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

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

January 27, Slowing down a little in Spain

Things are falling into place; we are meeting locals and other yachties and trying to immerse ourselves in the local culture.  The kids continue to do well in school and are making friends.  The school has about 35 kids attending; 8 are from boats that are here for less than a year (like us), there are also another 4 international students that are permanent residents in town.  Our family makes up almost 10% of the student body. I worry that our attendance is disruptive, but we think they like getting boat kids in the school because they get funding for more students. The population is so small that the school is perpetually in danger of closing due to lack of students, so although I'm sure we upset the class room dynamics a little, they do like having us here (or at least our numbers).  At least that is the gist we are getting.  The school is so small that both Zander and Porter have been tutored by the Mayor on occasion, yeah it is a small town!

Mike - roasting his own coffee on the river
We’ve also met some really lovely English families, some have made their homes here in Sanlucar and some are just passing through, as we are.  Our biggest battle is trying to meet the locals because it is easy to gravitate towards the English speakers.  

We are making the most of our short time here especially the part about having all our kids in school for the first time ever.  Is that wrong to say the days are blissful?  Mike is starting a yoga class this week and I take Spanish lessons in the evening.  Other than the random tea we are invited to, that is the only schedule we have to adhere to.  The rest of our time is spent hiking, writing, working on the boat and cleaning (Pelagic has never been so clean). Life is good! We can anchor out in the river easy enough, but we are finding with so many after school activities, we like being tied up to the dock (which at $7 Euros a night is crazy easy on the budget).  The kids can come and go as they please and they love the liberty.  With our helicopter parenting tendencies back home, we never allow our kids the kind of freedom they are experiencing here, and they are loving it! 

As you can imagine, our activity level has decreased substantially and our blog entries for the next few months may well decrease as well.  A few of our friends have asked us questions over the months about random cruising issues, maybe we can finally take the time to write about them;  gear specifics, how we chose our routes and how can we afford this.  Let me know if there is anything else you may be curious about......I have the time.

If you take a break from checking on us, please check back in again in a few months when we expect to venture out of the river and get back into exploration mode. In April we hope to head south towards Morocco, the Canaries and eventually across the Atlantic.  In the mean time we will be researching routes across the pond.  We’d love to hear travel stories about French Guiana or Surinam and that area.  We are considering a route through the Cape Verde Islands and on to South America.  Yup, we are making it all up as we go along.  

fresh roasted coffee makes a happy sailor

Porter is on a writing kick.....

This may be a repeat, but I believe this is a pic from our Bay of Biscay crossing.  Porter is actually standing up straight,
Another good week here in Spain.  So, where should I start....  One of my friends from home asked why the Spanish don’t have lunch at school.  Well, to tell you the truth I really don’t know for sure, I know that they have a little snack at school and then when they get home they have a really big lunch and siesta (afternoon rest) and later a small dinner. I can’t live like that so I have a big lunch and a huge dinner. I also had one of my friend’s askewhat the kids in Spain are like. Not too different, but at school they really work on their penmanship because they use boleys that is Spanish for pen and they can’t mess up. I mean they spend a really long time on their writing and their papers, even their drafts look like works of art.  Everyone plays soccer, they call it futbol, and they are really good.  They also play on pavement so they can’t dive. They also have to take English and French in 5th grade.  The school is very small and I have 3 grades in my class, but I still only have 10 kids in my class. I have a crush on one of them her names Nayara and you probably cant pronounce it, well try this Ny-ar-a.

Here is a little Spanish lesson for you:

uno,dos,tres,cuatro,cinco,seis,siete,ocho,nueve and diez 
that’s one.two,three,four,five,six,seven,eight and ten
spoon is cuchara, knife is cuchilla, fork is tenedor, plate is plato, table is mesa, kitchen is cocina, bed is cama, night table is mesita de noche, and pencil is lapiz.

Well, that is just about enough Spanish for today.

 adios amigos, Porter

Monday, January 18, 2016

Mom, can I borrow the car?

Fast forward three years and I know what my life will be like.  The kids have all been in school the last week and now the boys take the dinghy in the evening to meet up with kids in the school yard to shoot hoops or play soccer.  We have to work our schedule around their schedule now.....which I guess we will need to get used to.  School has been met with differing views, but none terrible so I’m grateful for that.  On the first day of school we agreed to pick Ana up early and when we did she wanted to stay the full day, one down.  Porter is in a class of mostly girls, so he is happy and he seems to be making friends and figuring things out.  After the first day he went into the village to buy a few school supplies and he asked a local “donde esta office depot”?  Eventually he found what he was looking for, and he doesn’t mind putting himself out there.  Z had a little tougher time, but he’s hanging in there.  He seems to do all right on the court, but the classroom is definitely a challenge. 

