Katelyn Irene Loring, September 11, 2014
Happy Birthday new mommy Lindsey
We tried kangaroo. Not something I'd have again.
Kolokasi's another one I won't rush to have again.
Accident on the highway between Calgary and Red Deer (the highway we travel between visits with our daughters.
At my surprise 60th birthday party
Our 2014 sailing took us from Portugal, on a failed Atlantic crossing, Spain, Tunisia, Italy (Sicily), through the Greek islands to Cyprus for winter. By land, we drove through the avalanche prone Canadian highway from Vancouver Island through the Rocky Mountains to Calgary. In Spain, we drove through the Basque country. July, we flew to Tanzania for an adventure of a lifetime -- a safari. See Off the Beaten Track.
January 1, 2014 – With a heavy heart I share with our readers that my sweet mom passed away December 27, 2013 from a series of strokes. No one knew she was having them, as the doctors couldn't find evidence. She died peacefully in her sleep, and her last words: “I’ve had a great life and I’m ready to go.”
January 18 -- Con and I rented a car, loaded it up with memorabilia from mom's house, and drove the two-day trip from Vancouver Island to Alberta. Mom had information notes and stories taped to the bottom of various dishes, china, and crystal, and inside the original box holding her 1935 Shirley Temple doll she received as a girl. It's been a wonderful walk through her past, but so very hard not to be able to do it with her. I am reading about the 1917 dish her mom left her that she’d purchased at the train station waiting for her brother to return from the WWI. Mom’s beautiful house is now empty and for sale; most of the Executor leg work has been completed. Con and I will return from Alberta the last week of January to finalize a few things, and then fly back to Portugal to attempt our Atlantic crossing again.
BACK ON VANCOUVER ISLAND
January 28 -- Today four years ago, my dad passed away. One month and one day ago, mom passed away peacefully. It's sad losing the two people that I've loved the longest. I hope they are enjoying each other wherever they are.
Our return to Vancouver Island from Alberta wasn't for the faint of heart. We left Sunday afternoon, and reached the mountain passes as darkness moved in -- about 4 pm in the mountains. There are a few mountain passes where the highway is still just two lanes as it hugs the side of the mountains. The road was made more narrow piled high with snow from avalanches that had been cleared. We drove through the fog, lowered our headlight to see through the snow storm, and were on full alert through the “Caution Avalanche” areas. Our headlights filled with mud and dirt making it impossible to see. The dangerous highway was feeling like a death trap. There was nowhere to pull over as the snow had been piled along the highway like a dirty wall and it was camouflaged with the mud leaving us confused unable to distinguish between the highway road and the snow banks. Then it got worse… A bully-truck driver rode our tail, blinding us further by flashing his high beams. He'd speed up, then slow down. It was a nasty first day on our return drive. We stopped at a two-bit motel, happy to flop into bed, rising early to make the rest of the trip, which turned out to be a beautiful drive through some of Canada's most scenic route. We saw a moose, and slowed when a herd of long-horned sheep crossed the highway.
With just a few days remaining on Vancouver Island settling mom's estate I’m gently placing my memories of mom and dad and our great times together in their house in a special place in my soul.
A memory of our grandkids makes me smile today: We took Dex and Hailey to an open gym to play on the equipment, but got there too early and had to wait. They coloured pictures patiently, but then Dex took the book Hailey was colouring in, so she took it back. “Hailey!” Dex said casually, “you have to share.” Hailey gave him the book and walked away pouting. Dex followed her explaining, “Hailey, you're just 4 and learning about sharing, I’m 4 1/2 and can teach you. It's when you give someone something that you want." Hailey turned to listen, smiled, and joined him back at the table to watch him colour in her book. Love those two!
February 2 – We booked into a waterfront one-bedroom hotel room at The Pier in Sidney because mom's house is now empty. Thanks to Con for leading the efforts to sell mom’s house privately, we received an offer and I signed the deal just hours before our flight.
Arriving in the night, in Lisbon, Portugal and were greeted by Geert, Con's brother who will become the third member of our four-member Atlantic crossing. We took a hotel room for the night and will collect Hugo, another brother of Con's who will join us from Vancouver Island as our fourth and final crew. In a rental, we drove to Big Sky, climbed aboard on the hard, and now wait for good weather to lower her into the ocean to begin our sea trials.
February 6th -- Happy Birthday Con!
Con's sister, Anna along with Willem flew to Portimao for our Atlantic send-off. But first, they treated us to a birthday breakfast in the hotel where their room overlooks Big Sky, just a stone's throw away.
A nasty weather system continues across the Atlantic toward the Spanish western coast, dumping into the Bay of Biscay, pushing waves up all the way to southern Portugal and down toward Morocco. We're seeking a departure to the Canary Islands, but the weather always has the final word. Currently the 5-6 meter waves will taper off to 2-4 meters with light wind for our 4-6 day crossing to the Canary Islands.
Getting Big Sky ready after we've been away is always a big job, opening valves, rigging the sails, and generally re-outfitting her. The boys tested the new gennaker purchased for the crossing from China. They laid it out in a field and slipping the cover slip (referred to as the condom) over it. The sail makers were here to check the mast and rigging. After a few adjustments and replacements, the sails are up. The boys took out our new light-weight dingy with a plan to motor down the river to the yard where we left the car. The boys came back 15 minutes later soaking wet. Rub a dub dub three men in a ... dingy (below) Too much weight in the new light-weight dingy. Con wrapped it back up and returned it for a bigger one with twice the weight!
February 10 – It’s been a 10-day wait to depart but the sea has become increasingly more nasty with high winds. We drove to Sangres, the furthest point west on the European continent and stood high on the cliffs watching the massive waves crash into the craggy shoreline. The video of Big Sky in the Portimao River.
You can see the 50+ winds are setting up along Portugal's west coast and into the Bay of Biscay. It also sets up the waves.
February 13 – We departed knowing the sea was miserable hoping the weather would cooperate as the wind was expected to ease nearer to the Canaries and we believed we could tuck behind the land. Our anticipated 95-hour sail from Portimao to the Canary Islands was a disaster with half the crew sick and the other half pretending they weren’t. I wore a patch behind my ear to ward off the sea sickness and it did help. Hugo was sick from the moment we left the breakwater at the river’s mouth -- dangerously sea sick. Five and six meter waves crashed against Big Sky and sometimes aboard, all the while we fought 25 - 30 knot winds on the nose. We'd disappear deep in the valley of six meter waves frighteningly sandwiched like an ant in the middle. After 28 hours, Con and I made the decision to return, "safety first" is our motto. The prolonged sea sickness was our first concern as a person can go into shock. Con and Geert have stomachs of steel, but they were incredibly uncomfortable too. True sports, they took parts of my shifts and all of Hugo's adding to their burden. On the bright side, Geert saw a whale. We traveled 185 NM in total, only to return and dock in a marina 8.5 NM from our departure. The return was easier riding the enormous waves more gently because of the angle and having some wind with us. We will spend the rest of the winter season in Lagos and then make a new sailing plan.
February 14 -- Happy Valentine's Day!
Hugo departed this morning by bus to Lisbon for his flight back to Vancouver Island. Geert leaves at noon. I told "the boys" it was like reaching Base Camp when we attempted to climb Mt. Everest. No regrets from the crew; we were all in agreement that returning was the best plan.
February 18 -- Con and I have now settled into the Lagos marina for the winter season. The force of nature had the final say. Weather for the crossing this year has been odd. Many yachters we’ve kept in touch with shared their trials and tribulations on their crossing and for some a failed (return) crossing. Lagos is the first marina where we wintered seven years ago when we sailed down the Atlantic from Finland.
February 22 -- Now that we've joined the "Almost Crossed Club" and settled back into southern Portugal, we decided to get back to being tourists. Yesterday, we packed a bag for five days, hopped on the train from Lagos to Lisbon and moved into a beautiful hotel that was once a palace. Checking in, the gentleman at the front desk gave us the card key for the second floor. Con asked, "Do you have anything higher?" He responded discretely, "Sir, Madam, I'm sure you won't be disappointed. I've upgraded you to the President's Suite." During high season, it's 1,000 euro's per night! We opened the front door to the room were greeted by two-story high ceilings, four 36-foot high French doors -- four of 'em. It a spectacular room with portraits on the walls, drapes with hundreds of meters layered, mirrors on some walls floor to nearly the ceiling. Our bedroom is through either door. The first door leads into the dressing room and closet. Too fun!
We walked around the streets last night, stumbling into a crowd waiting for the Prime Minister of Portugal to arrive. Con and I positioned ourselves right beside the body guards and security personnel -- nobody seemed to think we should be moved. Con snapped a number of photos like a privileged media representative.
February 23 -- We're Booked to Australia in four days!
