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

Monday, March 28, 2016

A few quick pics from Rabat, more to come later. March 28th

Roman ruin of Chellah

Rabat Marina, Rabat Marina, Rabat Marina, this is the sailing vessel Pelagic.  No answer.  No answer after about an hour of calling.  The Rabat harbor is located inside a river bar and the bar needs to be crossed at high tide with a pilot.  We were a few hours before high tide, but there weren’t any breaking waves and we thought it would be a good time to pass.  We finally got through to someone and with very limited English they informed us the bar was closed and would be open again next week. What!  We weren’t sure if we were actually contacting the marina or if we were talking to some wayward fisherman having a laugh at our expense.  The radio voice suggested we head down the coast another 30 miles to a town without a river bar.  We circled for about 45 more minutes trying to raise someone else; port authority, a port captain, anyone that could confirm that the flat calm conditions actually did indeed merit a closure of traffic. Again, we didn’t get any answer for quite some time, but eventually we either talked to another marina official or we pestered them enough with the info that the bar looked perfectly fine, they agreed to send a pilot boat out. Sure enough, the conditions were fine for crossing and the pilot boat guided us in. Whew, welcome back to Morocco, where if someone doesn’t particularly feel like working, they simply send you on your way. 

First order of business, clean the vomit off the side of the boat from Porter’s many chumming experiences.  We had such calm conditions that I’m sure Porter must have had a bit of bug, because I can’t believe even without his sea legs he could have possibly been that sick! He’s fine now, but it was a rough crossing for him.

Rabat, the political and administrative capital of Morocco is quite different from the other tourist destinations in the country we’ve visited. It feels much more cosmopolitain and there is certainly a more affluent portion of the city where the marina is located.  Its modern, easy to get around and convenient, yet it does have a quiet medina that is authentic, although not nearly as frantic as the ones in Marrakesh or Tangiers. It also feels very safe and we continue to get softening facial expressions when locals see the kids.  I’ve said it before, but Moroccans love kids and we use that unabashedly to our advantage. The only disconcerting looks we ever get are police or other officials wagging their fingers at the Barcelona jersey’s.  It’s a Madrid fan club here in Rabat, but it is a good ice breaker for when we have to approach an official for some direction in our stumbling French.  We’ve learned we don’t dare ask locals for directions because it must be a cultural thing, but they will always stop what they are doing and actually guide you to the place you are looking for, even if it takes 15 mintues.  After-which time you pretty much feel obligated to offer some monetary exchange, which I find awkward.  I’d rather bumble along, half lost until we run into an official of some sort who can’t leave his post.

During the first few days of our stay in Rabat we visited the old abandoned and crumbling Roman village of Chellah.  We watched the many storks that call the ruins home, building elaborate nests on any horizontal structure.  Their bill clattering could be heard throughout the ruins.  We spent a pleasant afternoon there strolling through history.  We also shopped in the authentic, yet less frantic Medina.  We bought dates, figs, sweets, spices and herbs from street vendors and ate in hole in the wall restaurants.  To the Westerner the medinas look like 100 ways to get food poisoning, but once you get past the initial shock you can find some fantastic foods. Knock on wood we have been lucky so far and I’m sure we are only strengthening our immune systems!  We also wandered through the old Kasbah overlooking the harbor entrance.  The location commands a stunning view of both the river entrance and the Atlantic ocean.  

We’ve been in Rabat for about 3 days and we have to watch the weather in order to leave. The bar is currently closed, but tomorrow they expect lessening swell and it may be open.  That said, there are some very strong winds predicted off the coast the following day, so want to stay put until we have a bigger window of good weather.  The Atlantic coast of Morocco has few safe anchorages to hide in, so we have to time our departure well.  Mostly the coast has windswept beaches and good surf spots that are not good places for a sailboat to hide. 
drinking from a Roman well

Captain taking a break

Oh, they really look like they like each other
Nope, this is the more usual sight

communal water fountain

city street views

Still getting used to these loos.  

