Iceland

Welcome to the edge of the inhabitable earth, located just bellow the arctic circle this island’s nature does some pretty unusual things, like putting ice and volcanoes next to each other and shortening the number of seasons to just two: light and dark. As I discover Iceland I begin to understand why the Vikings wanted to keep this island of ice and fire to themselves. Iceland is more unique and amazing than I envisioned it being. On the early morning we arrived by sailboat, when it was still dark, the aurora borealis welcomed us by displaying the most spectacular solar display I have ever witnessed. It covered half of the sky on our port side from bow to stern in an undulating arch form with hues of greens, blues and white. Conditions have to be just right for an aurora to happen, we have been here for 2 weeks now and have not seen it again, so we were extremely lucky to have seen it the one night we happen to arrive.

The geothermal activity is more vast than I imagined. There are pools all over the country, in every city and town. Here in Reykjavik, the world’s northernmost capital city, there are as many pools as there are StarBucks in big cities in the US. Each place doesn’t have just one pool, it has many different pools, there is an olympic swimming pool and a handful of jacuzzis each one with different temperatures, 38˙C/110˙F, 40˙C/104˙F, 42˙C/107˙F, and 44˙C/111˙F; some with massage jets and others without. The pool house we go to even has a salt water pool at 40˙C/104˙F and a large play pool for children with a giant water slide and an aquatic obstacle course. All of the pools are outdoors which makes for an interesting and intense experience moving from one pool to the other, walking in a bathing suit in freezing temperatures but while you are inside the pools you feel very warm and relaxed as you smell the natural healing minerals that are in the water. Some Islanders go to the pools daily and don’t shower at home since it is actually much cheaper to pay for a yearly membership to the pools than to shower at home. There are lockers and showers and you actually have to shower before entering the pools. The same underground forces that create its volcanoes also create the geothermal steam for Iceland’s radiators and super-heated water for showers and pools, with out a puff of smoke or smog. All power comes pollution-free from nature, electricity is generated by thundering rivers of melting ice.

The public schools are truly admirable. Our daughters were accepted into 3rd and 4th grade without any questioning, prior school records, tests, nothing. They simply said, “it is our obligation and desire to have them for as long as they want and need to”. The school is free but not only admission and tuition, all materials and school books as well, the only thing we need to pay for are lunches. The facilities are amazing, state of the art, modern and super clean; so much so that children are not allowed to wear their shoes inside the entire school, they run and slide around the slick floors with socks, they are always skating. The classes are mostly hands-on and not so academic heavy. They have cooking, sowing, music, art, chess, swimming, sports, library, religion, nature, socialize, community, social studies, math, English and Islandic as a second language, the later as a special class to international students. For unschooled children who are used to sleeping in and running their own daily schedule and interests, they are delighted and do not mind to wake up and walk to school in freezing weather while still dark. On Sundays they say “tomorrow is a school day, yay!”. If a Viking were to reappear today in Reykjavik he could strike up a conversation with any Icelander, their language has remained virtually unchanged for over a thousand years. They have the world’s highest literacy rate, a perfect 100% .

In Iceland you are looking at the true colors of the sky, sun, moon, clouds, rainbows and northern lights, because you are seeing them in the purest air on earth. And because of the gulf stream Iceland in the dead of winter can be warmer than NYC over 2000 miles to the south. In 930 Iceland established the world’s oldest active legislature while America discovered democracy 846 years later and 200 years before Chaucer, Iceland’s fishermen and farmers were already composing rich folk sagas and manuscripts. What has never happened in Iceland is that it’s people have never fought a war. One can feel the peace, security and friendliness just walking the streets.

