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

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Bradford family 0 Barbary Apes 3

We've been enjoying our visit to Gibraltar.  Our first two days here have been spent on the upper rock checking out some of the 34 miles of tunnels that criss cross the Rock of Gibraltar, taking in the amazing views of the Straits with the Atlas Mountains in Africa in the distant haze and of course hanging out with the monkeys.  They are cheeky little guys.  We had a water bottle stolen out of a pocket on the backpack, another one jumped on top of Zander and unzipped his backpack to pull out a bag of crackers and a third pulled Ana's ponytail to keep her from assisting her brother.  She is no longer a fan, but hey, how many people can claim a monkey pulled their hair?  We are enjoying out time here while we figure out what is next.
Home in Gibraltar for the next couple of weeks

Still in the decision making process phase, but his may be home for the next 4-5 months if we stay

More of the river around Sanlucar de Guadiana

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two monkeys on a rail

Just monkeying around
sometimes they actually look like they like each other

moments after the monkey pulled her ponytail

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

November 16 weighing options

We are currently in Cadiz, Spain and trying to make plans for the next year. We have two options. One, we can sail back to Oregon via the Panama Canal and be home by July. The second option is to go back up the Guadiana River and stay over the winter. We spoke with the local school director on the Spanish side and they can admit the 3 kids for the school year. The school and village is quite small. Classes average 5-8 students and all instruction would be in Spanish. The kids are excited about it, we would be on a very calm river located between a Spanish and a Portuguese town and there is a small expat community of Dutch and English boats. The downsides are that it is a small community, remote area and it would delay our return home by another year. 
We are waiting to hear if the renters will want to stay another year (plans hinge on that decision), whether we can leave the dog another year (kids miss her, my aunt's family are probably quite tired of her), and deciding whether this is the best decision for the family.  Lots of pros and cons to weigh.  I don't want this to be one of those things we regret not doing our whole lives.  
What to do?

Sunday, November 15, 2015

November 14 Homeschooling afloat

I thought instead of doing the blow by blow of our daily adventures, I’d share some of the less glamorous aspects to this lifestyle.  The least glamorous, in my opinion, is Homeschooling.

How is the homeschooling going?

This continues to be our biggest source of stress and argument while cruising.  I continually make them (the boys in particular) do something they quite frankly don’t show a ton of interest in doing on their own.   We have changed the structure of schooling in several different ways in the hopes of maximizing their efforts while minimizing my frustration, and while we don’t have a perfect set up, the latest seems to work best for us.  Dare I say almost good? I write out a three day schedule out and they have 4 days to complete it.  And repeat. If they get it all done in 3 days, they get a 4th day mostly off (mostly because I’m often accused of finding “educational opportunities” on many off days).  Knowledge isn’t enough of an incentive, they need to be bribed with a free day.  Sometimes the free days get eaten up with a sea day, but it does lessen the pressure of schooling on the tougher sea days.  This schedule also allows the kids to have some structure which satisfies me, while also giving them some flexibility to plan their day.

Our curriculum is pieced together from several different sources: 
MATH - We use Saxon Math for math and complete 1-3 lessons at a time, depending on how much is new and how much is review.  The Math is self regulating and we probably do the best in that subject because there isn’t any room to fudge.  If they understand the concepts, we can move on quickly.  If they struggle with a concept, we work on that concept ad nauseam.  I’m good at math, so math is a subject I enjoy teaching.  

HISTORY - We have some fantastic history textbooks and we read those together and discuss.  We started with a broad focus on the history of the world and now we are studying US history, which is super fun for me, because I’m learning a lot!  This is usually an enjoyable teaching/learning experience and I’m generally happy with what they are retaining. 

LANGUAGE - Spanish is via a few apps and what they are absorbing in Spanish speaking countries.  It is fairly rudimentary at this point.  

SCIENCE - Science is more reading and discussing as a group.  We have a few citizen science projects started, so that helps with the big picture.  Zander is also doing a multi year science project where he is studying how fast tin and aluminum cans will oxidize in salt water.  We are trying to decide which is the lesser of the two evils; tossing cans overboard (legal until 2013 when offshore), or letting them sit in a landfill.  I’ve mentioned before, we have participated in some cool projects; counting sea turtles in Mexico, collecting water samples across the Atlantic and we hope to do plastic trawls when we re-cross the Atlantic for another organization.

WRITING - Writing is the most frustrating subject for me to teach.  For one, Zander is dyslexic, so he does not enjoy it at all and is not fantastic at it.  Nor am I, so that makes it more challenging.  Z’s spelling is quite abysmal and the reality is, that may never change.  I’ve read articles that say spelling tests don’t help poor spellers, they just reinforce that good spellers are good.  That doesn’t help us much, so we avoid spelling tests.  I try to go through his writing assignments and find the words he misspells repeatedly and at least work on those.  We are working on ways for him to find his own mistakes.  Dictionaries don’t really help dyslexics when they don’t even know where to start.  Counterintuitively, dyslexia is not so much a reading disorder, but an auditory processing disorder, but it manifests itself in reading and writing.  Sounds and letters are arbitrary and they just don’t make sense to the brain of a dyslexic.  That said, you can’t get through life without being a decent writer, so we focus on ways he can help himself and we keep it simple.  He’s a wicked smart kid, it sucks that he can’t always convey that on paper.  Porter on the other hand, as you can imagine, is quite creative in his writing and doesn't mind the assignments.