There are some fundamental differences in the school day that the kids are having to get used to.  No lunch for one, instead they have a small mediana snack that they eat while they are running around on the playground.  Ana is convinced she is only allowed one item, so she stashes snacks in her brothers’ packs and finds them at recess to take back her loot.  The Spanish teachers also don’t mind singling the kids out and forcing them to the front of the class to either sink or swim with a task.  There is no hand holding on in Spain! It has been a rough initiation, but I think they will survive. 

The river is cold and foggy at night, but the days have been brilliant and quite warm.  Mike and I have worked on a few small projects on the boat and mostly just got the lay of the land.  The village is too small to have many specialty shops, so instead a fruit truck comes in once a week, a fish truck and butcher also make the weekly rounds.  There are also the random houses that will sell vegetables or fruit from their home, or maybe someone that sells eggs.  It takes a while to figure it all, but it has been fun.  With a boat we have full run of both sides of the river, so if something can’t be found in Spain, it is often found in Portugal.  It’s interesting, the locals don’t go back and fourth often (if at all) and the two cultures don’t mesh much, but the sailboats bounce back and forth.

Blog by Porter

The following is written by the kid that threatened to mutiny two weeks ago and stay on the docks in Gibraltar:

hanging around on a friend's boat

It was an amazing week I tell you, I loved it! I can’t believe I said I didn't want to go to school in the river.
I just got to experience the most wonderful week of my life. Who thought going to school would be, actually, fun? I made a lot of new friends and I am getting a lot of Spanish out of it.
There are three grades in my class Third, Fourth, and Fifth and I am in fifth [obviously] along with three other ten year old girls. There are five boys and five girls total in the classroom, but all of the kids in my grade are girls, which I DON’T have a problem with.  I just wish I had a ten year old boy I could talk to, not like I would talk in class, but still. As for recess it is called mediana in Spanish, all the grades go out at the same time and eat a tiny snack, but I think going all day with just a snack is a little tight so I just bring a big snack. They were surprised when I knew advanced multiplication which I thought was a little weird but that happens. So at school it is good, and at 4:30 all the kids go up to school to play football FYI football is soccer and that is the main sport here. But that is just a usual day for Porter on the boat.

                 If you want to hear more just tell me and I will write more bbbbbbbbyyyyyyyyyyeeeeeeeee.

Monday, January 11, 2016

January 7, heading up river

Leaving Gib

Home for a few months back on the Guadiana


We just took the plunge and officially enrolled our kids in school at the local Sanlucar de Guadiana primary school. Sanlucar is located about 20 miles up the Guadiana River, creating the border between Spain and Portugal. Whew, I think I am more nervous than the kids are to start. Ana will be in the kindergarten class and along with 8 other Spanish kids there are two other English boat kids. I expect her to fare well in school with her rudimentary grasp of the language thanks to her Spanish immersion preschool at home. Porter can make friends with a tin can and I'm sure he will be chatty in any language thrown at him, so I have high hopes for him as well. Poor Zander, his is the one we worry about! I've mentioned Zander is dyslexic, which is an auditory processing disorder and we've already determined a second language is difficult for him. Dyslexic's usually have some pretty creative spelling and we've figured out through multiple trials and errors that he doesn't spell using the sounds of letters (letters are arbitrary for a dyslexic, or at the risk of stereotyping all dyslexics, at least for our dyslexic), but by the shape of the printed word. Which is fine, he is getting the hang of reading that way and has a fantastic memory for the shapes of many of the words in the English language. The problem is in Spain, everything is in cursive, so the shapes of the works can be very different from what he is used to. Strike two, strike three is that they are putting him in the 8th grade class due to his age, while back home he is only in the 7th because of his late September birthday. Lastly and just to add the icing on the cake, as if all those things won't be hard enough....the last class of the day is French 2. I feel like I am sending my kid out to a firing squad. That said, Z is fervently studying with his Spanish apps and is prepared for an excruciatingly hard first couple of weeks of school. I think this takes "doing something out of your comfort zone" to en entirely new level! Kids are tough though and I have very high hopes for all three of mine.

What will Mike and I do while the kids are in school for 6 hours a day? Ahh, I have no idea, but I am really looking forward to figuring it out and possibly being a little bored! We have a list of boat chores a mile long that we will certainly work on.....nothing major just plenty of preventive maintenance and deep cleaning. Mike's got plenty of real-estate management issues he can work on for the property he still manages at home. No home schooling for me (I told the kids I would give them a month off and depending on how Spanish school is going, we will have to add a little English curriculum back into the schedule at some point), what will I do all day? Dammit, I will probably feel guilty and volunteer at school, but it might take at least a few weeks (or maybe a month) before that old Catholic guilt really eats at me!