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Esperanza’s Stillborn Story

This November 9th, 2014 will have been a year since Esperanza was stillborn. About 24 hrs after she was stillborn, our family had the chance to say a proper farewell, Coconut style. We were fortunate enough to find a loophole in the hospital rules, Esperanza was a week short of being considered a baby, at her 19 weeks she was still considered a specimen, and since she wasn’t born with a heart beat a proper funeral was not required. So the social worker at the Rhode Island Hospital, Woman and Infant division was able to get a lawyer out of bed on a Sunday morning to come in and sign the release or our precious baby. She was handed over inside of a beautiful box covered with handmade white paper tied with a green silk ribbon, inside she lay on a pink hand-knitted blanket with the smallest hand-knitted pink hat I have ever seen and wearing the smallest white gown, the box then was covered with a handmade small quilt and off we were. As soon as we arrived home sometime after noon the girls were eager to see her, they were full of smiles and excitement, perhaps only a single tear escaped their eyes. What a real life experience for them, they were in awe to see how small her hands, fingers, feet and toes were, she was perfect!
So late that night Papito Jay cut holes into a thick white plastic bag with a black zipper they gave us at the hospital, the girls had gone for a walk earlier that afternoon to collect some special rocks and seashells. Jay, Baba, Sol, Luna, Caribe and I all walked down the dock to where our home Messenger was berthed, it was a beautiful clear and silent night with glass-like water and a sliver of moon, all you could hear as we walked were little Caribe’s words “barco, agua…” We placed the rocks inside the bag, then the placenta and on top of her life bed we placed Esperanza in her white gown, she looked like an Angel! Baba said a prayer, we read a prayer on G-Ma’s behalf, Papi Jay said some beautiful words, we all said our goodbyes and cried our tears as we placed her in the water, she sunk down to the debts of the ocean, illuminated with a flash light the bag looked as if it was flying through the dark water, then Luna through her sea shells one by one…
Most of my nearly 5 month pregnancy was complicated. At week 8 I had what seamed to be a typical miscarriage, a gush of amniotic fluid and a little bleeding. I phoned Uva, our mid-wife a distancia in Costa Rica and she explained that a miscarriage is what it seamed to be, she suggested I allow my body to go through the purging naturally and in a few weeks go get an ultrasound to make sure all is out, this way the uterus can recover and be healthy again. My body didn’t purge much else other than some spotting and I continued to feel pregnant but Uva had already explained how it takes the body sometime to level out the hormones and go back to it’s previous state. So around week 14 I went in for an ultrasound and voilà there was a healthy big baby in there, we were all very surprised so we deduced that perhaps I was caring twins and in the “survival of the fittest” one didn’t make it. But after this ultrasound I began passing small blood clots and having strong scrams every few days. I though maybe finally my body was releasing the lost twin but wasn’t sure so I began seeing a group of mid-wives who also couldn’t figure it out so around week 19 they sent me to a placenta specialist to determine what the problem was. By then Jay and I had already done our own online search and with my symptoms deduced I had placenta abruption which means separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. The specialist after a long ultrasound (which by the way I am completely against during pregnancy) could only tell that the existing baby’s placenta was attached close to the cervix which could mean that perhaps there was placenta previa at the very beginning of the pregnancy. Placenta previa is when the placenta is blocking the neck of the uterus. This specialist also noticed that on the other side of my cervix was accumulated a lot of old blood clots which where causing my bleeding and spotting. So perhaps a combination of placenta previa and a twin were the cause for my complicated pregnancy but he assured me that the existing baby and it’s placenta were fine and that once all of those blood clots came out I should be able to have a normal birth.