Arch in Sale, Morocco

cemetery overlooking the ocean

Rabat Harbor

small ferry we took to get from Sale to Rabat.  

just hanging around

Friday, March 25, 2016

Getting our sea legs back, March 26

Sanlucar one last time
wild flowers in bloom 

Well, we finally were able to pull ourselves away from the Guadiana glue that was starting to attach to the keel in Sanlucar. Tears were shed as we left the dock and we actually had to blow the air horn to call Porter back as he was saying goodbye to one last friend. Between Michael and I we have spent time in some really wonderful towns all over the globe in our years, yet something about Sanlucar really has us second guessing our decision to move on. Somehow you get the feeling that time stands still in Sanlucar and maybe, as we watch our children grow far to quickly, that is the appeal. We wouldn't be the first to want to stay. Of the 350 residents, 50 are foreigners and almost all of them came originally by boat and were lured to stay by the picturesque, quintessential Spanish village that we have also found so magical. Alas, the minor issue of legality in staying here for us rears its ugly head and we must move one, at least for now!

It was a sad ride down the river to the mouth, but it was a quick one with the tide, and before long we were anchored off of Vila Real on the Portuguese side. The following day we went into town, completed a dozen errands and did a big provisioning run at the well stocked supermarket. We found Chocolate Easter bunnies and plenty of Easter goodies for baskets. We may well be celebrating Easter in a Muslim country, and we may not flaunt the whole Christ is our savior bit, but we won't go without our Cadbury eggs!

fantastic river friends
part of the posse of little girls that had free reign of the village

more river friends
Currently we are about half way through our trip from Spain to Rabat, Morocco. The winds have been fickle and we alternate between sailing with about 12-15 knots on the beam and having to motor sail. We have to arrive into Rabat at the high tide tomorrow, so we can't afford to bob around out here too long waiting for better wind. It is a good excuse to throw on the old iron main anyway!

Amy and crew on Pelagic
N 35 52 299
W 007 09 293

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Reflections on the cruising life, by Cap'n Mike, March 23

One of my favorite aspects of sailing around the world is meeting wonderful new people. Amongst the anchorages, docks and villages the camaraderie and bonds you create with fellow cruisers are strong ones. Sailors are generous people with their time. Away from the rat race we slow down and have more time to devote to friends and our children. After all, traveling at 7 mph, you have a lot of time. We take joy in helping other sailors; it may be giving them a much needed spare part, driving them to the airport 3 hours away, or watching their kids while they run an important errand. These are not things we often do back home after knowing someone just a few days. Amongst cruisers, it is the norm.
One of our best decisions on this cruise was to slow down and spend 3 months in Sanlucar de Guadiana. We enrolled the kids in the local school and became a part of the community. In a village of just 267 people, you make friends quickly. The town mayor was also one of the school teachers. The kids dove head first into the Spanish immersion. I’m very proud of their effort and courage to enter a school mid-year in a completely foreign environment. They thrived and now have a good base of Spanish.
There isn’t really much to do in this little town and you would think that one would get bored very quickly, however our days consisted of a pleasant routine. We would walk the kids to school in the morning and walk back to meet them in the afternoon. In the afternoon, the kids could run around the village, meet friends and play futbol/soccer. Morning walks to the baker for some warm fresh bread passed on his wooden paddle from the brick oven. Planning dinner in the morning and walking to the tiny grocery store for fresh ingredients. Laundry drying on rigging on the sunny days and movies on DVD on the rainy days. Boat maintenance and repairs. Birthday parties for the various village and boat children. The butcher visits by truck on Saturdays and the fishmonger visits on Fridays. Walking in the hills and collecting wild asparagus and oranges. One night the villagers roasted sacks of chestnuts in the square. In the evenings, we would usually walk up to the local watering hole and get a glass of red wine for $1. A grilled pork sandwich with alioli and a beer, which I’m enjoying as I write this, was just $3.50. A whitewashed stone house in the village is for sale for around $30,000.
It is now time to leave. My least favorite aspect of sailing around the world is having to say goodbye to people whose company you and your family have really come to enjoy. It happens to us all the time. I just hope and look forward to the times we can cross wakes with some of them in the future. We dearly want to stay longer but the Caribbean hurricane season starts in June and we need to get back across the Atlantic before then. So we will sail downriver on Wednesday and then head South for Rabat, Morocco. Then the plan is to sail to the Canary Islands and down to the Cape Verde islands. At that point we will cross the Atlantic to French Guiana and sail up the Maroni River to experience the South American jungle. We will then spend the hurricane season in the region from Trinidad to Cartagena before transiting the Panama Canal for the 3rd time. Once the stormy season ends in November we can then sail up Central America to Mexico and the USA. That’s the plan for the moment at least. I may just go have a glass of wine and take a second look at that house in the village.