While pampering ourselves in Lisbon, taking in good music, food, fantastic sights, and of course the Olympic hockey games, we came up with a new plan to help us sort out our 2014 sailing season. In two days, we'll leave Lisbon for Big Sky to repack our suitcases and head to the airport for a 48-hour trip to Australia! We'll fly to Cairns and check out the Great Barrier Reef coast south to Brisbane, and if time permits, south to New Zealand. If we like what we see, we'll set ourselves up to cross the Atlantic next season and carry on through the Panama Canal and into the South Seas to Australia. From Australia, we plan to return to Big Sky via Canada to see the kids and grandkids, and then to the Netherlands to celebrate Con's mom's 98th birthday. By the time we're back aboard, in April, the sailing season will be upon us.
February 26 – Last Days in Lisbon before we fly to Australia
Our four days in Lisbon was enjoyable and allowed us to ponder our next sailing season, and as it turned out, plan a wild and crazy holiday to Australia and check out the cruising waters there. Con lived there in his early 20s for a few years, but for me it will be a first. The trick in packing for this trip: Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Netherlands, and Portugal will be packing for two months of travel into three different climate zones. The bigger challenge will be to do it in one suitcase!
February 24 -- Four-hour walking tour of Lisbon!
A fantastic day! We found a free walking tour of Lisbon, for a chance to see the city from a local's perspective. A 25-year-old man led us on foot through all the cool places telling stories of Lisbon's history, showing us simple treasures in out-of-the-way places that you'd never get otherwise. A tourist passed us at one point baaing like a sheep under his breath – (like we were tourists being flocked) I felt bad for him, because we were having the greatest tours, and left filled up on culture, stories, visions, sounds, and smells of Lisbon and Portugal to carry with us for the rest of our lives.
Pictured: Rafael our tour guide showing us what a typical Portuguese man over 45 looks like. The cap, moustache, and a flirtatious smile and look on his eyes. Check his left hand, it's ready to pinch a woman! And, a statue paying tribute to an opium-addicted Portuguese poet. I say it's a tribute to Facebook!
Click on Australia & New Zealand for stories and photos of our visit to that area of the world.
April 21 -- Canada to the Netherlands Con and I spent about a month in Canada with family and friends. We visited Canada in October, December, January and again in April, and each month the land was covered in snow. Driving to the airport for our flight to the Netherlands a few days ago, we made our way through yet another snow storm.
IN THE NETHERLANDS
Our Sprenger family got together to celebrate Nomie's 98th birthday, and for an annual Easter Egg Hunt.
BACK ON THE BOAT
April 25, 2014 and we're still contemplating our next move...
Perched on the edge of Western Europe, in the pretty town of Lagos Portugal, we’re still deciding: cross the Atlantic or put Big Sky on a freighter to South East Asia.
During our seven years aboard, we've visited 51 countries and 5 continents, beginning in the Baltic Sea where we purchased Big Sky. With the short northern sailing season, we chased the sun south and then once we aimed it east into the Mediterranean we couldn't leave -- it got into our blood. We visited nearly every country that borders the Sea, except Algeria, Egypt and Lebanon. We've sailed as far south as Morocco and Tunisia and most of the Greek Islands, nearly making it to Cyprus which ended in a tow by the friendly Turkish coast guard. We've sailed north following the Bosporus along Turkey's Asia and European coasts into the Black Sea, further north to Bulgaria, Romania, and then 100 NM down the Danube River keeping south of the Ukrainian border. (Ukraine wasn't keen on visitors, requesting a number of ridiculous fees, including an expensive rat inspection.) This past spring 2013, we left our winter spot in Marina di Ragusa, on the south tip of Sicily, setting our sights on Portugal to set up for a December Atlantic crossing to the Caribbean. It wasn't meant to be. After a delayed start and then a failed attempt to cross to the Canary Islands, we turned around. Big Sky was plowing through the ocean submarine style in the unforgiving waves. We're contemplating hitching a ride on a freighter leaving Genoa this fall for Singapore to switch our seasons upside down. Meanwhile, we're in short sleeves and walking through the Lagos market collecting 40 euro cent per kilo oranges, a box of delicious strawberries for 4 euro, and most everything else for a third of the cost than in Canada.
April 27, 2014 -- Gentle winds rocked us awake at the lazy hour of 8:45, a luxury given our recent broken jet-lagged sleep. Our pace has slowed, in an unusual way. Previous springs, we're scurrying around anxious to outfit the boat from its winter stay and set off to catch the fresh breezes to take us to new adventures. Heading back into the Mediterranean is like watching a great movie for the second time... you love it, but really want to watch something new. We're closing in on a decision to put Big Sky on a freighter leaving Genoa this fall for Singapore. Until that's finalized, we'll continue to sleep in, enjoy this little town, play afternoon games of backgammon in our cockpit, and watch movies in our bed at night.
April 30 – Living Aboard in Portugal The sun shines every day but the northerly winds are strong and cool. We're still in shorts and t-shirts. The wind took a break so we gave our new gennaker a try while tied at the marina. Having it made in and shipped from Hong Kong, it came with no instructions, but with the help of YouTube we managed to get most of it up, but then the wind started picking up and we dropped the chute to cover the fragile 160 square meters. The thin material flapping around the mast and rigging in the marine is a really bad idea. Last night, Con took me out on a date to the local pub (which he admits was self-serving, since he wanted to see the second semi-final major European soccer (futball) competition. Two wines, two beer, a bacon/cheese hamburger with fries, and the bill came to 13.30 euro. We plan to splurge again tonight and watch yet another game, this time trying out a different pub. Yesterday we dropped of some mending at the local seamstress, a new button put on Con's jeans, a pair of Lulu lemons hemmed, and a window cover for the boat mended. Total cost: 11 euro, but in all fairness we should add 1.20 for a drink since we had to wait for the seamstress to finish her lunch in the cafe next door. As you can see the living is very affordable; picked up the weekly sales flyer from the local supermarket and here are some highlights: Beer 6.49 euro for a case of 20, 250 ml bottles, oranges 74 cents a kilo (but we buy these on the street at 40 cent a kilo), Mango's 2.17 a kilo, beef tenderloin 12.50 a kilo, pork tenderloin 4.95 a kilo, fresh buns 18 cents each, as you can see the living is easy on the wallet. This afternoon we dropped surplus clothes and other nick knacks off at a local charity, that was much appreciated and it lightened the load on Big Sky. Over the next few days we'll continue to make Big Sky "sea-ready", not too much to do. Tomorrow is a national holiday, May 1st or labour day, we'll see what that means, probably speeches by politicians and marching bands and maybe fireworks. Next week they start dredging the entrance canal from the ocean to the marina restricting our movement a little, but not so we cannot leave.
May 12, 2014-- Ellen, my good friend from Calgary, her hubby Dave, and son Alex, living in Berlin joined us aboard for a Mother's Day sail. We left Lagos via the river, heading toward the grottos and within ten minutes, about six large dolphins bee-lined it to our bow for a swim. They're beautiful creatures, but often only stay a minute of two, which these guys did and then took off again. We set sail on a beam reach east toward the Portimao River where we dropped anchor and took the dingy ashore for lunch. Along the way, we watched a jet-ski race taking place on a parallel course to us. At the river's mouth, we had to negotiate our moment to cross the race track (so to speak) to enter into the river as the race took them through the river and back out into the open ocean. In five meters, we dropped anchor, lowered our new dingy, attached our two-stroke engine and after one pull on the starter cord, our never-fail engine came to life. The beach restaurant across from the Portimao marina was fabulous! It's worth returning when we set sail (east) toward Valencia just to have another smoked salmon/beef burger. "Valencia?" Yes, our new plan: Sail to the Valencia where daughter Courtney and granddaughter Hailey will join us. We're all going to the dentist. Why not, the price is a third of what we pay in Canada.
May 14 -- HAPPY Birthday to Hailey, our granddaughter turns 5 today. What joy she's brought to our lives.
Still having lazy days as we wait for west winds to blow us to Spain. Saying, "Farewell" to Lagos will be hard.
May 16 -- This could be our last day here in wonderful Lagos, one of the friendliest, most affordable and most beautiful place to visit. While Con replaced a switch on the water pump I took a long walk along the river-side boardwalk all the way to the grotto for some last memories of a great place. The heat of the day is comfy in the morning, with still a hint of cool breeze left over in the air from the night before. Temperatures by day rise to mid-30s, consistently each day. We watched the storks across the water from us building their nest, guarding their babies, and now the busy job of feeding them. Around 5 pm the sea gulls have been relentless diving at the babies. Each day they grow a little bigger and harder for the gulls to attack.
2014 Season: Finally underway
May 17 – 21 It was hard to do, but we peeled ourselves away from Lagos, aka Velcro Marina, "Once you arrive you never leave," the slogan. Lagos is a pretty, friendly, clean town, located just a pedestrian bridge across the river below from the marina. There's a local market every Saturday morning, where we load up on a week's worth of oranges for freshly squeezed juice at give-away prices. We bought Lavender honey made by a proud Portuguese man who comes into the market each week. It's delicious. The sun seems to shine every day and it's warm. In the centre square, there's always music playing, either a small band, or other musicians, and sitting by the statue or in one of the local outdoor coffee shop gives you plenty of opportunity to people watch.