So 3 days later on Saturday November 9, 2013 at 10am when I began having strong cramps and passing blood clots I was positive that I would get rid of these and be done with it. Cramps turned into contractions that got closer and closer together. I was already nearly 19 weeks and had been feeling the baby’s movements for a few weeks but some time that afternoon I stopped feeling the baby. My body was going into full labor so Jay and I decided to go to the hospital, our first hospital birth experience. My previous 3 births had been at a natural birthing center, a home birth and a boat birth. All of the staff at the hospital were very respectful in letting us do things our way and birth naturally without any intervention. I gave birth to Esperanza at 9pm, she came out along with her placenta and still inside her sack, which I nearly tore open with my teeth in a spontaneous and natural reaction if it weren’t for a prepared and attentive nurse that rushed over with a pair of scissors before I gave into my cave woman instincts. I took her out of her sack and looked her all over, she was perfect, she had everything and all her parts were proportional but she didn’t have a heart beat. The nurse wrapped her up in a pink hand-knitted blanket and put on that miniature hat. I could not believe I would have had yet another girl and wondered if I could make a boy at all. If it weren’t for Jay pouring all his energy into me I could have not been able to give birth that night. It was by far my hardest birth experience physically as well as emotionally. I had no big strong baby wanting to come out and helping me birth it, during my contractions I would try grabbing her with whatever muscles we women have in our bellies and uterus to grab babies and push them out but it was like hugging the air rather than a person, I felt nothing to grab to push out, she was only 9 oz. When I was close to giving up Jay whispered in my ear “you can do this”, I am so lucky to have such a strong, supportive and wise man in my life.
I am thankful for the family I have been given, for the health we all enjoy and I surrender to nature and acknowledge that it knows best. For placenta abruption doctors request bed rest or bed arrest, were woman lay in bed for their entire pregnancy to ensure the baby comes to term. Are those babies healthy? Were they really suppose to be born? Or is it modern medicine and desperate parents going against nature? Esperanza perhaps would have never been a healthy person, it was not her time to come to this world, she knew it, or perhaps she wanted to be with her twin sibling. Our entire family accepted her short time in our lives as she grew in my belly. The girls always include her when speaking about our family members, they believe she has become a mermaid and lives in Atlantis.
We knew we wanted another child, an accomplice for Caribe. Sol and Luna being only a year and 7 months apart have each other and are always together, they will be off in their teenage years and Caribe then would be alone so the plan has always been to have another. During our travel plans we always envisioned having a child in Iceland, the extreme opposite of the Caribbean were Caribe was born, just like Sol and Luna are opposites in their own way. So when we got pregnant in Rhode Island a whole new birth plan had started to unravel in our heads. But as it is destiny toke it’s course and here we are in Iceland expecting the child we are suppose to have. I am 22 weeks pregnant, due in mid-March. This pregnancy as opposed to the last one has been a very healthy one, actually the easiest of all my pregnancies so far. I am glad that I allowed my body to do what it knows to do naturally without any unnecessary medical intervention and I believe it is because I have the support and the knowledge to do so that I am so healthy and pregnant again. We do not know the sex of the baby and do not care if it’s another girl (which it probably will be) or a boy or a mongolit@, we will be happy no matter what. Needless to say I feel blessed!

