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, June 29, 2016

Chasing the Pirates of the Caribbean

Have any of you seen the Pirates of the Caribbean? In the first one, The Curse of the Black Pearl there was a place called Port Royal where Johnny Depp steps on the dock after his boat sinks. It is the second scene of the movie and the first scene Johnny Depp is in.  We went into the port and looked around, but we didn’t stay there because there were two murders there recently. We also saw the rock where the pirates hanged. “Pirates ye be warned”. The rock isn’t as impressive as it is in the movie, but it was fun to see. 
Now we’re in the Tobago cays, and they also filmed a part of the Pirates of the Caribbean here.  This was the part where Elizabeth Swan and Captain Jack Sparrow were marooned on the desert island.  Once again, we went to that island and I found the ditch where they stashed the rum but all the wood wasn’t there “obviously.” The filmed the 4 movies all over the Caribbean, but most of the first movie was in St. Vincent or the Grenadines.
After we played pirate we went snorkeling in the cays and saw a lot of cool fish and coral. The reef was really healthy. I saw a barracuda and some tuna, an octopus and some reef sharks.  Later we snorkeled in the Marine Turtle reserve and saw some more cool reef creatures. We didn’t actually see turtles while we were snorkeling, but we saw a few while we were in the dingy.

Well, I would tell you more, but I have to do it first.  

Monday, June 27, 2016

St. Vincent and the Grenadines, June 28

tea party on the stern

St. Lucia

Pitons at sunrise

Our month is the Caribbean started in Tobago where we spent a week traipsing around the least visited island in the Caribbean and getting a taste for sailing in tropical islands again. We enjoyed fishing, snorkeling, spear fishing, anchoring in beautiful bays alone and hiking into waterfalls. From Tobago we went to St. Lucia and had a little culture shock as we re-entered the reality of cruising with hordes of other boats. No longer were we special, no longer did locals and other boaters come over to us after seeing our flag to chat. We saw only one other American boat the whole time we were on the other side of the Atlantic. We were a novelty in Ireland, Scotland, and the west side of the continent. We were the token Americans and as one of our English friends said "the news makes all Americans look bonkers, and then you meet one and they aren't really so bad". Back in the Caribbean, all of a sudden we were sharing bays with 20-30 other boats, even in the off season! Anyway, we are slowly adjusting to urban sailing and sailed through St. Lucia, St. Vincent and into the Grenadines.

Our favorite island group was the Grenadines and the best of the best, we'd all agree, was Tobago Cays. Tobago Cays is the cruising dream everyone has prior to going cruising. The water is crystal clear and from under the boat to the horizon you can see a dozen scintillating shades of blue that just beg you to jump in. The Cays are a marine park and there were a dozen other boats, but even the company of charter boats practically anchoring on top of us couldn't take away from the experience of being there. The Cays are protected by two reefs; Worlds End on the outer side and smaller Horseshoe Reef in closer to the small islands. We dove Horseshoe and were surprised to see such a healthy reef. Schools of small and pelagic fish swarmed around us, while below was a complex reef system with high biodiversity in coral, reef fish and other reef phylum. There was a sea turtle reserve within the park and we saw many of the gentle reptiles swimming around the anchorage. In the dinghy one of the boys would often suddenly jump overboard after spotting one and try to swim with them. Another highlight was a low lying island that was the site of the island Johnny Depp was left on in the movie Pirates of the Caribbean. Of course we had to re-enact several of the scenes with swords, pistols, other pirate swag and bottles of rum. Not all cruising boats carry all the appropriate props, but of course we do.
After a year away from the water and then a few weeks getting used to the water again, I can finally say Ana is a strong swimmer and has figured out snorkeling successfully. It has literally happened in the last two weeks and it is so fun to see her getting comfortable swimming; doing somersaults, diving down under the surface and jumping off the boat. And, in the last few days she has graduated from "goggling", as she calls it to legitimately snorkeling and now swims along with me, grabbing my arm every time she sees something new. It is really fun to see all my kids so independent really loving the water now! They could spend hours under the surface and are continuously rewarded with new sights, whether it is a reef shark, octopus, new fish or new creature, they all love exploring the underwater world. And, as a bonus, they can't fight underwater, so we spend a lot of time down below the waterline!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Leaving St. Lucia, June 21........Happy Solstice!