Our morning departure was a bumpy ride to Albufeira, just about a four-hour sail, tucking into an interestingly quirky marina with surrounding architecture dubbed, "Legoland" due to the yellow, pink, blue four-story tourist villas and condos climbing nearly out of the marina waters. It was a pleasantly quiet night, for 21 euros. We left around nine o'clock planning a four-hour sail to Olhao, up a river, but once out of the Alburfeira marina we pulled up the dodger and saw UV damage to the clear plastic window was nearly 100 percent. We rerouted into Villamoura, just an hour east to visit the sail maker. Funny... seven years ago we left Lagos in February heading to the border of Spain and had to detour into Villamoura when the clew blew out of our jib. Both times we hadn't planned to go there. Since the sail maker was closed on Sunday, we stayed one night and moved on with 15 - 20 knot westerlies to Villa Real de Santo Antonio, up the Rio Guadiana, the river that separates Portugal from Spain. The first hour's sail was as anticipated but with each hour that passed, the winds and sea rose, ending our sail seven hours later tying on to a pier in a fast moving rising tide in wild 40 - 49 knot gusts. Con swung Big Sky around in a tiny space within the marina (on the river's edge) so our nose is into the wind along the pier and we have every fender we own and all our lines out holding us on starboard. The rising river began ebbing at six pm giving us a break, but it's a constant push and pull on the lines. Winds held at 40 knots. Sailing that day, we averaged about 7.5 knots today on the jib, with speeds at times hitting 9 knots.
Remembering Larry Radu with love. He would have been 62 May 19th.
The high wind petered out by morning, and while the tide was running gently out to the ocean we took our leave for Spain. Conditions were "about as good as they can get," Con always says, but they were. We sailed 64.5 NM in 9.31 hours. Wind was just ahead of the beam, water was gentle, sun poked out a few times, but rain is expected. AND, it was just about as good as it gets. By 4:30 pm, we pulled up to the visitor's pier in the Rota Marina on the west side of the Bay of Cadiz. I checked us in for two nights, and we quickly made our way to our slip before the anticipated big winds arrived. It just started to blow as we tied on, and that night it howled, blowing gusts in the 40s and 50s. A strong north rain arrived too, washing down the boat. (South rain is always messy with Sahara Desert sand.) Rota is a pretty Spanish town. We managed to acquire internet at a pretty good price, stocked the fridge, and toured the Spanish/Arabic town. History tumbles on top of each other.
May 22 -- A couple of days in Rota, Spain Not too many cruisers come to Rota, but it's a mistake to miss it. We walked around the town this afternoon, picked up a few postcards for Con's mom and sister, and enjoyed the vast beach views and white-washed alleyways. The boardwalk has beautiful tiled planters and seating areas.
May 23 -- Our sail to Barbate Leaving Rota, we prepared the gennaker anticipating a light following wind. Once on the water, Con coaxed it out of the condom-like slip and I pulled on the halyard and up she went. The sky was filling with red and white, and then... as if in slow motion... the water was blanketed in red and white. We scrambled to collect the massive material back aboard. A small piece holding it together at the top of the mast tore out from the shackle leaving the shackle and halyard line at the top of the main mast.
Sailing into Barbate, the sun was hot; breeze still cool. We motor-sailed passed the Cape Trefalgar. That's where Napoléon was defeated by the Royal Navy led by Admiral Nelson 109 years ago. We was mortally wounded, but with 27 ships he defeated 33 (French and Spanish). The most dangerous part of our journey today was over that very area, as there's a shoal that shallows up to 1.8 meters.
It was just about at this spot that we saw something very large floating toward us. We'd been listening to a PAN PAN all day, where a wooden sailboat was missing in the Strait of Gibraltar with six people aboard. I thought this was a bloated person, because it has arms and legs. It was an enormous dead turtle.
May 24 -- To Gibraltar ANOTHER FANTASTIC SAIL!
On the perch enjoying lunch, the glorious wind filled our sails and along with the current, we reached 9.5 knots. It was awesome.
Ahead: Gibraltar through the narrow land that separates Africa from Europe. Mid afternoon, we left the Atlantic and entered the Mediterranean. A sail surfer slipped up behind us from seemly nowhere cut deathly close across our bow! Morocco is seen just behind him. An hour later, we were sandwiched between a dozen sail boats in a race. Spain behind them. A VHF message in the morning warned us to keep a sharp look out for a swimmer leaving Spain for Africa across the Strait of Gibraltar. By the time we got to the swim zone, he was already out of sight.
May 27 -- Toward Valencia We were able to use the sails every single day since leaving Portugal, except today, there wasn't enough wind. It’s coming tonight though. We're safely tucked into a pretty marina, which comes at a steep price, nice staff, and a bottle of red wine. We'll sleep like babies as the gale blows in overnight. We plan to take the tail end of the gale tomorrow morning and blow ourselves to Almiramar, further along the Spanish coast. We filled up our diesel in Gibraltar saved about 60 euro cents per litre. This morning, I sat down to enjoy my cappuccino and an egret flew into our cockpit for a bird's eye view of the marina.
May 31 -- Along the Coasta Blanca Making our way along the beautiful Spanish coast we stopped into Marina del Este, a bit more expensive than most marina's but pretty. We enjoyed a fabulous plate of grilled fish looking out at Big Sky, the harbour and pretty surroundings. (Pictured to the left with Big Sky behind us.) The harbour master pulled out a bottle of red wine as a gift for staying in the marina.
In the morning, we planned to catch the forecasted 20-knot west winds for a 7-hour sail. Following 50 knot sustained winds were pushing up the sea creating massive swells keeping me on high alert. Con, always prepared and ready had previously researched the Adra fishing harbour in case we had to ditch the sail. It was just 1.5 hours away. Entering the harbour dumbfounded as to where to tie on; no one was around. We selected an abandoned pier but knew it would be difficult with the wind. Con motored straight toward the pier with me dangling off the bow ladder holding a heavy line and when we were just close enough, I took a giant leap of faith landing in a thick layer of bird poo that covered the length of the pier! Hundreds of seagulls owned the pier and they were all there to watch. I tied the bow, Con tossed the stern line, attached his end to the winch and pulled us in.
The next day we moved on to Aguadulce "sweet water" and washed off the seagull residue and filled the tanks and enjoyed the pretty town for a few days. Walking barefoot in the sand -- for a few seconds -- until the sand burned the bottoms of our feet and we sprinted into the sea. Summer is coming.
By bus, we toured Alicante and by coincidence there was a colourful Spanish celebration. Maybe they're celebrating Assumption Day. There were marching drummers, singers, dancers, and lots of clapping. Two oxen pulled a cart filled with flowers. This little girl posed for me when I asked her and told her she was muy bonita. Con proudly handling the oxen.
June 1, 2014 -- My dad would have been 89 today. Remembering him with a great big smile. Love you forever dad!
June 3 -- Another beautiful day in Spanish waters
As the sun rose over Aguadulce a beautiful rainbow graced the sky. Our 12-hour, 87 NM trek landed us in Mazzaron, a small town with a tiny marina with room for only three visiting yachts -- three were taken. With the help of a friendly security guard, and 20 euro, we tied up in someone's private slip. A picture of Con during our docking would have been hilarious, as he was filled from waist to foot in red-caked-on mud! The lines we pulled from the bottom of the marina were thick with jelly-like and clam-like critters, and saturated in red mud. The stern line that holds our boat off the pier feeds through our stern fairlane but a giant knot prevented it. Together we pulled and pulled and managed to get a few more inches of line and gave it a good wrap securing us. After dragging our bodies through the town we laboured up the stairs to the Yacht Club restaurant for tapas, but unfortunately, each dish we ordered was the size of a full meal! We were stuffed, nearly rolled down the stairs back to the boat.
Con washed off yesterday's mud from Big Sky and we agreed, "a perfect day to fly the gennaker to Torevieja". We laboured to get that sucker ready to fly and FINALLY red and white filled the sky at our bow -- for about three minutes then the wind changed to a beam reach (not gennaker wind). It was then we studied the genneker realizing it was upside down! There's always another day... Not a cloud in the sky, only a few boats on the water, not counting the large freighters hugging the Moroccan coast in the distance, we should be in Torrevieja late afternoon.
June 6 -- We've been day trippers, arriving at one nice town/marina after another, saying to each other, "Ya, maybe we'll stay a couple of days," but then we check the wind and weather --perfect for sailing, so we untie and set off. This was ANOTHER perfect day to fly the gennaker, but...
Try #1: Gennaker came apart at the shackle leaving the halyard and shackle at the top of the mast and the gennaker in the water all around the boat.
Try #2 Gennaker was upside down. We brought it down. Wrong winds arrived.