Liebster Blog Award, discover new blogs!

We have been nominated for the Liebster Blog Award by A Family Afloat http://wp.me/p4yiUK-4e

The Leibster award is passed from blogger to blogger.  Liebster is a German word for beloved, and this peer-to-peer recognition got started on the web in 2010. You are nominated by a blogger who enjoys reading your blog and they ask you a series of questions. It helps connect bloggers in a fun way!

These are the questions we were asked by A Family Afloat:

1. What inspired you to start your blog?

All the people we met along the way who where fascinated by our life style and adventures and asked if there was a way to follow us and read our stories, they inspired me to finally find the time to start a blog. We have been cruising and living aboard for years (4 myself and 9 my husband) and I finally started a blog only 3 months ago. I never could find the time to start one, just adjusting to the new life style afloat and traveling as much as we where the first few years I never could find the time. Finally when we did stop long enough in one place to do a refit on our boat I had time to start one.

2. Who is your target audience?

Families who live aboard and those who wish to live off the grid, be self sufficient and give their children experienced based learning. Un-schoolers, homeschoolers, hippies, tree-huggers, sailors, cruisers, sea lovers, adventure lovers, natural birth advocates, entrepreneurs, free-loving people, etc…

3. How or why did you end up with the boat you are currently sailing on?

Messenger had been abandoned at anchor up the Stuart river in Florida for 5 years when we rescued her. We were living in my home country of Costa Rica where we had my husband Jay’s boat Carrizalilla, the one he had left San Francisco 5 years prior. We sold Carrizalilla and flew to Florida to get Messenger, who has a special history. She is an IOR one-toner custom built boat designed by German Frers in 1982. She raced all over the east coast for her first few years and later was sold from hand to hand until it was forgotten. In the 4 years we have had her we have been restoring her to her original beauty while living on her and sailing her some 8,500 nautical miles.

4. What has been the hardest part of boatschooling your kids?

We are considered un-schoolers where experiences and life itself have been the lessons, we follow no curriculum. And the hardest thing about it as a mother has been being confident that I am doing the right thing by my children.

5. What has been the most enjoyable/satisfying part of boatschooling?

Watching them develop their own interests, pursuing them and becoming quite good at them on their own. Watching them empowering themselves and teaching their younger sibling how to draw, color, the alphabet, and numbers. Watching them learn how to read, which they did in a shorter span of time than I can remember learning myself, regardless of the fact that they learned a bit later than schooled children.

6. Do you plan on traditional schooling at any point? If so, when?

They have already experienced schooling, it has been important for us as parents to give them those experiences as well so they know “how the other half lives”, so to speak. They went to public French school in Martinique for 3 months where they learned enough French to play with the majority of the kids they have encountered cruising. They also went to public school in Rhode Island, USA for 6 months and now they are in public school in Iceland and will attend for 7 months. It will be their decision if they want to attend high school full time and if so we will stop traveling and settle in one place for them to do so but so far they say they won’t want to, so we will see once those teenage years kick in and all they want is to be with their peers and no longer stuck in a sailboat with their parents.

7. What sea creature do you most identify with (what would you want to be?) and why? And how about the rest of the family?

Jay an albatross, “because they are as free as a bird”. I argued it is not a sea creature so we looked it up and it is an oceanic bird so I guess it counts.

Sol a dolphin, “because they are so peaceful and smart”.

Luna a dolphin, “because they have the most fun”.

Caribe a dolphin as well, because she loves the water and swimming, she said in her own toddler words and probably just because she is always copying her older sisters.

Natasha (myself) an orca to rule the sea.

8. How do you divide your watch hours? Do any of the kids help if you have kids?

Jay, the Captain, is the sailor so he drives the boat, I am the chef and take care of the kids and the kids just have to be kids. For the first 4 years on Messenger we had no autopilot so I would drive a couple to a few hours in the morning and another couple to a few in the evening but for the most part Jay has been a slave to the tiller. Only for the last 2 months have we had an autopilot and since we have been sailing in the northern latitudes only Jay and the autopilot have driven, I’m from the tropics so I have stayed down bellow.

9. What is your favorite recipe for your first 3 days of a passage?

Ramen noodles.

10. What is your favorite Ice Cream?

Jay, Caribe, and Luna chocolate.

Sol coffee.

Natasha (myself) strawberry Häagen-Dazs.

Newfoundland to Iceland

For 10 days we docked in Saint Johns, Newfoundland the capital of this lovely Canadian island, waiting for a window to cross the Atlantic ocean and make our epic passage to Iceland. Jay had been looking at the weather patterns for the area we were to sail through since before we even left Newport, Rhode Island in order to get acquainted with the patterns of highs and lows in the area during this time of the year. After 7 days in Saint Johns we saw a window and got everything ready but the night we were to leave Jay went to check one more time the grib files because there seamed to be a low brewing over Iceland and he wanted to see if it intensified or faded away. Thank goodness he checked, he came back and said “we cannot go yet”, the low was forming into a nasty storm which lingered over Iceland for the next week with winds up to 60 knots, we would have sailed right into a disaster if it weren’t for Jay’s acute instincts. So we remained at Saint Johns for another few days until we got bored and ansi and so decided to start hoping our way further up north in order to get closer to our destination and see more of Newfoundland. By now we were even considering hoping to Greenland in between these constant lows that were forming in northern Canada and coming down the Labrador sea around the southern tip of Greenland and then up to Iceland.