Thursday, January 7, 2016

January 5

Taking a page from SV - Totem's playbook, one of the boats we keep tabs on, I thought I would highlight a few stats from our first full year of cruising.  In the past year we have met fantastic people, cruised in amazing locations, learned many lessons and created thousands of memories that we will tuck away and relive in our rocker days. In the last 365 days we have traveled over 10,000 nautical miles through two oceans and into the Sea of Cortez, the Caribbean, the Irish Sea, and the Mediterranean, as well as through 23 countries and a few overseas territories.  Here is how our year stacked up:

Roughest leg: Sea of Cortez running in a northerly blow. Also one knockdown in the Bay of Biscay.  Boat performed wonderfully in both occasions.  Have I mentioned I think our boat loves big seas?  Although I don’t relish testing that theory out regularly!
Most difficult cruising: sailing in the Irish Sea was tough with huge tidal fluctuations we needed to time perfectly.
Biggest seas: North Atlantic, although the wave periods were so big it was easy sailing.  We saw short period waves in the Sea of Cortez that were steep and much more terrifying than anything we saw in the North Atlantic.
Stupidest move: Running south down the Sea of Cortez in a a Northern.  We were nervous moored in Puerto Escondido during a gale so we left the bay in 35 knots of wind.  Lost our kayak overboard due to that hasty decision.  
Biggest breakage: Spinnaker pole in a squall (knock on wood, we’ve been lucky). Also, the starter motor burned out as we started across the Tehuantepec.  Mike managed to fix it after we turned back around, but it wasn't a pretty sight and the kids learned a lot of new 4 letter words.
Best sailing: Santa Cruz to Monterey, 15 knots of wind, flat water with the spinnaker up; the kind of sailing that you dream about.
Fastest section: Up the Gulf Stream and in a few places in Scotland where we had 3 knots of current.

Nicest anchorage: Too many to count but the Chagres River in Panama and the Isle of Skye rank at the very top.  Anchoring alone off of Liberty Island in NYC was also pretty cool.
Worst anchorage: San Blas in Mexico. Hot and humid at night with biting insects that were so small they got through the mosquito netting on our hatches. We spent one long night there before up anchoring.

Gear we love: Water maker, furling headsail, water heater, AIS and electric windless (coincidentally all the things we didn’t have on our first boat). The SSB modem for email and getting weather info at sea is also a favorite although we had that the last time around.
Gear we’d love to have: Satellite communications, wind generator and 4 feet extra boat length (the HR 46 has an extra set of bunks that would make life so much easier). On my next boat I will also have a small washing machine.  I spend way too much time seeking out washing facilities.  Not to mention it is not cheap outside of the US.  In Gibraltar I paid $9 to wash and $3 to dry.  Needless to say with those prices we wear our clothes until they can stand on their own.  In the tropics we definitely hand wash more.
Gear that failed us: Autopilot (not failed, just worn out and needed to be replaced after more than 10K miles).   We've also had a water pump fail, two alternator belts and our refrigeration compressors take a little TLC regularly.  We've been lucky that most of our fails have been due to wear and tear.
Gear we don’t use enough: Wind vane.  We used it on the North Atlantic crossing, but we rely too heavily on our autopilots that not only use electricity, but have more moving bits to potentially break. The Wind vane is great, but due to a small manufacturing defect we cannot alter course from the cockpit.  The cables are too stiff and we have to go back to the stern and manually alter course.  Not a big deal on a long passage where wind is constant, but kind of a pain with changing weather.  Also, steering requires a clip in with the harness in big weather.  On the list of repairs to make.
Gear that disappointed us: Wifi booster - doesn't give us much added wifi range. Go pro (ours freezes up and has provided me with countless hours of frustration updating software and googling possible remedies).
Things we can't live without: My iPad has made many a long night on watch bearable. I don't watch many movies, but I listen to podcasts and music and the time flies by. Mike needs his air popcorn popper so he can roast his own coffee (we have green coffee beans on board to last us a year).  The boys love their Kindle readers.  Ana can't live without stuffed animals and at least a few princess dresses (don't you see drying princess dresses on the lifelines of every cruising boat?) 

Nicest people: Newfoundlanders, although we’ve met fantastic people everywhere.
Nicest cruising grounds: Belize has been one of our favorite tropical cruising grounds and the fjords of Newfoundland took our breath away.
Disappointments: We were a little disenchanted with Costa Rica, not as a country, but as a cruising ground. Too many expensive marine parks ($300 plus dollars a day to visit as a family in some), bad experiences with officials and checking in and out of the country and extreme wind in the North. That said, on our last trip Cocos Island 400 miles off the coast of Costa Rica was one of our favorite all time stops.  Now it is extremely expensive to visit and getting permission to anchor is near impossible.  I love that they are preserving some beautiful places, but the cost is prohibitive for all but a few people.  
Coolest sights: breaching humpbacks, bioluminescence, the boat above us as we free dove in a thousand feet of water off the coast of Guatemala and watching sea turtle hatchlings scurry to the waters edge are among some of our top experiences.
Best fish caught: Black and Striped Marlin were the biggest, but our all time favorite fish to eat is definitely Dorado.