Try #3: Bow knot wasn't tied correctly and once again the sea was covered in the red and white gennaker. We pulled it in.
Big Sky was secure in the Valencia. We drove to the Basque Country for a short land holiday. Click on the button right or this link for stories and photos of our trip.
We're back from our land trip to the Basque country, stocked the fridge, bought a few surprises for Hailey and await their arrival.
Courtney and Hailey's Spanish Vacation
June 24, 2014 – July 1
Our daughter Courtney and five-year-old Hailey arrived from Canada (not their luggage -- again). That didn't slow us down. I loaned Courtney a bathing suit, and Hailey wearing a futball t-shirt from Con and her underwear followed us to the beach. Hailey riding her scooter (a gift she found in her bunk bed).
Each day, we're full out playing expanding all our energy and collapsing in bed at night. Con rented a bike with a child seat, purchased a bike helmet, and with Courtney and I on our fold-up bikes we bike through the dry riverbed, now a fabulous bike path that winds through Valencia.
In between bike rides, scooter rides, walks to the never-ending sandy Valencia beach and down the boardwalk, body surfing in the gentle waves, playing in the park, swimming, eating tapas, drinking sangrias, and day drips in Big Sky, we're visiting the dentist. Each night for Con, it's World Cup Futball. Go Holland! They're now in the quarter finals, playing Costa Rica next.
Con's been planning a side trip to Barcelona for the four of us.
We left today, taking a 4 1/2 hour train ride to get there. We checked into a PERFECT place to spend a half week -- a modern two-bedroom apartment with three balconies, on the fourth floor just a block off the Ramblas with a roof top pool. Hailey loves it!
We went underground today via subway to the Sangrada Familia, the unfinished church of architect Gaudi, where the term "gaudy" comes from where he combined Gothic with Art Nouveau and it's dripping with gaudiness, ornaments, fruits, and even a Christmas tree. His style is seen all over Barcelona. The church began in 1882 and is planned to be completed in 2026. A church unlike any other in the world, filled with symbolism, geometric details, history, indescribable facades. The most difficult part of viewing the church is getting through the hordes of people in the hot Spanish sun. We circled it and got back into the subway heading for the roof top pool.
Courtney and I had a blast shopping in the funky boutique shops, usually Hailey entertains everyone dancing to the piped-in music. Fascinated by the Spanish fans and dancers, Hailey entertains us at night putting on shows. It's contagious, we're all Spanish dancing. A tradition for Con and Hailey is watching Charlie Brown on his laptop. Hailey created a movie theatre with towels for the two of them to watch, poking her head out to ask for popcorn.
Barcelona to Valencia
We checked out of our Barcelona apartment making one last walk around the Ramblas' beautiful unique streets. It was hard to imagine that eleven years ago, when Con and I visited Barcelona I got impossibly lost just as dusk set in and it took me quite a while to find my way back to our place.
Returning to Big Sky by early evening, a wild wind was blowing into the marina tossing the boats. Big Sky was awkwardly forward and leaning against our neighbour's boat. As we got closer, we saw that our line wasn't set properly and had slipped on the cleat! Con and I quickly set to action with a new line and using the winch managed to straighten her.
Once we were secure, we passed our bags up to Con and he lowered our new fold-up bikes to Courtney and me on the pier and the two of us biked off for groceries. Our Canadian Dahon bikes finally required more attention than we could give them and we traded them in for new Dahon's at a local Valencia bike shop.
About 8 pm the sky cracked, and Big Sky's topside was running like a river from the tremendous downpour. Hailey was elated! She was desperate to go out and help Opa close the just opened windows, but it was best not to gamble with lightning strikes.
By morning, the sun was hot and with our beach gear, sun screen, toys and water packed, we headed to the beach. As a shortcut, we all climb over the wall and down the rock-hill ledge parking ourselves in the middle of hundreds of beach goers.
Each day, Hailey gets braver and braver in the waves wanting to go out deeper and do the body surfing she sees older kids doing. A big wave caught her off guard (and us) tossed her a few times scaring her. Opa scooped her up and she was finished surfing for the day.
Courtney and Hailey's Spanish three-week vacation came to an end today when they boarded their flight for Canada. All the blow-up water, and sand-digging toys, and the boat netting have been cleaned and stored for the next grandchild's visit.
Courtney, Con and I took advantage of the great dental prices in Valencia and were happy with the investments we made in our teeth. We hugged good bye to our sweet guests.
Thanks to Courtney, who said a “Safari” was on her Bucket List. It tweaked Con's imagination and before we knew it, we were booked to Tanzania.
Click African Safari in our Off The Beaten Track
August 11, 1014 -- Back from our awesome safari, we were now ready to depart for Cyprus from Valencia -- 1750 nautical miles! That's more sailing in one trek than we did the entire year in 2012. Testing the systems, the genoa wasn't working. Con got inside the front locker to get to the electric box to learn that the wires had worn out -- frayed. He's scouted Valencia successfully for repairs.
August 12 -- 16, 2014
Our 1,750 NM journey to Cyprus (580 NM so far)
At 8 a.m., we untied and set off in relatively calm waters, no winds. Four hours into our sail, a massive grey whale approached us on our port side and circled the boat slowly, very near to us, possibly 13 - 15 meters away. We cut the engine and floated. He carried on around us making a complete circle spouting water with a big "puuffs", then in the place where he began the circle, he arched his back and flapped his enormous tail at us and left in the same direction where he'd come to visit. It's a stunning bit of nature reversal when a creature this enormous comes to check us out. It's humbling to have the attention of such an animal. A pod of porpoises swam west passed us about 15 minutes later. (Porpoises aren't interested in you; dolphins chat with you and ride your bow.)
Motor sailing for days/three nights to Tunisia averaging 8-9 knots, but nasty waves sending rivers of water topsides. We stayed inside keeping dry, doing lookout from our pilot house. We topped up our fuel at 56 euro cents per litre. On our third day, the sea calmed and we went outside. Con spotted something plugging our starboard drain topside. It was a great squid! A few birds landed aboard hitching a free ride. When we got into Tunisian waters, a beautiful long-beaked bird with brown and yellow feathers everywhere except the wings which were stripped like a zebra circled and circled the boat until he decided to hitch a ride on our bow spit.
Our flag took a beating with the rough sea and strong winds.
Near the entrance to the Kelibia, Tunisia harbour, a beautiful dolphin leaped nearly a meter out of the water in front of us! If only he knew how dangerous it was there for him with all the fishing nets set in the area. We visited this fishing harbour eight years ago staying a few nights at 3.25 euro per night. Today, they charge 33 euro per night. It has changed though -- more run down! Diesel is 56 euro cents compared to Italy's 1.73 euro per litre. Sammy, the local live aboard who coordinates the boats in the chaotic maze, (same guy as eight years ago, who looks anywhere from 50 to 101 years old) waved us over with one hand, a glass of dark substance (either rum or black coffee) in the other, and a stubby cigarette dangling from his bottom lip. Con at the helm looked perplexed to say the least. I walked to the bow imagining the near impossible dog-leg-like movements we'd have to make if we were crazy enough to attempt it. Neither Con nor I motioned a response which would have been in hand signals and head nods, as they speak French or Arabic only). We contemplated.
A row of tiny motor boats tied together with one tied at the rickety pier nearly covered the entrance, leaving about 4.6 meters (the width of Big Sky) to move through. If we got passed that, we'd have to tuck sharp portside toward the pier to avoid the enormous fishing boats tied stern-to the other side of the opening, and then bow starboard so our stern could be tied to two other boats that were tied to the pier, one of them Sammy's. I walked back to Con, who was shaking his head.
"Okay," I said with fake confidence. "You can do it!" We both knew our alternative was an overnight sail further south to Monistar and a night-time arrival, which was out of the question. Con nodded, filling up on my fake confidence, nudged passed the little boats port side, cut sharp to port, back to starboard, all the while, I tossed lines (four of 'em) to Sammy, two other locals, and an eager Immigration Officer, reluctant to take the line -- not his job. Slowly we eased in against the two rickety boats, with an inch to spare at the bow as it hovered over the small motor boats. Immigration and port police climbed across the one boat and over the rail onto Big Sky with their big black dirty boots. Expecting visitors immediately, I'd put tempting items out of their reach, inside cupboards before entering the harbour. We know why they come aboard. Seated in the cockpit, the lead agent asked Con to list "Everything aboard," pushing the paper and pen to him. Con pulled a type-written inventory list from his papers. That surprised them. Especially because it was stamped "Big Sky" with our registration number, and signed by the captain (Con). (For some reason, that holds some kind of weight.) It knocked the wind out of them for a moment. "Okay, cigarettes?" he asked.
"Whiskey?" he continued.
"Yes," Con responded, and at that, they climbed down the companionway into the pilot house. Immediately, he went to the master bedroom, opened my closet and said to Con quietly so the other guy couldn't hear, "Cadeaux" French for present.