We left Saint Johns Friday September 26, 2014 after midnight which technically made it Saturday and therefore safe to leave harbor, obeying the old sailors myth never to leave port on a Friday. We pushed off the dock and sailed out the narrows, it was a beautiful calm starry night. We ducked into Catalina Harbor south of Cape Bonavista 12 hrs and 60 nm later seeking protection from a low that was going to blow over us. We found a large empty pier and sailed up to it, tied on and began another of our multiple parties we were now often throwing while we awaited for small storms to pass over us. After about 20 hrs we continued N by NE for the next 2 days, both nights we encountered gales with sustained winds of 30 to 45 knots. On our second night we tried to enter Goose Cove but it was blowing too hard and the harbor wasn’t protected enough for us to anchor so we sailed right back out and hove-to for the night until day break when Jay began to approach Saint Anthony a bigger and more protected harbor a bit north. Saint Anthony turned out to be a lively fishing town of 2,500 inhabitants, all extremely friendly. We found a free dock in between fishing boats and though it was very early in the morning we had a handful of people in cars come up to say Hi!, they had seen us sail into the harbor and were wondering what a sail boat was doing this far up north this late in the season. Right away a man offered to drive us into town so we grabbed our dirty laundry and packed into his warm car. After a lavish breakfast out we sat at the library to check email, social media and of course the weather. No sooner had we arrived and I was looking forward to some land activities that Jay turned to me and said “our weather window is now, we have to leave asap”. The next day was Thursday so we had to leave before midnight of course.

We had a wonderful short visit in Saint Anthony and again prepared ourselves for the crossing. Jay loves to leave port at night, usually around midnight so there we were preparing things while the girls were already tucked in and fast asleep. We celebrated our last evening by having lasagna, the famous Coconut CrockPot lasagna. Time flew by and it was nearly 2 am when we pushed off the dock, I asked Jay if this was okay since technically it was already Friday, he shrugged his shoulders and said “it’s only a myth”, but I believe that this idea has changed and he has begun to believe that there is some truth to this myth. It was a cold but clear starry night and as soon as we were in open sea dolphins came about the boat to give us a farewell, a great omen we thought.

The first day we made good time though it was very cold as we crossed the labrador current, about 45-50˙F / 5-10˙C inside the boat, we made about 180 nm. Sunsets and sunrises began to get very long, you start to notice a change around 2 am but the sun doesn’t finally come out until about 8 am. The evenings are a torture for Jay who has to drive all night because the battery isn’t strong enough to use the autopilot but as soon as the sun hits the solar panel he is free and able to turn it on and climb into bed. I make breakfast as I stand watch though there is nothing to watch for, there are no freighters in these waters, no fishing boats this time of the year, no icebergs (we hope), and definitely no other sailboats.

On the second day the wind began to diminish and an endless calm began to set in. We made only 40 nm on day 2 and between days 3 and 5 averaged between 70 -100 nm per day. The calm really set in after day 5, on day 6 and 7 we averaged 30 nm but at least the water got about 7˙F warmer as we left the Labrador current and it got up to 58˙F / 15˙C inside the boat. We laid in a calm under Greenland and we got as close as 130 nm from it, even at suck great distance and through fog we could make out this massive land of tall frozen cliffs, it was eerie so we tacked to make some distance from it. Jay’s frustration grew as the calm set in over us, the girls on the other had came out of there “caves”, their warm bunk beds and began a normal life of playing and coloring, they even watched a movie with popcorn one day. I was able to keep up with chores like bailing out our flat shallow bilge that seams to fill up with just a few waves coming over the decks and in through the mast head, emptying trash cans and throwing our compost overboard, washing dishes and cooking. Taking french showers and grooming a little as well.