Happy Solstice! The longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere isn't that important when you are zig zagging back and fourth between latitudes. In March we were in Spain at about 35N, in April we were in the Cape Verde's at 15N, By May we were at 5N and our most southern point in the Guyana's and now we have traveled north as far as we are going to St. Lucia at 12N only to start heading south again shortly. We'd love to explore the whole Caribbean chain but technically we are in the hurricane belt this far north and we don't want to stay here long. We have been watching the National Hurricane website and we will run south if any storms start brewing in the Eastern Atlantic (home of the Atlantic Hurricane). Hurricanes in the Atlantic generally start off the Cape Verdes as a low coming off of Africa. If weather and water temperature cooperate they go from depressions to storms and then can eventually become hurricanes. Historically there haven't been many hurricanes in June so we are only coloring a little outside the lines, but we will start moving south tomorrow (not wanting to tempt Murphy's law too much). Historical data is great, but global change is also a reality and we will watch the weather closely in case an early storm starts to form.
OK, enough of the Amateur weather woman show. We had a fantastic week in Tobago and I'm guessing that will be a Caribbean highlight for us. My Aunt and uncle joined us for part of the week so we pulled the toys out and spent a very relaxing week only covering a few miles a day. We are now in St. Lucia after a fast and generally flat, but mostly to weather passage, from Tobago. We did take on one fluky monster wave and I woke up to witness a literal waterfall in our living space! I think I love everything about the ocean, except that it is full of saltwater. Have I mentioned it is hard to get seawater out of mattresses, cushions and rugs?
A Canadian cruiser in Tobago suggested a stop in Marigot Bay, St. Lucia. In a perfectly protected, mangrove lined bay, tucked between two mountains we tied Pelagic up in our first marina in months. It was such a liberty to be able to get on and off the boat without initiating a huge departure plan so we can all get in the dinghy and go ashore. We all got some much needed space to ourselves, and as a bonus, our marina had a 5 star hotel attached and we had full access to all their amenities. Beautiful pools, fantastic service, friendly wait staff that would continuously bring us snacks and beverages (mostly free which the kids loved). The boys figured out the rotation of snacks around the pools and after being served at one pool, quickly ran down to the next pool so a new waiter could serve them again! We were kind of like Randy Quaids family visiting the Griswalds! We were living it up and it was a nice break from being hyper vigilant about everything on the boat. We were able to fill up with water, connect to shore power, get some laundry done in a real washing machine (not just boat clean) and have unlimited wifi. It sounds ridiculous to say while on a two year vacation, we need a vacation, and I probably can't adequately describe how cruising does take its toll, but it does, especially on the Captain. Mike never lets his guard down about issues on the boat. The boat is perpetually trying to fall apart (not really, but it feels like that because there is always something to repair). Obviously at anchor it is easier than when we are cruising when we are really putting some wear and tear on our rig, sails and electronics, but there is another constant list of things to do when we are relatively still. For example on the list was de-sulfating our batteries (requires shore power) which have been building up sulfur and not able to hold a full charge. This was high on the list of things to do as we have to run our generator every day to charge the batteries (yes, we have solar power, but we our regulator isn't not functioning and need to pick up a new one). Generally we have spares, but this one item missed the list. We use a fair amount of power on the boat with two fridge compressors, computers, electronic readers, electric autopilot and dare I admit our TV.
We've also put a lot of miles on the boat in the last 3 months (about 4K)and while Pelagic has performed amazingly in general, she needs a little TLC. Trinidad is known as a great place for parts and maintenance, so we plan to spend some time there and get the boat back in tip top shape. Pelagic has taken great care of us over the last 2 years and we need to repay the favor a little. We will slowly make our way towards Trinidad as we travel south along the windward islands, all the while keeping a watchful eye on the weather!

