did we pay for that with our next crossing. There are times when I wonder why there aren't more people doing what we are doing, and then we have a hard day and I realize that most everyone is much smarter than us! The canal zone to San Andres, a Colombian island off the Nicaraguan coast, kicked our butts! I think we all agreed, by mutual decision, to sell the boat at the next port during that short trip. Never was it dangerous, I've mentioned, our boat loves sailing to weather, but it is so hard on the crew. For about 36 hours we lived at a 30 degree slant, which wouldn't have been too bad if we weren't pitching forward and back as well. No one read, no one watched a movie, we just hunkered down in the most comfortable place we could find and held on. But, hard passages are like childbirth, and it is amazing how a tropical island, like a cute little baby, can make you forget all the "discomfort" you so recently experienced. We arrived near the small Colombian island at about 2am. We had a nice moon, but we decided to anchor outside of the channel and wait until morning to enter the reef strewn harbor. We awoke to the most amazing shades of blue in water color. I could throw out a hundred adjectives and still not capture how the water looked; scintillating, brilliant, dazzling, shimmering, a cobalt blue in the deeper water, surrounded by a lighter emerald shade in the shallows. As beautiful as it looked, it was also somewhat ominous as we looked around and counted 4 or 5 wrecks in sight.
San Andres was our second choice, we were trying to reach Providencia, 40 miles to the Northeast. Unfortunately the wind kept coming from just that direction and we ended up in San Andres, described as the busier big sister to Providencia. The latter sounded so much more tranquil and our speed, but surprisingly, we really loved San Andres. It is a bustling little island community that has kept its charm, while welcoming thousands of tourists. San Andres is Colombia's version of Hawaii for us West Coasters (although definitely on a smaller scale). The hotels are small beach front hotels, the restaurants are all locally owned and the town seems to run normally despite the tourists. There were few souvenir shops, locals were friendly and the marina was something out of Captain Ron's Adventures. I wouldn't call it quaint, but it was practical and we enjoyed it. We rented the oldest golf cart on the island, grannies were passing us by on their mopeds, the parking brake was stripped so we carried several large rocks to brake the tires and there wasn't a functional horn, light or turn signal on the cart. That said, we had a blast. There were some off road cars that you could rent for 4 times what we paid and we joked that ours wasn't even an "on" road car, but we will have some incredible memories of touring the island in the Fred Flintstone mobile. We packed our snorkeling gear in and stopped everywhere that looked like good water. We stopped for a beer at a Rastafarian bar (yes, we looked whiter than usual, but it was such a relaxed atmosphere) on the side of the road and relaxed while the kids played in the shallow surf and sand. I asked Michael if he knew much about the whole Rastafarian culture (my knowledge doesn't go beyond dreadlocks and Bob Marley), and not surprisingly he knew the origins, along with the entire history. Without going into the details, there is a connection between Jamaica, the focal point for Rastafarianism in the new world, and these Colombian islands. San Andres is an old British possession, but the English brought slaves with them from Jamaica. Today descendants of the latter group comprise most of the inhabitants of San Andres. Most locals speak English, Creole and Spanish, although they no longer teach English in the schools and the smaller kids don't speak it at all. While I have not been to Jamaica, it definitely had a Jamaican vibe and I don?t think the kids knuckle bumped more people in their lives. There is something wonderful about visiting an area with a culture this is extremely relaxed and accepting. It may have something to do withe pervasive marajana smoked, but it was a fun, safe place to visit and we love it!