“A calm for these many days, in this part of the world, this time of the year, is unheard of!” our Captain yelled and added “I am NEVER leaving on a Friday again!” Jay had to find other ways of keeping busy as to not loose his mind. He fixed the toilet hand pump which seamed to be stuck, he even put up the flews and started a fire in the stove, this was a really nice treat after days of being cold, it also dried out the boat and the light at night was most pleasant. Here we were in the Atlantic ocean, close to the Arctic Circle with water that looked like glass under a full moon with not a cloud or a sound about, it was a time for reading, sleeping, painting, playing and cleaning. But it was also a time for worrying, not knowing what lied ahead or even worse what was going to come in behind us, the calm before the storm, so we were psychologically preparing for the worse but we were lucky that when the wind started filling in it was from a low that passed bellow us heading toward England and even though it gave us head winds they didn’t get higher than 25 to 30 knots.

Now the slow ascension to Iceland began, we had to tack our way there, like climbing a tall mountain. The wind was coming directly from Reykjavik, our destination and it did for the remainder of our passage. “This is also unheard of for this area” yelled the Captain once again, the wind never blows from the East it is usually quite the opposite and blows Westerly and if it does blow from the East it is for a short time as a low pases by but this low held for days bellow us and moved from west to east very slowly, needless to say the Captain felt unlucky once again. Messenger did it’s worse time ever on this passage, usually she makes 150 nm on average in 24 hrs but she averaged 100 nm on this passage, her VMG was only about 4 knots. But regardless of the numbers, to me it is miraculous what she and her Captain accomplished and once again they have brought us to yet another magical place safe and sound.

Messenger headed upwind with 3 reefs in her main and with a storm jib for most of the time, at times there where squalls after squalls and Tormentina, the storm jib, went up and down a handful of times. Perhaps the only good thing about sailing up wind is that Messenger can sail itself with the tiller tied and this is what she did for days on end while Jay just laid in his cot reading and sleeping, about every 12 hours we would tack.

After 14 days and 8 hrs we arrived in Iceland, “Land ho!” yelled the Captain and as soon as we got into the lee of the Island where the water was flat and the boat was no longer healed over the party began, it was about 4 am, dark and cold but it was a clear calm night. I remained inside my warm bed, cuddled with Caribe while Sol and Luna began their celebration by drinking Ginger-ale and eating powdered milk mixed with sugar, a true Costa Rican treat when Jay yelled to us to come above deck and see the Aurora Borealis welcoming us to Iceland. I did not want to get out of bed and so I said I would see it all winter long, Sol and Luna were in awe and told me I had to come out that it was spectacular, all the screaming woke Caribe up and she wanted to see it. So I finally got up and I am so glad I did because it was the most spectacular thing I have ever seen. It spanned our entire port side from bow to stern in an arch like a rainbow but much wider, nearly covering half of the sky, there where many hues of blues and greens and to our starboard side lay the lights of the city of Reykjavik, the most northern capital in the world. What a welcome to this magical island of ice and fire.

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The Cuban Heart

Entering through the narrows of Saint John, Newfoundland reminded me of the entrance into Santiago de Cuba, both about the same in width and with cliffs on either sides, both spectacular and to our misfortune both up wind but worth the effort.

Our time in Santiago was one of the most memorable, not because of the place but because of the friends we made there and how we learned how big the heart of a Cuban can be.