LIFE LEARNING - The world is our classroom approach.  Geography, world studies, religion, learning about different cultures and many other subjects are all the things we hope the kids are getting out here via osmosis.  For example they practice their flag identification when we enter a new marina and guess boat origins, we try to identify stars on night watches, we practice fish ID when we are snorkeling or fishing and we learn about different cultures simply by observing them and talking to locals.  The kids hang out with kids from different countries and get a wider understanding of the world at large (or maybe they are just discussing if the Ferrari or Porsche has the faster 0-60 speed, it's probably not all literary critiques of western authors like I imagine their conversations to be.  In fact, Porters big discovery about Scottish kids was "they sure drop the f bomb a lot.  Fantastic!).  Our hope is the worldly gains they make will far outweigh some of the setbacks they may experience in the traditional classroom when they return to that setting.  

Where did they start and where are they now?

I mentioned Zander is dyslexic and the writing is what suffers.  Fortunately, on this trip, he has really started to read for pleasure and we can only hope the more he reads the better his writing/spelling will be.  He reads 2-3 hours a day, so that has to benefit him at some point.  He was not doing that, nor do I think he would be doing that if we were at home. Zander is fantastic in math and I think we have continued to keep his forward momentum, so I’m happy with his progress.  History and Science also come pretty easy for Z as long as he doesn’t have to write about them.  His discussions are awesome and he retains more than I do about historical events.  

Since we had one dyslexic child, we were pretty worried about Porter as early as preschool.  When he didn’t show any signs of having the same disorder we were so thrilled and turns out, we may have let his studies slide a little.  I always worked in Z’s classroom because I thought he needed the help.  I helped with a lot of parties in Porter’s classroom, but didn’t really help with the academics.  When we left for our trip, Porter’s grades were average, but when I actually sat down with him and spent time on his skills, I was appalled at how poor his math skills were and how many fundamentals he was missing in the subject.  I totally take the blame.   We spent the first 6 months of our trip retracing some serious math steps, but I can happily say he is doing great now and we’ve taken some standardized tests to confirm this.  

Oh yeah, and I have a third child to teach don’t I?  Fortunately Ana also shows no signs of being dyslexic (it is hereditary, so we worried for a long time).  She is very good at math and the reading seems to be on level.  We have workbooks for her and she reads a little every day and since she is only missing kindergarten, I think she will survive without traditional school and under the Mommy influence.  She is at the point where school work is still fun, so I try to enjoy that, one of the few educational moments of Zen!

Will I continue to homeschool when we return?

Hell no!  OK, I do feel guilty admitting this, but I’m pretty sure future homeschooling is not in the cards for our family.  It is a fantastic schedule and I’m convinced you can fully keep up with traditional school in about 1/3 of the time it takes to actually attend traditional school.  Imagine the extra time for extracurricular activities, play time and/or down time?  Unfortunately I’m not sure my blood pressure would survive much more of this!  Homeschooling exhuasts me most of the time.  Some days it is so rewarding, but there are some pretty frustrating days as well and I'm not very good at balancing the two.  Maybe with one child I could do it, but juggling three is hard for me.  I’m pretty sure I made a good call not studying to be a teacher in college.  I don’t have that gene.  Some days my mantra is simply “I will not kill my kids today”.  I probably won’t have to dust off space on my shelf for my “teacher of the year” award.  That said, there are indeed, actual moments of Zen.  We get in long discussions about world affairs, historical events, scientific principals.......unfortunately most of those moments do not translate into lengthy written compositions, but learning is definitely going on.   If my kids end up living in a van down by the river, I’ll beat myself up.  If most of their future academic endeavors are a success, I’ll try to take a little credit for that as well.  

steering up the Guadiana River

Thursday, November 12, 2015

November 11

game night in the cockpit

buggy ride around Seville

watching Madrid get spanked

Cathedral in Seville

November 10 Seville and the Guadiana River

We motor sailed the 180 miles from Lisbon to the Guadiana River, forming the border between Portugal and Spain, with flat seas. Although we didn't have the best sailing conditions most of the time, we did have a fantastic night sail. A November meteorite shower lit the cloudless sky up, making the night watch very pleasant. On our previous cruise (14 years ago) Mike and I did a two hour on, two off, watch schedule. It was a brutal getting up several times a night to go on watch, but without the modern stimuli we have now, two hours was about as much as we could handle. Now we do 4 hour watches and with pod casts, music, electronic reading and the occasional movie on a calm night, the night watches are much easier this time around. Now one of us stays up until about 11pm, a pretty easy shift, we each get one tough middle of the night watch; 11pm - 3am or 3am to 7am, and then the last watch includes a lovely sunrise and a couple of daylight hours before everyone else gets up, while the person off watch can sleep as long as they need to, to catch up (or at least until the kids wake them up). It seems to work well for us. The kids seem to need more sleep at sea, so that is helpful having them sleep in. What makes up a watch you may ask? It is pretty easy. We have either an autopilot of a self steering wind vane, so we don't usually need to steer with the wheel. Most importantly we keep a look out for other traffic, monitor the radar if is foggy, watch for wind shifts and tweak sails if needed. The toughest part is keeping awake and warm. Anyway, we are happy to be back in the land of clear night watches. Having the stars for company and not having to stare at the radar makes for a much more enjoyable night watch.