He nodded and followed Con to the settee, opened the cupboard and pulled out a cheap bottle (bought for this very purpose) and handed it to him.
"And one for my friend," he said in French, adding, "in a bag." Con pulled out a cheap bottle of vodka. He looked it over and apparently satisfied and waited for Con to put them in a bag. All the while, the Imam was calling the Muslims to prayer.
Immigration visited us again the next morning after we fueled up, for one more look aboard. This guy didn't ask for graft.
Weather was perfect for a smooth run to Sicily, via the Italian island di Pantelleria, famous spot for illegals to land in their dangerous plight to leave Africa.
August 17 -- Still underway (197 NM and an overnighter)
We dropped the anchor in Porto Palo (bottom corner of Sicily) and despite the fact that we likely hooked a rock AND that we'll have fun in the morning unhooking it, it feels good to stop. We left Kelibia Tunisia about 10:30 am, over a nice sea, 15 - 25 knot winds which continued to climb through the night. The winds are still howling, but we're in a safe spot!. On my night watch, things were going fine, I was keeping track of the ships passing close by, sneaking up from behind, crossing our bow, all the while the monitoring the wind -- steady at 25 knots on a broad reach (just off our stern). I wasn't going to disturb Con's sleep until the winds reached 30 knots then we'd reef the sails together. With full sails the wind went from 30 directly to 40 in the time it took to walk from the pilot house to the bed. Winds climbed to 45 as an isolated cell soared passed us. We just released the jib sheet to reef it when the main sheet slipped out of the winch swinging the boom wildly starboard with a bang. Weirdly, yesterday, I asked Con, what are the chances the sheet could slip in the winch? Con called out instructions which went overboard with the wind. We furled the jib. He steered Big Sky into the wind to take the pressure off the main in order to furl it, all the while it was making a terrible racket with the boom flapping hard, bang bang sails crackling, and the sheets dancing in the air. "Guard the sheets," Con shouted. (The ropes that control the sails.) I scrambled to pull them all into the cockpit. One stray sheet could get into the prop and kill it. (We know, it happened a few years ago, curiously when we attempted to sail to Cyprus and detoured to Turkey for a diver to cut the sheet out of the prop!) Lightening lit up the sky to the east to add to the chaos and panic. By the time we managed the sails, got back on course, checked for traffic, the cell had moved on and we were in 14 knot winds.
August 23 -- We planted ourselves in Kalamata, Greece, after leaving Sicily, crossing the Ionian Sea. We've sailed night and day, 1130 NM so far, from Valencia. This stop was necessary, because our 5-year-old gel batteries have given up the ghost. The electrician told Con he could get us replacement batteries "tomorrow" provided we pay him in cash before 2 pm so he can transfer the money to wherever to make the purchase. At 1:50 pm, Con hopped on the back of the guys motorcycle and they shot out of the marina like a bat outta hell for a WILD ride. He swerved on angles we didn't know a bike could do and remain upright, balancing inches from the marina's water edge all to avoid the speed bumps. He wasn't going to slow down. After three instant tellers tries, Con had a pocket full of money, and the electrician raced into the bank seconds before it closed at 2 pm and made the transfer. The next day, the new batteries arrived. In 45 degree conditions in the engine room, two electricians hauled out our four, 150 pounds and replaced them with heavier AGM batteries. He told Con he lost 8 pounds today. Sweat! "Our bow thruster growls like an angry bear," Con says, which means, we can leave tomorrow, drop the anchor in a pretty turquoise-coloured bay and swim to our hearts content. Our next deadline is our flight out of Cyprus in a month. We can slow down our pace.
August 25 -- We found paradise
It's about four hours from Kalamata, the beautiful island of Elafonisos (thanks to our friends Judy and Bruno also Svein and Caryn for suggesting it). We're anchored on the southeast end of the island. The water is turquoise, warm, clean, jellyfish free. We'd stay longer, except that there's no internet! We are on baby-stand-by as Lindsey and Les' baby girl is due any day.
August 26 - 30 Island Hopping
Still enroute to Cyprus, we arrived in Greece and slowed our pace ride down to lazin' on the anchor. Reluctantly, pulling up anchor from the beautiful island of Elafonisos where we could have planted ourselves until the last skiff of summer. With a slight detour north, we visited the beautiful town of Monemvasies, a fortified Byzantine town that clings to the limestone that rises 350 meters from the sea.
It's nicknamed "Gibraltar of Greece".
It had never been taken by force, and they had plenty of water, but because nothing grows on the rocks they had to surrender for lack of food.
Con, anxious to sink his teeth into a Gyro, which we did, just 30 minutes after tying up in the no-charge, no-electricity harbour town about a kilometer from the Byzantine town. We sat in the shade overlooking the Aegean Sea and shared an upgraded Gyro called a Gyro Platter (rather than 2 euro, it was 7). Later that afternoon, I booked a hair appointment for highlights and a cut. In Canada that's a $140 hit. Here, 46 euro. Mind you, it took twice as long, but like Con and I always say, "We have the rest of our lives." We departed the quaint little harbour just as the sun was rising -- the best part of the day.
With a Meltimi due to arrive within 48 hours, we thought an anchorage we'd been in four years ago might be the perfect place, but we had some miles to go to get there.
Meltimi's are strong winds created when the monsoon lows from Pakistan and the highs from the Azores (in the Atlantic off Portugal) get squished together and race down the Aegean Sea from the Black Sea building strength as they cycle through the Cyclades (the group of Greek islands we're sailing through).
We dropped anchor four hours later off the familiar volcanic island of Milos, in the same completely private bay we'd stayed in four years ago. Milos has extraordinary rock formations and hot springs. The water was beautiful, blue, warm, and completely refreshing as we swam au natural.
Again... rising before the sun, we headed east to our fondly remembered bay on the island of Ios, our planned destination to plant ourselves for a half a week while the Meltimi blows itself out. Ios is known for its nightlife, but you'd never know it from our vantage point, in the bay. People who visit this beach are naturalists (no clothes) and it all flows very easily and "natural." Just west is the pretty white-washed town of Ios, known as "the Village."
While Con ventured out for better internet for us while aboard, and for fresh fruits etc., I played in the water, swimming to the beach and back, checking our anchor...
The hike isn't for the faint of heart. First, Con had to row to shore while the 25-40 knot winds blasted at him, then hike up the goat path to the village looking for internet providers (which he found, but didn't have his passport), to the grocery store, back down the goat path with heavy bags of groceries, to the dingy, and row back to the boat. Once aboard, he realized that he'd left our iPad at the grocery store. Back in the dingy, (passport in his backpack) he rowed ashore, hiked the goat path, back to the store, retrieved the iPad (honest Greeks), then to Cosmote for internet, back across town, down the goat path, across the hot sand, into the dingy, and row back to Big Sky. The Meltimi was blowing strong in the village, but where we are, the hills block most of it leaving us to drift on our anchor east and west.
We have another 500 NM to go to Cyprus and with our flight booked from there, we pulled up anchor and moved on, but not before another delicious swim.
September 2 -- Swimming and Swinging in the Dodecanese
We moved to Astypalia, the butterfly island leaving the Cyclades island chain, entering the Dodecanese, and dropped anchor.
We're on standby -- internet on 24 hours per day -- waiting for the news of the birth of our newest grand baby, Lindsey and Les' baby girl.
September 4 -- Internet Gymnastics
Arriving on the north end of Astypalia, Con was at the helm and I held up our cell phone (our internet modem) seeking bars -- cell phone bars. The best we could do was two bars. We dropped anchor.
The clouds were a welcome treat that morning, along with 22 rain drops fell. It hasn't rained here in quite a while. The 30 degree water wasn't as clear as we like so we rowed ashore, dropped off our garbage in the bin at the sleepy corner of the bay. Spotting two people, we exchanged "Yasas" (their standard "hello") added a "Yasis" to the goat, rowed back to the boat, and lifted anchor for our next spot, one hour east along the island.
Con paddled around the beautiful clear-water bay, populated by beautiful fish under us and goats around us, holding up the cell phone. Once he captured two bars -- good enough -- he paddled back, scooped up the chain which I hoped he'd float to shore since it always sounds like he's drowning when he swims with it. Climbing onto the rocks, he attached it to hold our boat steady so we wouldn't lose the two bars.
We spoke to Lindsey, now pretty uncomfortable at 3 cm dilated... soon.
September 5 - 8 -- Pretty Medieval Town of Astypalaia
This is definitely a rugged island, without proper charts, chances are good that we'd hit jagged rocks just under or peeking out of the water surrounding the island. It was once the hideout of pirates, and we get that. There are plenty of high-cliff framed coves and hillside covered bays to hide a ship or two.
We spent a night in the charming harbour, free electricity, free water, free mooring (the harbour master went to Rhodes and nobody else fills in). We moved just around to the back side of the town dropped anchor under the internet cell tower and the Venetian castle high up on the hill. The Greek chora (town) spilling out all around it.