Parting is such sweet sorrow, March 22nd

We would like to stay in Sanlucar de Guadiana longer.  There is no denying that we have fallen in love with our home here, but we also feel like we have pushed the Schengan issue as far as we can and we need to move on.  Technically we are only allowed in Europe for 90 days without a long stay visa (which I’ve mentioned is difficult to obtain without a schooling or employment reason for an extended stay).  We’ve been flying under the radar and counting on the fact that the countries don’t all communicate well, but it will be hard to argue we haven’t exceeded our time if we are sitting in the same place for more than 90 days.  We are coming up on three months, which coincides with the end of the academic term, so we must say goodbye to classmates and friends, up anchor, dust our sails off (more accurately remove any bird nests) and head south.

When we enrolled the kids in school we weren’t sure it would work well and the results have far surpassed our highest expectations.  All three children loved their time here.  I don’t know if I’ve had all three of my children agree on anything, ever!  It seems there is always a dissenter in the bunch.  Zander had the hardest time academically, but he fully enjoyed the nightly soccer matches, he made several fantastic friends and I think he felt some pride in not giving up on something that was way, way out of his comfort zone.  The Spanish came slowest for him, in part because of his age, in part because languages just aren’t his forte and partially because his best friends were native English speakers. That said, he is very happy we stayed and he wants to pursue an exchange program in Spain when he gets into high school, so that is encouraging. Ana did fine in school, although the highlight for her was the 4 other English girls she played with daily after school.  While we were dockside she had the run of the river side of the village and fully enjoyed her newly acquired independence.  She also took advantage of the full immersion to increase her Spanish vocabulary and we are happy with the outcome.  Porter is the one that really flourished though.  He made many friends (and a few frenemies, which is pretty normal if you know Porter).  His teacher raved about him (they are now texting friends), which doesn’t always happen and the Mayor stopped us in the bar several days before after school was out and told us if we had a month and a half more he suspects Porter would be nearly fluent.  It is a bummer we don’t have a few more months for their Spanish, but I’m grateful for the amount they have learned.  And, Michael has promised to keep up semi immersion with the threat of divorce as a repercussion (which on given days probably isn’t much of a threat). If we are lucky we may find another way to supplement their Spanish in the future.....maybe a language school in Colombia is in our future!  

Lastly, saying good bye to the friends we have made here is, by far, the hardest part.  While it is wonderful to have friends around the globe, saying goodbye to friends you hope will be life time friends is always painful when they live so far away.  While we have enjoyed friendly conversation with the locals, and the kids certainly made local friends, Mike and I made, what we hope will be lasting friendships, with mostly English families.   We were lucky enough to be in Sanlucar the same time as two other English family boats; Carina of Devon and Spirit of Mystery.  Both have a fantastic crew and we certainly hope our paths will cross on some distant voyage.  There were also several English families that have made their home here after swallowing the anchor, as they say, bought farms and settled.  Bob and Kate and their family, we hope, will also be lifelong friends.  Maybe we can lure them away from Spain for an American experience one of these years! 

Last day on the dock in Sanlucar

boat kids

boat chores
Parting is bittersweet, but we are getting excited for our next adventure.  We will sail downriver, anchor at the mouth of the Guadiana and do our last provisioning on the Portugal side.  Then if the weather cooperates we hope to sail the 180 miles south to Rabat, Morocco over the weekend.  I will try to get my spot coordinated with my website so anyone that is interested can follow us.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

March 21st by Porter

Hello again, so a few days ago it was my last day of school and this is going to sound weird, but I am really sad that there is no more school, sad face. Actually, I had two last days. We had the last day in school and the last day with the class on a field trip. First day we just had a normal last class day in school, but the last day of the wek we went to a farm and we got to milk a goat and I can check that off my bucket list. Really, I have always wanted to milk a cow but a goat is still very good. Next when all of us milked the goat they took us to a big pen full of goats and they took about 20 goats and it turns out that we were going on a walk! With the goats!! So that was cool and a truck came out to meet us with a picnic made of goat cheese and sponge bread. Then we went back to the bus.

Well that was a sad/good day.