We anchored about 20 river miles up the Guadiana River, half way between the two countries. We hiked up to an old castle on the Spanish side and then had ice cream over in Portugal. There is a Portuguese village on one side of the river and a Spanish town on the other. You can literally throw a rock between the two, but there is a time change and language that divides the two from each other. The second night we were in the river there was a festival on the Portuguese side that included American music, roasted chestnuts and homemade wine. It was pretty fun and most importantly we have found our first kid boat in months. Ana is in heaven with a 5 and 6 year old girl to play with. Interestingly enough we have not seen another American boat since we left Canada. We are very much enjoying the aridness of this area and it is a refreshing change from up north. The skies are clear, the air is dry, and it smells of wild rosemary and Eucalyptus.

We left the boat for one night in Ayamonte, near the mouth of the Guadiana River, to take an overnight trip to Seville. The highlight of which was probably Mike and Zander watching Seville beat Real Madrid in a 3-2 victory. We all wanted to go, but since Cristiano Ronaldo, arguably the best soccer player in the world, plays for Madrid, you almost need to take a personal loan out to watch Madrid play. Zander pooled his birthday money and Mike and I drew straws to see who would be the lucky one to take him. Considering riots can break out at these events and fans are diehard, they cheered very quietly and discretely for Madrid. No bleachers were set on fire, no fans trampled, it was a very civilized soccer game and Mike said the security was pretty efficient at keeping a buffer zone between the rivaling spectator sections. Oh yeah, and there is some culture to be seen in Madrid as well. Although, the kids are getting a little tired of culture. Another amazing cathedral, another palace another tomb. This time it was the largest church in the world; Santa Maria de la Sede, which houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. There are some doubts as to the authenticity of the claim of holding the remains of the great explorer ("great" depending on your perspective)and there are two other churches in the world that make a similar claim. Mike continues to attempts to light the fire of interest in art and architecture of the middle ages in the boys, but I'm not sure how much sinks in. They are more interested in the sword shops, the military museums and the battle sites. My personal favorite was seeing every street in Seville lined with orange trees. This Alaska girl will never tire of fruit trees!

Thursday, November 5, 2015

November 5

We will be leaving the Lisbon area this afternoon and if the weather cooperates our next port will be a Spanish port.  Portugal looks so small on a map, but when you have to dash between weather windows, it can take quite a while to get around.  We are still about 180 miles from the border.

Another Birthday at sea

Is it sad that one of the highlights of my day was seeing all my Facebook birthday wishes?  I sure miss my friends about now!  One of the things we have always loved about cruising before, was meeting all the wonderful cruising boats.  There is an instant camaraderie with most other cruisers and we love meeting up with them and seeing them again in a future port.  Unfortunately, we haven’t seen many other cruisers since we’ve left the Caribbean.  We’ve met some fantastic locals in Canada, and cruising the UK, but its not the same.  For the last week or so we have been buddy boating with a Dutch and Norwegian boat and just that little bit of socializing is a nice reminder of what it will be like as we get further south.  And, it isn’t all about cocktails in the cockpit!  We call each other on the radio during passages, check on each others status on the AIS, compare notes on gear and weather. We share cabs, spare parts and information and of course enjoy time in port. Buddy boating offers a little security and in general it is a refreshing change from the feeling of being all alone out here.  Anyway, it has been awhile since we’ve had that.  It has been even longer since we’ve seen a cruising boat with kids, Cuba in fact, so we are very much looking forward to catching up with some of the fleet....maybe in Morocco or the Canaries.  We did have a fantastic month of July in Maine, socializing with many of the fantastic Birch Island families and individuals.  In 15 years of marriage, buying the cottage on Birch Island is the only thing I truly give Mike credit for doing without my approval!  He took a chance, bought a run down cottage on an island off the coast of Maine, against all my better judgement, and we then proceeded to meet some of the most incredible people on the planet.  The house is looking better, but more important than that, the friendships we have made are priceless and we really treasure our friends there.  Since we have rented the cottage to a lovely family for three years, it was a great treat to anchor off the coast this past July and still see friends there.  
OK, where was I going with all this? Fast forward to November and I really miss family and friends!  We’ve seen so many wonderful places and had so many wonderful experiences......but it is a treat to get an email or to see a familiar face on FB and feel some connection back to our old lives.