On the way out of the country and after we officially checked out, we anchored at a small island just out of the main channel. We had hoped to spend the night, spend Easter morning and all its festivities (someone forgot the plastic eggs and so we left anything round we could find on the boat for the bunny to hide; golf balls, ornaments, limes, etc), we were also going to explore a few wrecks and go diving before we headed out in the late evening for Honduras. The boys were begging to explore a tanker that had been stuck on a reef about a mile out and had been for about 10 years. They motored over and Mike climbed up the side to see how safe it was. As he was hurrying across the deck to tell the boys it didn't look too safe, he fell through the rusted out deck. Fortunately, only to his thigh, but he did get several nasty gashes. One on his shin was particularly deep, almost to the bone, and we brought him to the hospital. A dozen stitches later, a prescription for antibiotics and the deal of a century at $70, we left the emergency room committing to stay for another day or so to make sure his leg didn't get infected. Our first trip casualty, and we felt pretty fortunate to be close to a hospital, although I secretly wanted to dig out my skin stapling set or suture set. He looks to be healing well and we plan to set sail tonight towards Honduras, 200 nm away.
Successfully transitioned through the Panama Canal. Whew! The transit through the Panama Canal was a fairly uneventful affair, we are happy to report. We picked up three backpackers; a Canadian and a German couple, to help us line handle. Officially you need to have 4 line handlers and a captain to transit the Panama Canal. We lucked out as they were lovely company and we got stuck in Gatun Lake for the night so we were lucky we liked them so much. They were looking for a way to travel to Colon from Panama City and wanted a more authentic canal experience. The kids loved having cool 20 something's on board, one that traveled by skate board through foreign cities and the other two were musicians and traveled with their guitars playing along the way. I'm not sure if they expected to be babysitter's, but it sure was nice to have someone else entertain the kids for a change. Normally a sailboat is supposed to transit in one day, but our pilot was late and they let us tie up to a large commercial buoy in Gatun Lake, just outside the last set of locks on the Atlantic side. Everyone used the buoy as a swim platform and cooled off in the lake, with short swims since we had earlier seen a 7 foot crocodile. We also saw an introduced manatee, so that made us feel a little better about the crocodiles being predominately fish eaters. Surprisingly, Gatun Lake is really interesting because it is in the middle of virgin rain forest. The Canal relies so heavily on both the freshwater from the lake to fill their locks and also the lake to travel the 45 miles 81 feet above sea level across the continental divide that Panama preserves a great deal of the surrounding watershed. In turn the ecosystem is quite intact (if you dismiss the fact that it was artificially flooded 100 years ago). There is great birding and wildlife viewing right outside the perimeter of the canal zone.
Once we made it through the last locks we dropped our crew off in Colon. We didn't want to stay in Colon at all (it was a nasty place 14 years ago and we've heard it has only gotten worse), so instead we motored 5 miles north and entered the Chagres River. The River is only about 5 miles long before it is damned at Gatun Lock as it is used to help regulate the lake level for the canal. Since it is the dry season the top 6 inches or so is cold, freshwater and everything underneath is warmer, ocean water. Or at least so reported by Mike and the kids, I never did go swimming there. This was truly, probably the best anchorage we have ever had. We anchored in 40 feet of water, but with the tide changes the boat would brush up against the hanging ferns and other foliage so that we were really "in" the jungle. The river edge is like a U shape and it was steep with soft mud and we could practically step off the stern onto shore. We saw Howler Monkeys eating fruit in the trees overhanging the river. At sun set and sunrise they howl in a disturbingly loud for their size manner. We were so close to the edge of the jungle, we half expected to wake up to banana peels all over the boats, remnants of a monkey invasion. We also saw beautiful toucans, caricaris, king fishers and more parrots than we could identify. There were small sloughs for the kids to explore by dinghy and vines to climb on. It was like, well it was like a jungle out there!
The Chagres River is also where the Spaniards crossed the isthmus to the Pacific from the 1500's until the canal was built. They brought a great deal of gold out from that river and it was heavily fortified. The fort is still present above the headland and the kids had a great time running around and playing Pirate Drake and Pirate Morgan. (It is interesting that our history tells us that Sir Francis Drake was a mighty hero and explorer. To the Spanish and all of Latin America, he was a dreaded pirate that plundered the gold they rightfully stole from the Mayans). The perspective lens of history can certainly change the record.