Adios Porter

Thursday, March 17, 2016

March 17, Pink and Blue Roles

We have settled into our respective roles on the boat (now that we are more than half way through our trip).  Mike is the mechanic, the sailor, the navigator.  I am the culinary expert, the launderer (is that even a word?) and the educator.  We are doing this old school........we have our roles and mine are pink.  I didn’t quite expect it to be so delineated, but I don’t cross into Mike’s boat chore realm, and he doesn’t mess with my 12 square feet of galley.  At home the lines are much more blurred.  I am just as likely to be the one on the roof cleaning the cutters (no small feat if you have see the number and size of the deciduous trees around our house), or on a ladder cutting hedges, I’m often the one that keeps up with the car maintenance or fixes the kitchen disposal. Mike is just as likely to be cooking dinner or cleaning the kitchen. For some reason at home I am not intimidated by the mechanical workings of our “home”.  On a boat, where a stray candy wrapper could find its way into the bilge, cover the bilge pump and theoretically sink the boat, there is much less room for error.  I’m a “do a hundred things at once, and maybe a few things will fall through the cracks type of gal and Mike is a focus 100% on the job at hand type of guy who can’t tell you the names of his kids if you interrupt him in the middle of a task.  He is definitely more suited to maintaining and operating boat system life, when the one thing that falls through the crack could be pretty vital. Through trial and error we find that if we segregate our tasks, things run more smoothly. That said, do I wish I could occasionally be the one to change the fuel injectors, or fix an electronic or even unclog the toilet for that matter?  Actually not very often!  Anything about the engine usually involves a contortionist position and working in at least 100 degrees and my spine hurts just thinking about that.  I’m no electrician and the toilet, well that is just common sense!  Sailing is not necessarily my particular expertise at all.  When Mike asks me to do something on deck, I still use a lot of "the hanging thingy, or the big whachamacalit over there" I’m not a great sailor, I’m not even the first mate anymore.......Zander has far surpassed me in that department.  I’ve logged over 30,000 sea miles and I still call myself a novice.  So, the big question is, what happens if something happens to Mike mid Atlantic?  Well, then we are in holy sh@# mode!   Not gonna lie, it won't be pretty!  I need Mike to stay healthy and on board.  I’m very good about making him wear his harness at night and taking other precautions. Seriously, we may not thrive out here, in the event of a crisis, shit will break!  But, I think we will survive.  Sails will most likely chafe, we may be on rationed water because I can’t get the reverse osmosis water maker to work, we could be down to one toilet because I can’t figure out how to pump out the septic tank......but we will survive! I've got the basics down. I don’t have a ham radio license, but I can call a rocking mayday, and of course I can sail, but the telltales don't speak to me on a regular basis if you know what I mean.   I do think I am proficient in navigation and weather interpretation and I’m confident in my skills in finding a continent. I’m even pretty confident I could find a particular bay, I’ll just need a lot, and I mean a lot of fenders if I ever need to dock the boat! 
So, do I hate these roles.  Nah, not really.  This is temporary, and somehow after over 3 years cumulative of cruising together, it works for us.  The bonus to being the galley wench is I’m the only one that knows where all the chocolate is stashed!  It is not all bad!

So, with all that said, why am I out here?  I love the ocean, I love the simplicity of life on a boat, I love that I get to see all these amazing places, all while having the comforts of my home with me. I love how life slows down on a sailboat and you are more in tune with the time of the moon rise than the rise in the stock market.  Schedules only relate to watch times and tide cycles.  And, I love, love, love that I get to do all this with my family.  One day too soon I will have to send my little fledglings out into this big bad world, so I have to cherish every day I still have with them.  Gosh, that almost sounded like something a loving Mom would say.  Seriously, my kids drive me as crazy out here as they did at home, but I will one day miss the shenanigans, so I try to embrace it and enjoy as much of it as possible.  Life is good!
Random pick of the watch crew getting psyched to do some more overnight passages!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March 16, Wild flowers of Spain and more prep to leave Europe