We bought new snorkels and masks today, from the friendly lady we met yesterday. We finally found a similar language (Italian) to communicate maybe one percent of our conversation, but it didn't matter, she kept kissing my shoulder.
This is our fourth day on the island moving from one hilly, high cliff framed bay to another -- still no baby. The land is dry and parched now as summer's end closes in, with temperatures cooling a bit at night I say sarcastically (30+ by day, 30 in the water, and 27 at night).
September 9-10 -- Leaving our beautiful anchorage, we moved 48 NM closer to Cyprus, anchoring in yet another gorgeous bay off Tilos. Not even a nautical mile from Astypalaia anchorage we passed a Russian freighter that strangely ran aground, directly into the corner of Astipalaia's many rugged land edges. A berm was placed around the freighter, and luckily, nothing seeped from its cargo.
Weather forecasts predicted 15 knots, "Perfect for flying the gennaker," Con announced and proceeded to set it up on the foredeck. I motored out of the bay, into a surprisingly choppy sea. Winds climbed to 17 knots; Con continued to struggle with the "condom" the chute that releases and snuffs the gennaker. Forty-five minutes later, I left my position at the helm to attempt to help. It was difficult to stand, let alone struggle with the x@#X thing. Finally, Con got it to release. At that moment, the wind climbed to 30 knots. Before I could call, "snuff it" the snuff lines swung wildly overboard. Con attempted many tricks to catch it without success. AND THE NOISE! In a matter of minutes the whole thing would shred and at this point, that's exactly what I was hoping. Con shouted, "Into the wind!" But Big Sky wouldn't go into the wind without using the engine and with the lines in the water, I didn't want a repeat performance as the last time we attempted to sail to Cyprus ending in a Turkish tow when our lines got in the prop. How ironic... However, the lines I could see weren't in the water, they were flying wildly above the water and knotting in midair. Amazing if it wasn't so scary. I used the throttle, got us into the wind and Big Sky heeled madly port side. Con held on tight. "Too much, too much," he shouted. I turned back. "No prop, no prop," he shouted. I realized we were in reverse (I missed neutral) and the prop could have been screwed, but at that point, the lines all snapped and the whole thing landed in the water. We're now four in the water to one successful flight.
Carrying on under the jib, we entered Chalki's large harbour and Con readied the anchor, (releasing it and pushing it over the bow spit ready to drop -- when we're ready). However, the chain wasn't around the winch (we used it for the x@#X sail) and the 50 kilograms continued to drop 35 meters (while under sail!).
Motoring into position to drop the anchor now correctly to back up to the pier, our Bruce (anchor) caught on a rope at the bottom of the harbour. Twenty minutes later, we rescued it too.
Now safely tied, we stepped off and had a delicious Greek lunch. Such is the life of sailors.
Katelyn Joins the Family September 11, 2014
While at anchor in Chania our daughter Lindsey called on FaceTime on her way to the hospital now in labour, just four days after her due date. Les and Lindsey’s baby girl was born today, 7 am Calgary time. A quick four-hour delivery. Everybody is doing wonderfully and we're all ecstatic! Lindsey and Les had a long and painful seven-year journey to arrive at this special moment. We love her as much as her name: Katelyn Irene Loring. A beautiful name but even more special as they honoured my mom giving her my mom's name, "Irene". I know my mom would be incredibly moved and likely is as she celebrates with our family from her special place in heaven. We flew home a few weeks later and have enjoyed watching this brand new person doing all her firsts. Life is amazing! She's a gentle baby, easy to be around, content to look at you or all the wonderful colours around her.
We'll stay in this sweet town a bit longer, dreaming about our new grand baby, swimming and loafin' a bit before our long sail to Cyprus.
September 12 - 14 -- Summer lingers delightfully in Greece
With temperatures both in the water and out around the 30 degree point, Con and I are at anchor lollygagging (good word I'd say) all day and night -- swimming, reading, playing backgammon, eating healthy foods, and sleeping with the cooler breezes gently flowing through the boat. We left Chalki's calm anchorage once again entering a choppy sea, which worked out well since Con put a shower cleaning solution in our shower tanks that requires a lot of sloshing. Once we rounded the south end of the largest Dodecanese island, Rhodes, the sea was protected by the land and was once again comfy. We managed to sail most of the way, however, didn't temp the @#$#X Gennaker. I'm still up tight from our last failed flight, as it scared the b-jeepers outta me.
Lindos on the eastern side of Rhodes. The island played a big part in the 5th to 3rd century BC (the Roman and Byzantine empires) before being conquered by the Knights of St. John. Just above the blue sea is the pretty white-washed village of Lindos -- quite touristy. Above the village you can see the 13th century Knights of St. John's Crusader Castle which was much higher in its day. They built it on top of the 4th century BC temples which had been visited by Alexander the Great, and Helen of Troy. The Crusaders were conquerors and had no respect for preserving the area's history. The castle is built on the natural acropolis, 125 meters above the village. Today, vehicles park outside the village as the streets are narrow windy lanes. Unfortunately, they are polluted with donkey dung as the tourists ride the donkey's up and down the lanes to the castle and back to the beach.
The village was built mostly by rich sea captains between the 15th and 18th centuries and distinctive carvings are seen on the buildings and doorways, and pictures of ships and other nautical scenes are in the pebble mosaic courtyards.
September 16 -- Two more legs to go
Eventually "Bruce" our 50 kg anchor lifted after we unraveled the chain from around the boulders six meters below the boat. Luckily the water was crystal clear so we could spin the boat port, starboard, reverse... Viola, it was up and we set off to Kastellorizo, 30 minutes behind schedule. You can see on the map above that Kastellorizo is not a direct route to Cyprus, but two reasons having us going there.
One: it allows us a night's sleep at anchor; and
Two: it's our favourite island of all the Greek islands.
Tourists started to come in 1987 when the airport opened, but for the most part, it's isolation has left the island very Greek despite it's 2.5 km proximity to Turkey. The town is stunning with a population of about 300 people, the houses wrap around the natural harbour. During WWII, most of the stone houses were bombed, but today they are being rebuilt with strict controls to maintain the quaint Greek look. It's also the place where Con and I a few years ago had the best fish and chips -- ever!
September 17 -- CAPTAIN FROM HELL
We arrived during daylight hours to the pretty anchorage on Kastellorizo. All was perfect until 4:30am when we sprinted out of bed and into the cockpit (me in my housecoat; Con in the nude) to the sounds of horns blasting, lights blazing into our windows, and a Greek man calling to us, "You must move!"
We both saw a wall of lights moving toward us. Con turned on the boat, grabbed a pair of underwear, I started the GPS and stepped behind the wheel.
The man called in a semi-frantic tone, "The water freighter needs to dock, please back up." I was beginning to see a little clearer as my eyes were focusing in the pitch black, the man was standing in a small blue six-foot wooden boat. The freighter was about 75 meters from our boat, lined up to directed split us in half. Con quickly moved to the bow to undo the anchor snubber, when we heard the freighter begin to drop his huge anchor and lay the chain -- right across our chain!
"Tell the captain to stop!" Con shouted to the man. "We must pull up our anchor, he is laying it across our chain and we cannot move!"
The man zoomed off to the freighter to relay the message. At the same time, Con released the snubber and let out all the chain -- - 100 meters; I backed up. The freighter didn't slow. The man raced back saying meekly, "The captain said, "I'm a working vessel', sorry, you must move back."
We got so close I could have climbed aboard the freighter as we were pulled nearly into a collision.
Well, we couldn't, we were trapped! The boat was now completely over our chain and all of our anchor was out and on the other side of the boat. After many pleas to: "Tell the captain to back up..." and "We need just five minutes..." We realized we were dealing with an arrogant, belligerent person and our words were wasted. Then to make the panic worse, the vessel began a 90 degree turn to tie at the shore, skirting our bow by a half meter and when the prop wash hit us, we nearly rocked into the steel side of the freighter.
Con had to keep blasting the bow thrusters to keep off the boat, and the crew leaning over watching had sympathy on their faces. We could tell they were embarrassed by their captain and kept shrugging. One called down, "Drop your chain, drop your chain!" One hundred 10 mm galvanized chain and a 50 KG anchor, a value of nearly two thousand euro! No.
Learning that the freighter was planning to stay for twelve hours, we would never be able to hold Big Sky off the boat for that long and decided to take off the chain. The crew held lights for Con as he worked in the anchor locker and once off the boat, the Greek man in the wooden boat dragged it (all the while attached to a safety line in case he dropped it) under the freighter's chain and stayed with us until Con reattach it to Big Sky. The whole time, the captain would not come out to speak to us and we told the Greek man to tell him that we would have to report his dangerous behaviour to the Port Authorities." We managed to re-anchored as daylight was arriving.