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Misc photos of Tobago and the Guyanas, June 14

jungle tour on the Essequibo

you can just see one of the kids sticking their head up through the waterfall

swimming in tea (tannin water)

Not the greatest picture, but this is the booster rockets falling away after the launch

Porter smelting his own gold in Guyana

Spearing squid

Kerry and Dave and the crew of Pelagic at one of the many waterfalls in Tobago

Probably not a big seller in Guyana

Zander holding 30K worth of gold bricks

The gold Porter smelted

Bartica, Guyana

Foraging lunch; plantains, Dorado and Squid

Englishman Bay, Tobago

Saturday, June 11, 2016

June 12, Tobago

We read a lot about cruising and destinations before we get to a new area. We usually have a lot of preconceived notions and ideas about what a destination will be like. Tobago is an exception as it was never really on our radar and we actually knew very little about it before we arrived. From a cruiser in Guyana we got a few tips on where to make landfall, but otherwise we didn't own a cruising guide for the island and didn't know what to expect. Added to that, we were meeting my Aunt and Uncle there and being their tour guide, as a last minute decision and with zero time to plan. Yikes!
We arrived into Store Bay on the north west side of the island at 4am after our fastest passage to date from Guyana, and as is our usual custom, we arrived in the dark! At first light it wasn't super impressive. The water wasn't the clearest and the beach wasn't the most impressive. We spent two frenzied days getting laundry washed, provisioning and traveling 20 miles to the nearby port town to officially clear into the country. Tobago is noted as being the most difficult country in the Caribbean to check into and out of. It was a lengthy process and we are officially supposed to check into every new port as we move around the island, so it could be a pain, but the officials were friendly and we got it all done in a few hours.
From Store Bay we sailed north to Castara Bay and we were the only other boat in the bay. We snorkeled and the kids saw turtles, rays and all the amazing colorful fish and coral we have missed in the last year. In English Bay, just 2 miles north we came upon the set of the Columbian version of the show "Survivor". They had just finished filming about an hour before we got there, the contestants had been taken to another set and yet the Bay was still closed to the public. Another streak of dumb luck and we had a pristine bay all to ourselves. Hawksbill Turtle tracks lined the beach and we could see evidence of their digging up past the high water mark. Significantly smaller than the Leatherbacks we saw in Guyana, but still impressive. Again we grabbed snorkeling gear and the boys took their spear guns and a couple of hours later we were resting on the boat after a beautiful snorkel and our bellies full from a lunch of fresh Calamari sautéed in garlic and butter. A successful snorkel and a successful hunt. In the late evening we attempted to see turtles coming ashore, but not wanting to bother them we just scanned the beach from the dinghy and didn't see anything. In the morning, sure enough, there were fresh turtle tracks up the beach. Further up the coast we anchored in the small fishing village of Parvatuvier. Again, we were the only sailboat and we tucked up in close to the fishing boats moored there so as not to disrupt the seine fishing along the beach and further out in the bay. This time we explored the beach and wandered inland to a three tiered waterfall. Tobago boasts having started a rain forest protection process as far back as the 1700's and longer than any other nation in the Western Hemisphere. They started protesting the clearing of land by plantation owners because they were worried about their freshwater drying up. The result is a very pristine little patch of native rain forest teeming with South American birds, iguanas and numerous waterfalls. Another local claim to fame is that Daniel Defoe set his classic Robinson Crusoe on Tobago.
Apparently cruisers don't generally stop in Tobago because it is an upwind sail from Grenada or Trinidad and it is difficult to get here. They have fewer cruising boats stop than any other island group in the eastern Caribbean. Fantastic news for us as it is like cruising the Caribbean 40 years ago. There aren't any services for cruisers, but we don't mind that, the locals are beyond friendly and all we need is a grocery story every 3-4 days (teenagers sure eat a lot). Since there are so few boats (none in three bays), we always ask the locals if it is OK if we anchor and they are more than gracious as they share their country with us. We will take the slow pace here. The rest of the Caribbean is going to be more than busy as cruisers head down our way to escape the hurricane season.
We will spend another week here and then try to run north and see as much as we can before we have to head back south to get limit our hurricane exposure. We expect to have only a few weeks before we have to return to Grenada and Trinidad, supposedly out of the hurricane belt.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Drinking the koolaid in Guyana, June 1

Yes, we actually saw koolaid in the market of Bartica, Guyana. I can't believe that is a big seller here!

We made the 270 mile trip from French Guiana to British Guyana, skipping Suriname in record time. That said, we barely were able to get to the mouth of the Essequibo before we lost the light. Normally Mike doesn't mind coming into harbors at night, it seems like it happens more often than not, but in this case we were happy we weren't just an hour later. 10 miles out from the river the water depth is only about 10-15 feet deep. There isn't a channel coming in to the river, instead, just to make it interesting, the local fisherman have buried piles into the ocean bed and strung fishing nets across them. There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason to where they put the multiple piles, so it took some zig zagging to get in. We were very happy we didn't have to do that in the dark. Even with a spotlight, some of the piles only clear the water by a few feet. 10 miles of sitting on the bow, creeping in with the spotlight continually sweeping would have been very tedious. Alternatively, since there was only a little chop, we could have anchored 10 miles out at sea and waited for the dawn, but we really didn't want to bob around out there all night. Fortunately, dumb luck had us zig zagging at dusk and anchored just as the light diminished.

