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, July 20, 2016

Cruising AKA, the search for good wifi

It sounds terrible, but after a week without any connection we can sometime be found as a family, sitting in a restaurant all of us on our tablets completely oblivious to each other’s company.  The epitome of American culture gone bad, and I want to wear a sign that says we just spent 7 days together without any electronics.........we friggin deserve this.  What did we do before the days of wifi?  Honestly it was a lot harder and some of it is a necessary evil.  Mike has real-estate obligations that he has to address, 15 years ago he would not have been able to do this part of his job while cruising. Today with our radio email on board and access to wifi a couple of times a week he can keep up with his obligations whether it is communicating with a tenant or looking for a vender to complete some repair; paver, roofer, etc).  We have tenants in our home and our cottage that we have to address the needs of.  Quite frankly, both party’s have made this ridiculously easy for us and we count our lucky stars all the time that we have them, but there are things that eventually need to be dealt with.  Besides banking and blogging, I often spend time looking up educational curriculum for the kids.  And, while yes, we do glimpse our facebook accounts from time to time, I don’t think we spend a great deal of time on social media.  The boys each have a list of things they need to look up when we get wifi (Mom has no clue how to describe magnetic radiation, google that), podcasts they download for crossings (mostly educational) and of course there is some music and gaming they also do.  So, inevitable, about once a week we spend a few hours, in some cafe or bar, hunched over our tablets, looking very antisocial.  
Finding wifi with sufficient bandwidth is often more difficult than it seems like it should be.  Lot of places advertise wifi, not all is worth logging into.  More often than not we have super slow wifi and all but checking our email quickly is more frustration than it is worth.   The best wifi we’ve experienced has often been in the most obscure of places.  In Scotland we found ridiculously fast wifi at an honesty store on remote Rum Island.  In French Guiana we were able to stream netflix in the middle of the Maroni River outside of St. Laurent. 

The access to wifi has definitely changed cruising from when we cruised 15 years ago.  Some of it bad, it can be distracting and more than once we have found ourselves in a beautiful anchorage trying to boost wifi from some unsuspecting cafe ashore, but mostly it is a good thing and it enables us to keep in touch, post photos for friends and family to see and attend to business back home.  If we were retired we may chose to completely fall off the grid and I can see the lure in that, but for now, with home front obligations this is the new cruising reality, at least for us.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Dated Post, French Guiana for the future cruiser

Local bus to Suriname

So this is dated (I've already written about our experiences in French Guiana) and geared for anyone wanting to cruise French Guiana and specifically St. Laurent and not able to find a lot of info out there on the region.  I usually write blogs for my own record or our trip, for my family to keep tabs on us, for any friends that occasionally want to pop on and see what we are up to.  I don't usually write them with fellow cruisers in mind, but I'm writing this blog for anyone that is searching for information on cruising in French Guiana.  Sometimes, when you are trying to find information about off the beaten path cruising grounds the best source of information is on other sailboat's blogs. So the following information may not interest anyone that is not seeking info on the region.

We spent two weeks in French Guiana, not enough time to become experts on the region, but enough time to give someone with zero information on the area a little background.  We made landfall at Devil's Island, off of Kourou and just north of the Capital city of Cayenne.   Devil's Island is fantastic and you can see some of my earlier blogs for more details.  But even if you aren't interested in France's penal history, the islands are beautiful; there are animals to see, one lovely beach to lounge on and an accessible jungle to explore. No one asked us for money, no one asked us for paperwork, it was a very easy stop.  We anchored off of Royale, but there are some counter currents close in near the dock and you will find it a little rolly as your boat will not point well into the wind.  Boats that have been out there several times anchor a little further off the pier, just past the last mooring ball.

Kourou was less interesting and if fact we hoisted our yellow quarantine flag and brought our paperwork in, but found no place to check in near the river. If you anchor in the river, there are two docks you can dinghy in to and leave your boat, presumedbly safely (we haven't heard of any problems).  We opted for the marina and not the commercial dock, but we saw several other catamaran's tying their dinghy up to the commercial dock. The space center is worth a visit.  There aren't many English speaking guides, but it is free and even if you don't get everything out of the tour, it is worth checking out the complex. You will need a cab since it is out of town. Do check out the launch schedule because viewing a launch is definitely worth it and they have one about once a month. Space Center You can email the space center directly to view the launch from a designated observation deck, but note that if you have kids younger than 16 you will be limited by how close you can   It is a little further away, but one of the official observation sites, Carapa Observation Site, is only about a mile from town (about two miles from the river) and although it is about 12 miles away, it is still a good site. If you get an official invitational spot they will give you all the info you need.  If you watch from Carapa, the site opens two hours before launch and is limited to 1400 people.  Alternatively, you can watch from the many beaches with the locals. I only write all this because I had a hard time finding information in English. Other than the Space Agency, Kourou is pretty sleepy.  There is a Super U on the far end of town, so provisioning is good, but like all things in French Guiana it is pretty expensive.