We rowed ashore passing the ship with the recalcitrant captain deciding to ignore him and enjoy the delicious fish and tour the beautiful village. As night was setting, Con rowed ashore again, and checked us out of Schengen and returned our Greek cruising book. He didn't report the Captain from Hell after all, since we will be having a slight infraction ourselves not leaving Greece first thing in the morning. We're leaving Friday morning at the crack of dawn.
September 18 -- HAPPY BIRTHDAY to our daughter Lindsey, our new momma. Below is a picture of six-day-old Katelyn.
September 20 -- We've Arrived!
Secretly, I didn't believe we'd really go all the way to Cyprus, since we'd tossed around at least a dozen different sailing/wintering plans. But, here we are after an overnight sail from Kastellorizo. We only had two glitches since departing from Valencia (1,750 NM away): The captain who nearly plowed through us at anchor at 4:30 am (our last stop), and upon arrival in Limassol, the docking line was sucked into our prop. Staff here at the marina are exceptionally friendly, but our docking was not without frustration. We motored into place, (bow first as we step off our bow), and the helpful marinara began swinging us around in the opposite direction with his tender. Once we communicated our intention, Con lined us up again. I tossed the bow lines, and carried the stern leader line back to hold us off the dock. It was sucked into the prop as it was accidentally left in reverse. Thirty minutes later, we have a temporary set up with the lines. Tomorrow, the marinara's will get a diver to free the line from our prop and to replace the mooring lines with longer ones. In the meantime, we have the boat rigged securely.
September 21, 2014
Our 30-hour journey from Kastellorizo, Greece to Limassol, Cyprus was gentle, not too much wind, consequently 25 hours on the engine and five under sail. Now tucked securely in the marina, wind is howling around us. Prevailing winds are from the west blowing strongest against our starboard side. Sailors testing their systems this morning for the afternoon sailing regatta naively got their spinnakers (for 10 - 15 knots) ready, and by race time, the winds didn't hold back, blowing a steady 40 knots. When they returned to the marina to dock, it came with a major amount of chaos. The marinara's docked one boat at a time, using three zodiacs to push the boats around attempting to keep them from crashing into the already docked boats, Big Sky being one of them.
We worked up a good sweat scrubbing the month-long salt and dirt that had accumulated topsides since leaving Valencia and the insides got a good polishing until Big Sky sparkled like brand new again.
October 2 – We are now in Canada to meet our newest granddaughter Katelyn Irene Loring
October 10, 2014 -- Nomie passed away peacefully at 98
With heavy hearts we said, "Good bye" to Con's mom who died peacefully in the hospital October 10th. "Nomie" or "Ma" as she was best known lived to the healthy age of 98.5 and lived independently all but the last few days when she was admitted to the hospital. Con left Canada immediately for The Netherlands last Friday upon hearing of her failing health, but sadly she died while he was boarding his flight. Nomie was lovingly cared for by Albertine, Geert and Anna who checked on her daily. There wasn't a day that went by when Nomie didn't have a family visitor, as three of her six children lived minutes from her beautiful independent care facility; two of her nine grandchildren also live close and visited weekly along with their children, all under five. She enjoyed their smiles and energy.
Nick and Brit (Con's two daughters from Alberta and Saskatchewan) joined Con to participate in the family gatherings as we all remembered a remarkable woman. I remained in Canada to be with Lindsey and Les to help with our newest grand baby, Katelyn Irene, born just a few weeks ago. Tuesday, I'll fly to The Netherlands to be with Con and family.
Nomie is best remembered for her infectious happiness and total contentment in life. Her greatest joy was watching her six children; nine grandchildren; and nine great grandchildren growing up. Nomie lived through nearly 100 years of world history sharing incredible tidbits from time to time. When her Canadian grandchildren were born, she decided she better learn English to best communicate with them, and did really well. For that I was always grateful, since my Dutch is very basic. She lived well and was loved.
October 25 -- Our future visits to The Netherlands may lessen with the passing of Con's wonderful mom, as we've always flown through Amsterdam to visit her (and our Dutch family) on our way to our North American family and back to the boat. Life and death creates new paths. With Katelyn's arrival six weeks ago, and Nomie's departure two weeks ago, Con and I are again reminded of the precious gift of "life" that we've been given. One never knows how many breathes we're allotted in a lifetime and we want to ensure every single one is taken up with the people we love being with and while enjoying this fascinating world we live in. Life and death is a gift to the living, because it reminds us of why we're here: to bypass the nasty stuff in life, fill up with our loved ones, and enjoy the world and all its treasures.
October 29 -- Soaking up the Vitamin Sea
We stayed two days in the pretty sea-side resort in Paphos, Cyprus upon our return to the island from Canada and the Netherlands.
Con was feeling under the weather for the last few days but woke this morning to the Cypriot sunshine streaming into our room from the balcony and the flu lifted. For 60 euro, we had a comfortable night, a fabulous breakfast.
October 31 - November 2 -- Interesting New Neighbours
Early in the morning, Con said enthusiastically, "Take a look at our new neighbour. They arrived in the night." I thought, finally, the sailing community is arriving, since so far, there is only one other full-time live aboard here. I climbed out into the warm sunshine, looked out over the bow and spotted a large sail boat (barely seen off our bow in this photo). I waved to the tired crew who waved back. "A monster isn't it," Con added when I came back inside. Confused, I looked again and then saw the large 81-meter wall of a yacht ahead (266.5 foot). Big Sky is 15 meters; we can line up 6 Big Sky's alongside that one.
However, the yacht below is owned by Heidi Horten, one of the richest women in the world with a very interesting tale to tell about where her money came from. Heidi married Helmut Horten in 1960, 32 years his junior. In 1933, Helmut worked in a Jewish-owned German department store. The owners fled to the USA and Helmut acquired their store, enjoying a good relationship with the Nazi's. From there, he acquired many more. He died in 1987 and Heidi inherited more than 1 billion dollars. She commissioned this 97-meter luxury yacht, Carinthia XII, the 12th largest such vessel in the world. Big Sky fits sideways inside her steel belly with a meter to spare! The yacht requires 28 crew and can take 12 passengers. Roughly speaking, a captain of such a ship can make a 1,000 euro per foot which equals a lot of money, possibly a quarter of a million euros per year.
We heard the rain in the night (love that sound) and woke to rain coming down like cats and dogs. Con got into his rain gear, wore his great big smile and swabbed the deck.
Big Sky is WIRED! We purchased high-speed internet and cable aboard for 44 euro per month. We have internet coming out our ears, streaming the CBC radio and radio stations around the world, also flipping channels on our television set, however, still unable to find anything that catches our interest there. We have the rest of the winter to settle into the television programming.
Cyprus was granted independence from the Brits in 1960, but the British influence is evident in the electrical outlets and driving on the left. The driver sits on the right (see the car below) but it takes two of us to drive, Con drives; I advise, "other side of the road..." or "awwwwww" which translate into "Don't enter the intersection, cars are coming from the right."
November 3 - 5 -- Settling into the neighbourhood
We joined the marina gym, a pristine spa-like (no, it is a spa) club and have enjoyed going each day. The bran-spankin' new machines are outfitted with Wi-Fi, television screens, music videos, and details of which I've yet to discover related to movement, calorie burn, heart rate, etc. In addition, there are dozens of circuit machines and fitness instructors to help get you coordinated. Today, I'll do the Zumba class, but Con, who's not feeling too rhythmic and will work out while I'm dance-er-cising.
A few days ago, I tested the "spa" features with a great pedicure and now have very attractive pink toe nails. The club has an outdoor swimming pool and while it's warm enough to swim, it's a little exposed -- to the oh-so-well-dressed club members having lunch poolside. There is, however, a sauna and steam room which we've enjoyed following our workouts. Along with our membership, we each receive a hair cut in the foo-foo salon and spa treatment.
Speaking of workouts, our new fold-up bikes purchased in Valencia last summer have been getting their share. Early this morning, we cycled to Akrotiri, the salt lake south east of Limassol hoping to spot flamingos, but instead saw this guy swimming closer and closer to the pelican.
I said to Con, "What's he doing swimming up to the pelican, it'll likely attack him." At that moment, the pelican spread its six foot or so long wings and hop-flew onto the man's head. The man swam to shore and the pelican jumped onto his out-stretched arm and he walked him to shore. In all our travels, we've seen many strange and wonderful things, but never have we seen a pet pelican. The man appears to be in great shape, but we would too if we had to swim-fish all day long to feed the pelican!
We cycled closer to say, "kalimara" good morning but he wasn't interested in responding, so instead, we chatted with the bird telling him how beautiful and ridiculously large he is.
November 12 -- It's like the warmest summer day in Calgary
We're loafing in the sunny Cyprus watching the sailing season come and go from our vantage point in the marina. Lots of Israeli boats come for a few days (it's an over-night sail from here) and there are lots of USA Delaware registered and flagged boats arriving (which mean they're usually Russian owned boats.) Go figure that one. We're little pip squeaks in these waters with crew-maned yachts, motor boats, and massive catamarans all around us. The live-a-aboard community surfacing seem to be "crew".