The Essequibo is the third largest river in South America, so it was busier than the Maroni. The Maroni is completely lined with Mangrove trees, so we only saw one or two houses on the river edge. Conversely the Essequibo has sandy beaches and there are quite a few nice homes and small villages on the river front. Thirty miles up the river at the confluence of the Essequibo and the Mazaruni sits the multi cultural gold mining town of Bartica. We were the only sailboat in the area and quite a novelty with several people coming out to visit us by boat. Yacht's don't bring much money into the area, so friendly people don't have ulterior motives for being friendly, they are just curious. Bartica is really the wild west with Chinese, Brazilian, Amerindian Indians and local Guyanese working the nearby gold mines. Every other business trades gold and even the supermarket will take gold as payment. We even got a little gold fever and traded in some Euros for gold the kids got to smelt down themselves. As you walk down the street you may have a tricked out Honda pass you by, followed by an ATV vehicle, followed by a cow. Anything and everything goes. Everyone is friendly. The Brazilians love the kids as they try to use their few Portuguese words and the Guyanese fist bump the boys and tell them jokes in Creole that they cannot understand, but they politely smile and nod their heads. English is the official language, but there is a flurry of other languages heard.

On the sailboat we are limited to deep water that has been charted and in the dinghy we usually don't venture more than a few miles away. To really get into the jungle we hired a guide and boat and went up about 20 miles towards the Mazaruni headwaters. As the river narrowed we went through rapids and by swirling whirlpools of muddy water. We skirted the edge of the rainforest and eventually ventured in, beached the boat, and took a walk deeper in the forest. We followed a creek up to a waterfall with cascading reddish colored (from the tannins) water tumbling down over the rocks. It looked like we were swimming in tea. With a guide we were able to follow his lead and climb through the falls, something we wouldn't have attempted on our own. Following our footsteps back out we saw more Blue Morphos and our first jungle cat. Not lucky enough to have seen a jaguar, but a smaller Ocelot, the only other jungle cat in the area.

Before leaving Guyana we made one more stop up the Essequibo and anchored off a small resort that didn't have any guests. We had the run of the resort amenities and the lovely little beach to ourselves for a few days. In the morning we took kayak rides along the backwater sloughs and watched toucans, macaws and other parrots in the upper canopy. At night we listened to hundreds of parrots returning to roost on the islands.

Tomorrow we will say good bye to the Guyana's and we will start to head north towards Tobago, 300 miles away.

Zander's report on the French Guianan Rocket Launch

Did you know that most of the European Space Agency's (ESA)rockets are launched from French Guiana? You may ask why would the ESA launch in French Guiana, far away from Europe. Keep reading and I will tell you why.

Most rockets are launched near the equator because the earth spins faster on the equator and launching near it gives a slingshot effect which helps the rocket leave orbit. French Guiana is at about 5 degrees north (300 miles from the equator). Another reason the ESA launches from FG is it is near the ocean and that is important in case they need to abort the mission. Lastly French Guiana is mostly jungle and sparsely populated so it is easier to find a 10 mile radius of land free of people to launch from.

The space center in French Guiana has three launch pads and three types of rockets. All three types of rockets are made by the Russians. Two of the three rockets can be used for manned missions. The ESA launches 12 or 13 rockets a year from French Guiana and sometimes the Americans launch from FG. The space center has been in French Guiana since the 1960's even before there was a European Union. France chose the site as their space center because they owned the land and had used it as a prison in the century before.

On May 24th, at 5:48am, my family and I saw Soyouz flight 15 launch. Children are not allowed within 20 km of the launch pad because of the risk of toxic gases. Since it was cloudy we could not see the beginning of the launch because we were 20 km away, but we did see the rocket a few seconds later as it crossed the sky towards its orbit. It looked like a big missile. We could just see the boosters fall off with the naked eye. Once the boosters fell off, we lost sight of the rocket. The rocket was bringing two navigational satellites into space to help the Europeans start a GPS system.