It was January 2011 when we sailed into Santiago, this was my third visit to Cuba. The first to La Habana in 2004 by myself, the second in 2010 with my father, two brothers, and my two daughters to meet mi marinero Jay who had delivered a boat there from Florida, this time visiting Jirón, to the south as well as La Habana. Jay and I vowed to return one day on our own boat but we were interested in anywhere other than the capital of La Habana and Santiago caught our attention. On our first visit out of the marina upon arrival, we were approached by a young cuban Pochito who offered his service for anything we might need, discovering we were latinos he toke us over to his house. There his parents received us, Rosa and Pedro, they welcomed us in and from that moment on did not let us eat one day on our boat, they prepared a meal for us, a feast, every day. We spent countless hours with them. Rosa washed our clothes by hand, she prepared warm pails of water for us to bathe in, braided the Chicas hair, Jay even learned how to fill a propane tank with Pedro by gravity from one tank to the other via hoses. They made a living from the Cuban black market, for less than $10 they would feed 9 people. We could only stay for a week, though they wanted us to stay longer, and so did we, but we explained we were on our way back home to Costa Rica for our wedding scheduled for February 5th, just a couple of weeks away. We asked where we could go buy some clothes to wear at our wedding, the white linen garments original to Cuba is what we had in mind. Pedro asked Jay what was he looking for exactly, Jay relied “a white shirt and white pants”, Pedro looked him over and got up and left into another room, he came out with a black garbage bag and handed it to Jay and said “you do not need anything, here is what you will wear to your wedding”. Pedro was a thin tall black man, pretty much the same size as Jay. As he revieled the contents inside the bag Pedro told us that about 5 years ago he had befriended a Mexican who would return to visit again and asked Pedro what he would like from Mexico and he replied “white pants and a white shirt so that when I escape from Cuba one day I can arrive in a new port dressed in white”, of course, the color of freedom! He told us “now I know I will never escape this prison so please wear it for me”.

That is what Jay wore to our wedding, it fit him perfectly and the thought of it always brings tears to my eyes, what a sad realization to come to, how sad the Cuban existance, but above all, even under such circumstances, what a big heart that of the Cubano.

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Saint-Pierre to Newfoundland

We set sail on my birthday Saturday September 13th, it was a sunny beautiful day. The wind was pushing us onto the Eric Tabarly docks of the Ecole Municipale de Voile de Saint-Pierre where we had stayed for 10 blissful days. With the main up we pushed the boat back to the end of the dock and let the transom fall back as we pushed the bow into the wind. Jay was already at the helm by the time I jumped on deck, almost being left behind. We tacked out of the harbor and no sooner that we had set our port tack towards our destination 120˙ E by SE, that Jay had turned on Gma, our new autopilot. We named it after Jay’s mom, Grandma Carolyn, who kindly donated it to our cause. We did a dock-side-calibration and now it worked perfectly, our life aboard has changed. From one sail to the next we were no longer slaves to Messenger’s tiller. I had a perfect birthday sail. After some 65 nautical miles we arrived to Newfoundland where we tacked up a small fiord until the very end and anchored in a protected area with good holding to await a depression to blow over. We stayed there for 30 hrs, the girls made brownies and we feasted on a delicious pork stew that Jay had made in the crock-pot throughout the night before we left. We had a lovely private party while the wind howled outside, we read books, did art projects, listened to The Savage Sea on tape and recorded on our own voices on tape as well as listened to previous ones, even to some before Caribe was born, with Sol and Luna’s baby voices.

On Monday morning after breakfast we lifted our 2 anchors and began our ascent to Saint John. As soon as we reached the mouth of the fiord, the calm flat water we had been cruising down on turned into a washing machine, we had not given the seas enough time to calm down and pretty quickly we started to “fall” in order Sol, Caribe, Mami and Luna. Either the North Atlantic is very different than the Caribbean or our 2 year stop has made us start all over, either way the second leg wasn’t as fun as the first but thanks to Jay and Gma we arrived in Saint John in close to 30 hrs. The entrance, referred to here as the narrows, was spectacular, it reminded us of other narrow entrances we have had to sail into: Saint George in Bermuda, the narrowest and Santiago de Cuba, the most beautiful. As usual, we had to tack up into it, but the maneuver makes it the most exciting and interesting. We then put the main down and drifted/sculled right into the public dock. A very strange and industrial port, with no facilities for mariners but very interesting shops and eccentric locals.