We had to say goodbye to my parents after a two week visit last night.  Sad as always, but great to see them even for a short time.  The only advantage to saying good bye is our boat feels huge with only the five of us again! When they came out they brought treats, two hundred watt flexible solar panels and an extra inverter. We already have one inverter, but have I mentioned that Mike is a belts and suspender type of guy.  He loves redundancy in onboard systems. I can't say we explored much of Spain while they were here, but we did some great hikes around Sanlucar, my Dad played a lot of basketball with the kids and in general we just had a great visit. And, I didn't manage to put my Dad in the hospital while he was here (on prior visits he has been hospitalized for blood poisoning due to a clamming accident and needed rabies shots due to an unfortunate incident with a raccoon). While they were here Mike managed to fit in a 4 day trip up to see the old zoo where he grew up and the surrounding area.  Mike was certainly imprinted from an early age with a love for the sights, sounds and even smells of Catalunya and he always feels this pull to return to see the area, and while it is a bit depressing with his old house abandoned and the park far from its glory days, he still feels the urge to visit.  So, he made the 12 hour pilgrimage to the north of Spain and visited friends, his favorite restaurant (no, it wouldn't be unusual for him to drive 12 hours for a good meal) and relive some of his childhood. He's got a few good stories about his time there, I'll try to get him to write about it later.
The kids will be out of school on Friday and then we will see if we can remember what it is like to be a cruising boat again.  Checking weather, watching our energy use, getting our sea legs back and rationing everything from water to chocolate bars. On our way back from the airport and returning our rental car we bought $500 worth of groceries and I'm not sure we have a single meal!  We bought dried fruit, nuts, snacks, sauces, dried goods and everything we may not get in small local grocery stores in the next few months.  We will still have to do a big fresh meat and veg shop before we take off, but the provisioning has started. We are 20 miles from the coast, but then it is a straight shot to Rabat, Morocco. Starting to be ready.........I guess!

wild iris

fields of lupin

Mom and I hiking

taking a break from a river view ride with my Dad

more lupine

our daily transport between countries

Ana's beach birthday

wild lavender

Monday, March 14, 2016

March 13, just loaded North African and Atlantic Island charts into the chart plotter!

We are starting to prep the boat for the continuation of our sailing towards home.  We still have a several weeks before we leave this little slice of heaven we have found, but there are some critical tasks that we have to start prep work on. If we stay much longer the Guadiana Glue may really start to take a hold. Mike is loading Atlantic island charts into our chart plotter as well as charts of the North African coast, we are repairing last minute breaks, we are cleaning like crazy, and hands down the most difficult chore is thinking about leaving all the wonderful friends we have made in our short time here. There are so many things we will miss about our temporary home on the banks of the Guadiana.  Beyond the friends both the kids, Michael and I have made, I will miss so many things. I will miss the smell of the rosemary and lavender and the sight of olive trees covering the terraced hillsides.  I will miss passing the citrus farms that surround the village and the fragrant smell of the orange blossoms. The landscape takes on a different hue with the scorching rays of summer, but this time of year, after several good rains the landscape is carpeted by spring wildflowers.  I will miss going to the baker every morning for our daily loaf of bread, eating fresh fruits that have come from local farms and drinking regional wines that cost a euro a liter.  I will miss letting my kids roam the village and literally telling them to be home before dark. I will miss how it seems so normal to have the mayor tutor Zander and how the locals call my kids by name. I will very much miss the simplicity of our lives here.  Spain isn’t perfect (we've had a few problems that we will elaborate more on when we officially clear out!).  That said, the few hardships have been far outweighed by the many positives including; the kids making fantastic friends, the Spanish immersion and the cultural exchange we have been a part of.  I know this is a repeat statement, but we sure will miss it here.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

March 1, Visit to Monsaraz, Portugal

We've just visited the medieval town of Monsaraz, Portugal with an English family that we have become very friendly with.  While traveling we often find kids for Ana and Porter to play with, but Zander is usually left out.  In this case our friends have a 12 year old boy and a 7 year old girl that also attend the local Spanish school.  They have been in the town for 12 years, so we regularly look to them guidance, but it is such a bonus to have similarly aged children.  We had a lovely overnight trip with them including a visit to several walled cities in Portugal and finally an overnight stay in Monsaraz.  Due to its strategic location, Monsaraz has been occupied since before there was a historical record.  From the hilltop location and above the banks of the Guadiana River it is postcard perfect.  Currently there are only 37 full time residents, but the village has been preserved as sort of a living museum and we had the place to ourselves in the late evening and early morning.  The kids enjoyed exploring the parish castle and with no one else around were able to play some futbal in the most amazing setting.  At one point they lost the ball over the castle walls and I remember thinking, if you are going to lose a soccer ball how cool to say you kicked it over the walls of a medieval arena.  

private soccer game in the castle

Wall ball medieval style.  When we started noticing bits of antiquity flying off the castle walls we quickly put a stop to it, but it was fun while it lasted.  My kids did argue that it was a castle after all, if it couldn't withstand a soccer kick it wasn't worth much.
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