Where would we go back: Lot of places, but we definitely want to head back to the Sea of Cortez, Belize, Newfoundland, Scotland and Morocco.

This is a little bit of a repeat for those that got our Christmas letter, but here are some of our individual highlights:

Most memorable events (most enjoyable/hardest) of the last year:
Zander: Best - getting PADI scuba certified, any day underwater and sailing into Ireland after 12 days at sea. Worst - any hard passage.
Porter: Best - hanging out with other kid boats. Worst - getting seasick and leaving friends.
Ana: Best - rescuing sea turtles and calling dolphins. Worst - getting her hair pulled by a monkey in Gibraltar.
Amy: Best - watching the kids find a love for books previously absent tied with hiking at the Isle of Skye and around the Newfoundland fjords. Worst - the fighting between the kids (sibling rivalries do not disappear just because you force kids to live in close quarters).
Mike: Best - being around the family constantly. Worst - being around the family constantly! Honestly, too many bests to keep track of. 

Sunday, January 3, 2016

January 2, 2016 catching up on a few photos

Moroccan produce

finding a little space of her own to read

In my element, shopping for produce

diving in Gib

I can’t believe we are brining in a new year on the boat!  It seems like just yesterday we were throwing off the dock lines in Portland.  Where has the time gone?

We just returned from a lovely two weeks in Maine.  Michael’s parents surprised us with tickets home for the holidays.  My parents were able to fly out and visit for a few days so we were able to visit with both sides of the family.  The kids enjoyed being spoiled by grandparents, lounging all day in their pj’s, playing video games, hanging out with cousins and getting caught up on some of the new movies out.  Due to the strange effects of El Nino, Maine hasn’t received its normal snowfall and we didn’t see any snow until the last day of our trip.  The kids had to pack a winter’s worth of snow fun into one day!  

We returned to Gib just before the new year and the boat was tucked away safe and sound, and exactly as we had left it (it is always a little stressful leaving your home and flying 6 thousand miles away leaving it to fend for itself).  Gib throws a rockin New Years’ Eve party with a huge concert in the square and fireworks, so we had a great start to 2016. We also had the advantage of a 6 hour time change on our side to help us reign in the new year!  

We’ve finally decided on a plan of action for the first part of the new year.  We have been waiting to hear if our tenants would like to stay in our house a little longer, allowing us to extend our trip a little more.  They have yet to get back to us, but in the interim we have decided that this lifestyle is worth paying the mortgage on our house for a few months on our own.  We have been lucky so far and have not had to dip into our savings much.  A new water heater for the house, an autopilot for the boat and an extra week of land travel in France put us over budget on a few months, but generally we have been able to cruise comfortably on what money we have coming in via rental income and investments.  Paying a mortgage again will be painful, but we spent so much energy and time moving away from our shore based life, it doesn’t cost us any more to stay out longer, in fact in spreads the initial cost of the boat out a little, and we have convinced ourselves that extending our trip is the best financial decision (it is amazing what you can convince yourself in a pinch). We’d consider extending even longer, but out middle child is somewhat resistant.  Resistant is an understatement, Porter has threatened mutiny with just the 6 months we have suggested extending.  In all the accounts I’ve read about cruising with kids, people say small kids and teenagers are the hardest.  Apparently we have the equivalent of a teenager on board with our ten year old.  He is enthusiastic most of the time, but when something doesn’t go his way, we are the worst parents in the world for forcing him out here.  In his defense, he is a social kid and he misses his friends, and we have removed him from a life of being around kids.  In turn we try to compensate, but we have found that we are creating a bit of a monster with that tactic.  He is currently negotiating for an IPOD (blackmailing may be a more accurate term).  It is a constant battle, but if we didn’t have Porter and all the conflict he brings, we may take this life for granted.  He definitely keeps us grounded. 

 Our current plan is to leave Gib (as soon as the weather cooperates) and retrace out steps 130 miles back to the Portuguese border with Spain.  From there we will travel up the Guadiana River 20 miles and anchor in a lovely little river hideaway tucked between San Lucar de Guadiana, Spain and Alcoutin, Portugal.  The kids have committed to at least 6 weeks in the local school, expecting it to be impossibly hard at first, but hopefully eventually become fun.  We can stay there until April or so and then it will be on to coastal Morocco, the Canaries and eventually cross the Atlantic before the hurricane season descends on us (June).  

Xmas in Maine, Porter working at the cottage on Birch Island

Zander working on his uncles Lobster boat with his cousin Taylor

flying back to Gib

Just some of the booty we brought back from the States
more monkey fun

"Really, I don't have anything in my pockets"