From Kourou we sailed north to the Maroni River.  There is a two knot current heading north, so account for faster speed if trying to time getting into the channel with a rising tide.  If the tide is not favorable, you can anchor off of Plage des Hattes, out of the channel to wait out the tide. We found the bouys to be well marked and lit, although once you enter the river they no longer have lights.  Bugs are worse at the mouth than they were in St. Laurent, so screens would be a good investment.  We didn't need them in the islands, but there were a few bugs in Kourou.  
uncharted island

As you approach St. Laurent you will wonder why the very prominent palm tree lined island that is just outside of town is not charted.  Take a closer look and you will notice that the island has the distinct outline of a ship and is actually noted as a wreck on the charts. There is a great, new marina (mooring field, pontoon, cafe with many marina services), in St. Laurent.   David, the owner is taking a page out of "the Field of Dreams" play book and hoping if he builds it, they will come.  He currently has 20 very sturdy moorings, a nice pontoon to tie up your dinghy and more services than some full marina's offer.  David is fantastic, he is a native English speaker, which is great for those of us that are not Frankofiles and speak very little French.  He has a laundry service, a small cafe, a dive compressor and he is a wealth of information.  The marina also helps you with your check in process by driving you to the immigration office, which by the way is the easiest immigration process we have ever seen, and free.  Mooring balls are $10 a night with some perks for longer stays.  Like the Caribbean you do have to lock your dinghy's or at least your motors at night and while we were there a dinghy was stolen.  That said, the marina has an infrared security camera on the pontoon and the police did catch the thief, so hopefully word will get around town and it will be even safer.  The marina had only been opened for about 8 months when we were there, but they have big plans to open a clubhouse with additional services including small day sailing dinghy's for rent, a place to hangout and food, among other things. There was one account of petty theft reported on Noonsite a few months before we arrived and since then the police have stepped up their patrols and we probably saw a police boat in the mooring field at least once a day.  In fact one night they tied up off of our swim platform for the night and kept an eye on the beach and pontoon. There is also a tourist office adjacent to the marina and the staff do speak a little English.  They can give you info on the rocket launches (public transport is limited in the country, but when there is a rocket launch there is a free bus from St. Laurent). In May and June the sea turtles come ashore off of the mouth of river and you can arrange a visit to see them on both the French and Suriname sides of the river.
Check out
check out the island, it is actually a wreck

visiting a village off a tributary of the Maroni

Village life
Nereids Rally for information on boats traveling between Trinidad and French Guiana, coincidentally David also organizes the rally.

St. Laurent is an interesting place with more penal history and a lovely colonial town to wander around. On Wednesday and Saturday they have their local market and that is a must see. Besides fresh produce (which is still not as cheap as you would expect it to be) you can get some great Laos food.   Provisioning is easy in St. Laurent and fuel is available, but it is expensive.  In Albina, right across the river, gas is almost 1/3 cheaper, but the gas is dirty and the first time we put it in our outboard it clogged the fuel filters (we saved the rest of that tank for the rental car).  We didn't spend much time in Suriname, so we can't write much about it, but our first impression wasn't very positive and in fact both the noonsite report and the dinghy theft we were made aware of during our stay was perpetrated by residents of Suriname. With the European Union backing, French Guiana has a lot of perks that other South American stops may not, and Suriname is currently having a hard time, so it isn't outrageous that desperate people do desperate things. St. Laurent is not without its problems, but we felt very safe there.

If you are looking for a hurricane hole, off the beaten path, St. Laurent would be a lovely choice.  We wouldn't recommend it for everyone, but if you find you are always looking for the secluded bays, away from hordes of other cruisers, or you want a little more adventure, French Guiana may be a logical excursion for part of the hurricane season.  You could also safely leave your boat in St. Laurent on a mooring ball while you flew home.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Arrival Trinidad, July 11