November 13 - 17 -- Booming Thunder back to Sunshine
The last few days we've had fantastic lightning and thunder storms pass overhead and watched them approach from the north darkening the day, pass south leaving sunshine and warm temperatures in its wake. A couple of times the flash and boom where right overhead causing me to sprint with our portable electronics, stuffing them into the oven (the most insulated place aboard). When lightning strikes a boat, it travels through all your electronics along the way. We've been hit twice in the past with lightning frays which have knocked out a few of our electronics. In 31 degree temperatures we cycled downtown to the dentist to replace a crown -- 300 euro -- a third of the cost in Canada. I had a root canal in Spain knowing that I'd need to a crown at some point, and this is that point. George, our Cypriot dentist has top-of-the-line equipment, for instance, a camera inside the mouth for close-up's and he shares everything he's doing on a screen. Fascinating. He assessed my teeth, explaining everything as viewed from my 40 euro panorama X-ray. The work done by our friend and endodontist Charlie who has sadly passed away a few years ago received the highest marks from George.
We stopped at the local Carrefour grocery store for veggies and other supplies and picked up a Kolokasi pictured below. Having never seen or heard of such a root we had to try it. Apparently they are poisonous in their raw form, so we were given strict instructions by the sweet veggie ladies on how to prepare and cook them. Do NOT submerge them in water. Peel them and wipe them down with paper (not cloth) then cook in oil. They are a traditional Cypriot dish, since they're only grown here and on one other Greek island. Umm, how can I put this delicately – they taste terrible.
Each day, religiously, we go to the gym. My muscles are shockingly weak. In the days before Big Sky, Con and I worked out at the gym every other day and played tennis three and four times a week. Getting back into my work-out routine, I realize that I'm pushing and lifting half the weight for half the time I used to. All things in time... Can't wait for Wednesday and Zumba.
We've ordered new sunbrella canvas from a local marine upholsterer, George. He will prepare more cushions for our cockpit, covering the entire area. As well, we're awaiting a quote for stainless steel work, excited to begin reconstruction of the bimini and dodger -- if the price is right.
November 20 -- Good Morning Cyprus
The sun rises quickly over Lebanon just across the water, peaking into the marina just about 6:30 am. It's impossible to wake up here without a smile on your face. Bikes are essential for cruisers staying in the Limassol marina. We likely travel on average 12 km each day. The town has everything we need and exploring is nearly 100 percent of the fun. We passed a paddle surfer, and a few people still swimming in the sea. Temperatures are beautiful.
Difference between Calgary dentist and Cyprus dentist:
Day one: Arrive for crown replacement appointment. Receive full assessment of teeth via in-mouth camera (have never seen such a gizmo) No charge. He suggests strongly that I have an X-ray before he proceeds and gives address of clinic. Cost of panorama X-ray: 40 euro.
Day two: Next day, dentist has X-rays on screen. Agrees no infection, removes crown. Reshapes tooth (Calgary dentist 20+ years ago didn't do that). Books appointment for next day for fitting so gums can relax.
Day three: Ushered in (never a wait), gums pushed up (freezing given), trays of mold made. Dentist to email for next appointment (in a day or two).
Day four: Colour technician will arrive to make selection.
Day five: Tooth will arrive, to be fit, polished and glued into place. In total, seven days from first appointment. Total cost: 300 euro plus 40 for X-ray Incredible! Dental companies around the world would be wise to allow clients to shop the world for dental and surgical treatments. In Canada, our medical needs are covered (by our taxes!); in the USA, they put people in the poor house. Our Canadian taxes could be better spent on a hundred other things that going to over-prices dentists! Okay, off my band wagon now.
December 2 -- A Great Place to Hang Out for Winter
Do you wonder what life aboard is like for us? We wake early, often before the sun rises, make latte's and then chat with our kids in Canada who are just wrapping up their days. By mid-morning, we're putting on kilometers on our bikes doing various tasks, touring and shopping. Last week for instance, we cycled across town to a shop we discovered that could custom make a new mattress cover for 50 euro to replace our original one from France that went overboard in Valencia when it was drying on the line. The replacement quote from France was nearly 500 euro! That's a 450 euro savings! About noon, we're "foraging" as Con calls it at the Lidl or Carrefour and then home to make a delicious meal. By afternoon, we're working hard in the gym, leaving time for a sauna and steam before we tuck into the boat for dinner and time with our grand kids on Skype and Face Time. Hailey props us on her bed and gets out board games for us to play or we make up games until it's time for her to go to school. And then, it's off to bed to watch some of our favourite television shows. It's still fairly empty in the marina in terms of live-a-boards, but the area surrounding the marina is bustling with activity, restaurants, shops, and friendly Cypriots. We met a Cypriot couple who live aboard on weekends to go sailing and swimming. Water temperature is 20 degrees. The four of us watched the Christmas event in the marina square, listening to live singing and bands, then went for out for a pizza. There is more English spoken here than in any other place we've visited in all the countries in the Mediterranean.
December 5 -- Happy Sinterklaas Day for our Dutch Family
Talk about contrast: This morning, Con went for a swim in the sea, and this afternoon we drove to Mt. Olympus, and saw snow on the side of the road. Eventually there will be enough snow there for Cyprians to go skiing. We rented a car for a week, with the plan to drop it off at the airport on our way to the Netherlands and Canada. For the next week, in between our serious work out's at the spa-club, we'll tour parts of the island by car.
December 7 -- Caulking the Windows!
We dug out the God-awful sticky, black-tar-like caulking around the pilot house windows yesterday. The substance had reached the end of its days, deteriorating badly this past summer leaving horrible marks on the teak. It took all day to dig the old stuff out, tape the windows and apply the new product. We should have taken the tape off the same day, but didn't know better. We took it off in the morning realizing our mistake causing us to finely cut the putty-like stuff in places. After cleaning everything up, and the boat looking beautiful, Con asked, "How do you feel about digging it all out and starting over again?"
December 12 -- In the Netherlands; Tomorrow Canada!
Leaving 20 something degrees for the cold damp Netherlands eases us into the colder but dry temperatures we'll experience Monday when we touch down in Calgary. Can't wait to see the kids and grandkids and spend our first Christmas with them in six years or so. That ought to warm us up!
December 19 -- 60th Birthday Party!
Since arriving Monday in Alberta, we've barely stopped to breathe. Courtney and Hailey collected us at the airport and we scooted off to their place for intense card games of concentration. Try to do that jet lagged! Yesterday was Hailey Christmas concert at her Spanish emersion school. The kids were so proud. Then we whisked her back to Dex's house to get to work on Christmas presents for their moms and dads. With barely time to spare, we bundled them in the car for a delightful (and well done) theatre production of Peter Pan. The kids were on the edges of their seats. Dex kept asking, "It's not real, is it?" and, "They're not real pirates are they?"
Hailey in a panic each time the scene changed asked, "It's not over, is it?"
December 25th -- Our visit to Canada has been wrapped up in layers of family and friends, doing Christmas craft activities, shopping, and celebrating my 60th surprise birthday party. For my 60th birthday, Con and I had a sleep-over with six-year-old Dex, and five-year-old Hailey at Nick's house. In the morning, Con, Dex, Hailey, an action figure, and a stuffed owl helped to make birthday pancakes for me. They all spoiled me with presents. It was the best 60th birthday I could have imagined. Later that night, I was excited to see Lindsey, Les and Katelyn who drove 1 1/2 hours from Red Deer to Calgary for dinner. Walking into the restaurant, my eyes were locked on Katelyn and I totally missed that the restaurant was filled with our friends and family until they shouted, "Surprise!" I couldn't stop laughing and smiling for the rest of the night. Con, Lindsey and Courtney planned the whole thing!
After dinner, we drove to Red Deer enjoying happy, content Kate. Lindsey and I took her swimming for the first time.
Nick and Dex are arriving for Christmas, driving up from Calgary for a sleep over and tomorrow, Courtney and Hailey will arrive.
December 27th, we remember my beautiful mom, who passed away peacefully last December.
February 15, 1927 – December 27, 2013. I miss her and think of her everyday, and catch myself off guard ready to email or call her. I feel her with me.
December 29 -- We're now in Calgary with Courtney and Hailey. Temperature is -18, hard for us having spent eight years in the Mediterranean. We asked five-year-old Hailey if she wanted to go swimming, "Yes!" She said enthusiastically, "Inside or outside?"
Tomorrow, we fly to Saskatoon, rent a car and drive to Carrot River where the weather is a balmy -40 to -45 degrees at the moment, warming to -10.
December 31, 2014-- HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Weather warmed from -45 to -15 this morning, so Con and I put on all our clothes (three layers beneath snow pants and jacket) borrowed Arctic-like boots from Kris and Brit and followed seven-year-old Nolan for an hour as we traipsed all over their property. We followed coyote tracks for a while, all the while wondering if they were Rosco's (their dog's), nevertheless, it made for a great adventure.