If you have watched the news at all lately, you will note that Venezuela is in full melt down mode, a legacy of Hugo Chavez and his government.  Tremendously sad for the residents, but what it means for us is we have to be a little more vigilant when we are cruising anywhere near Venezuelan waters.  Piracy has not historically been a problem down here, but in the last decade the fishermen have grown increasingly desperate as the economy in their homeland declines and some have turned to the easy pickings of comparable wealthy boat owners. It is hard not to sympathize a little with their plight, but not enough to want to be a victim. Cruisers have avoided the north coast of the country for years, but early in this year there were two boardings of boats between Grenada and Trinidad, an area that has never had trouble before. The “pirates” took everything down to the toilet paper, but importantly left the cruisers unharmed. The Trinidadian Coast Guard is trying to beef up security, Trinidad depends on tourism and yachting tourism is a huge money maker.  There are only a few places that are safe from hurricanes in the summer months in the Caribbean and many cruisers escape to Trinidad to get work done on their boats and/or store their boats for the hurricane season.  We talked to many cruisers that were avoiding Trinidad this year and those that did decide to sail south were taking some evasive measures.  Considering there have only been two accounts of piracy, ever it seems, and nothing in the last 6 months, we didn’t feel like we were taking any serious risks, but it was wise to take the recommended measures as a precaution. We got together with four other boats and planned a late afternoon departure.  The previous boardings occurred during the day so everyone suspects the pirates don’t have radar.  We sailed at night, passing the most vulnerable area without any moon in the dead of night.  We ran without any lights on and maintained complete radio silence with our AIS not transmitting. The most intimidating part was knowing the big ships couldn’t see us and we had to keep very aware of who else was out there with us.  
Anyway, to make a long story short, we were fine, the other three boats were fine and we sailed to Trinidad with a nice east wind, flat seas and a current in our favor.  
Now that we are in Trinidad we are getting estimates to have some work done on the boat.  We are re-upholstering and updating our 30 year old fabrics, we are having our outboard worked on, and having our main engine serviced. We will also leave the boat hauled out while we travel home for a month.  With the boat hauled out, when we return we will paint the bottom of the boat with new antifouling paint. There is always a list of preventative things we need to do living on the boat and we are hoping our decision to have it all done in Trinidad will be a smart one.

A few dated photos from Grenada, more to come when we return there in August

some trees just scream stay away

Mount Gramby Village, hike destination

I ditched my family and joined a few other hikers to hike to the top of Mt. Granby.  Mountain top village refreshments after a long, hot hike.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Grenada, by Porter, July 10

We made it! 
Has any body bean to Grenada? Well, if you have you know how nice it is.  When we made it my mom told me that there would be a lot of kid boats and sure enough the next day I was hanging out with a group of 10 and 11 year olds. Also there is a kids net on the radio that only started a few days ago, and it is pretty cool. A Radio net is a VHF channel that everyone in an area tunes in to at the same time.  They talk about weather, problems people are having and what is going on. One day all the kids were meeting at the pool, another day we met at a beach and we arranged it on the kids net. Then we found a boat named Higgins that we met in Gibraltar all the way across the Atlantic. They have three kids.  Two boys that are 11 and 9 and a 6 year old girl for Kena.  

Do you know why all the boats go to Grenada? Well, they go there because the hurricane season is north of Grenada, so many boats stay in Grenada all summer.  

Fast Forward and since I didn't finish my blog, we are already down in Trinidad.  Trinidad is south of Grenada and we will sail back to Grenada after we get back from Maine. So far we haven't done much in Trinidad, and if you don’t live on a boat you won’t get this, but we rented a AC unit and it's awesome!   


A few of the kids in Grenada participating in an organized activity. 

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Slash and Burn Agriculture, blog by Zander

Slash and Burn is one of the most destructive processes in the rain forest.

Slash and Burn is a type of farming used by Indian/farmers in the rain forests of South America and it damages the rain forest badly.  Slashing and burning is usually used by poor farmers.  The farmers cut and clear a small or large area in the rain forest.  Then they burn the area they cut and the ash is used as a "poor man's fertilizer".  The ash is good for the crops for a few years.  After 2 or 3 years the soil is poor again and the farmers have to move on to another area of rain forest.  Most people believe the soil in the rain forest is really good, but actually it is poor and once the land is cleared not much comes back.  The rain forest will take about 200 years to completely return to its original state.  This type of farming is very impractical and not sustainable.

You may ask why would a farmer keep farming this way if it is so destructive to the rain forest and so much work for them? The farmers don't have many other choices.  They can't afford fertilizers and the land is poor by itself.

In French Guiana we visited a small Indian village along the Maroni River.  We walked around their gardens and my dad noticed the different plots of land.  They had Taro growing in one patch, beside it was a patch of land that had obviously been cleared and used as a garden before but was now only grass, and next to that was healthy rain forest. Eventually the farmers will have to abandon the garden they are now using and burn more rain forest for their garden land. It was sad to think this is happening throughout the rain forest.

Slash and Burning is a big problem in the rain forest and effects the whole world.  Slash and burn is common in the Amazon and it destroys lots of rain forest and forces animals out of their habitat.  The Amazon is sometimes called the "lungs of the world," so if we keep doing this type of farming up we are going to have serious problems in the future.
Virgin Rain Forest


Exhausted land 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Going Broke in Paradise, July 6

Wow, the Eastern Caribbean is expensive!  We knew that going in.  We expected exports to be ridiculous, and sure enough, yes, they are.  We planned to buy our boat parts in the US and hand carry them back (51% Vat in Grenada).  We expected US brands for food stuff would be expensive, they have to travel a long way to get here, but what we weren’t expecting was to have local foods so expensive as well.  Produce is more expensive here then it is at home for fruits that are actually grown here.  Pineapples are $10 each, Mangos that are basically falling in the streets rotting are still $2-3 each.  Yesterday I bought tomatoes for $8 a pound and bananas have been at least $4 a pound since French Guiana.  I can see them growing along the roads and yet they are still $4 a pound!  Fish is also dear, although we’ve been lucky to catch enough of our own.  Locally made breads are still more expensive than I expected and often poor quality. Where is the French Baker that comes and taps on your hull every morning selling baguettes and croissants? Even eggs are expensive and there are literally chickens everywhere! I guess we have been spoiled and didn’t even know it with the areas we have cruised. In Mexico and in Central America there were enough local brands we didn’t miss our favorites from home; yogurt, milk, cheeses and bakery goods.  In fact, we never saw American brands in much of Mexico and Central America, but we didn’t really miss them.  The food was great in the grocery stores, produce markets and restaurants.  In Europe, we expected the food to be expensive, but we found quite the opposite.  We found our grocery bills to be less in Europe than they would be in the US.  We couldn’t find US brands at all there, except maybe in a specialty shop, but we didn’t need them.  The food was fantastic in Europe and we stuffed our bilges with Whole Food’s quality cheeses and cured meats for dollar store prices. Good wines were literally a few Euros and fresh bread and pastries were so good it wasn’t worth baking ourselves. In the winter good tropical produce was sometimes expensive, but there was always local produce that was reasonable and the staples were cheap everywhere.  Eating out in Europe could be expensive, we left a Euro trail around France that was painful, but we got fantastic food in return and there was always the option of cheaper eats.  A baguette and a hunk of amazing cheese was reasonable and we often opted to go that route instead of sitting in a restaurant with the kids.  

Anyway, we’ve had a little culture shock since sailing across the pond and its disappointing to go shopping and tell the kids no, you can’t get that $15 box of General Mills Cherrios and no there isn’t a local brand to buy instead. The kids love seeing US brands for the first time and yet much of it is out of our reach. Mike and I both really love grocery shopping in foreign countries, it is not a chore we dread and in we usually fight over who gets to shop, but it isn’t much fun these days.  Yesterday we left a grocery store in Grenada after having spent $300 in groceries and we could hand carry them out (just Mike and I).  We didn’t even buy anything really fun; no exotic cheeses, no expensive cuts of meat and zero beverages.  It was just staples and we’ve had to learn to go without some of our favorites (and I’m not suggesting we are simply leaving out exotic fruits or a good wine, we are going without things like yogurt and peanut-butter).  I would estimate that we are spending at least three times as much on staples as we do at home and more for specialty items.  Groceries are now the largest expenditure in our budget.

Now that I have ranted, I can say there are things about cruising in the Caribbean that are easy on the budget.  We don’t need to go into marinas if we don’t want to.  Islands are close together and there is always wind, so we don’t have to spend any money on diesel.  Flying home is cheaper; there are multiple direct flights and multiple carriers.  

Anyway, the Caribbean is still fantastic and very easy cruising, so I see the allure, but it is definitely a budget buster and I’m just grateful I only have one teenager to feed while we are here!

Looking for freebie food!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Hanging out in Grenada with a few other boats, July 4

Happy Island, Union Island, Grenadines 
Happy Island, and island made entirely out of Conch shells

enjoying a motor sail to Grenada

Never get tired of this water color.  Tobago Cays

We've joined the hordes of other boats that have run south to evade the hurricanes.  We are now anchored in Prickly Bay in Grenada and there are probably 100 other boats here with another 50 in the neighboring harbor.  While it is nice to have finally caught up with the elusive "kid boats," it is definitely a little culture shock.  We recently joined 25 other kids for an impromptu get together and our socialites are pretty happy.  We aren't doing much else at the moment, but we've promised the kids that once we got to Grenada there would be other kids to hang out with, so we are here for a few more days while they get as much socializing in as they can.

The weather looks good to leave on the 7th or 8th and we hope to head to Trinidad about that time.  We are getting some work done on the boat and we are also leaving the boat for a few weeks while we head home.  Trinidad is officially out of the hurricane belt, so we feel pretty comfortable leaving the boat there. Once we return we will head back up to Grenada for a spell before we start our westward progress.