This is the most North Eastern point of the continent, the furthest we can go on short passages before heading into the unknown deep blue. We will spend less than a week here, there seams to be a good window we are studying and we might make the jump next week.

Next stop ICELAND! Just the sound of it is grand.

The importance of following your instinct and sticking to your plan

We met a lovely couple running a Bed & Breakfast in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia. An Australia and a Canadian. We invited them over for dinner, to the exotic cooking of Jay’s arroz con coco and local haddock fish. When given the tour of Messenger and upon finding out we had no motor, they told us of a sad true story that remind us of the importance of sticking to your wits and not changing what you believe in.

Messenger’s crew believes that having a motor can at times be more dangerous and risky than not having one because as a sailor, on a sailboat, one can get too comfortable and rely too heavily on a motor, putting your boat and yourself in danger. The story we were told was of a friend of theirs who had been sailing for years without a motor, there came the day he decided to put a motor on his vessel and left from Lunenberg to Bermuda, a trip he had made many times before. Weather predictions turned on him and he had 2 options, either turn around and head back downwind away from a bad storm running up the east coast or push on to windward against it. Without a motor under such circumstances there is only one sane option for a sailor, go with the flow of the environment but with an engine you can go anywhere anytime, you are able to go against nature. The man pushed onward relying on the motor to get him past the storm. The storm toke the boat and the man. All was lost.

This is one of many stories we have heard of sailboats relying on their motor and when it has failed they find themselves in a situation they cannot get themselves out of because they cannot sail out of it. If we can’t sail in or out of a place, we just don’t go there, always making us air on the side of caution. Yes, it takes patience because if we can’t sail, we also don’t move. But if my options are wait or die, I will choose to wait, no matter how long that takes.

Why do people want an engine on a sailboat? I mean, isn’t the whole point about owning a sailboat that you use it for sailing? For actually making the boat go from point A to point B using the natural power of the wind? Isn’t that why it’s called “sail-ing”, not “engine-ing”?

So my nomination for Worst Sailing Innovation Ever is the engine. Or more specifically the crazy idea of putting an engine in a sailing boat. I don’t care if it’s an inboard engine or an outboard motor. It’s just plain wrong.

Here are 23 reasons why putting an engine in a sailing boat is the worst sailing innovation ever….

You don’t need an engine. We have sailed all in the Pacific, Caribbean and Atlantic, in and out of all sorts of exotic stopovers, for gazillions of miles, on two boats different boats one a snail and one a vomit-commit… both boats without engines.

An engine costs money to buy and install in the boat.
It costs money for spare parts.
It costs money for repairs.
It costs money for fuel.

An engine takes up space you could use for other things.
An engine adds weight to the boat.
The propeller increases drag.

Maintaining an engine takes time away from sailing.
Repairing an engine takes time away from sailing.

An engine breaks down.
An engine is noisy.
It is dirty.
It vibrates.
It is smelly.
It pollutes the air.
If you spill the fuel it pollutes the water.

If you have an engine you need several extra holes in your hull for the cooling pipes, exhaust, prop shaft, etc.

An engine does not provide extra safety. Murphy’s Law says that it will fail just when you most need it. If you don’t have an engine you will be more prudent about getting yourself into bad situations and you will develop the skills to get yourself out of difficulty using natural methods.

Without an engine you will feel closer to nature.
Without an engine you will have to learn to sail well.
Without an engine you will have the joy of entering the same anchorages in the same way that Columbus, Drake, Cook, Nelson – and the Coconuts – did… under sail alone.

You don’t need an engine.

Appropriated from Tillerman on ProperCourse

Caribe’s Birth Story

Being here in Saint Pierre, a French island in North America, has reminded us of our time in Martinique, another French island but this one in the Caribbean. Walking the aisles of the grocery store and recognizing all the products we became used to, waking up early (not something natural for us) in order to snag a fresh baguette at the local boulangerie, speaking Spanish with a French accent which seams to work just fine and people seam to understand me perfectly, are all things that have made me think of our lovely 4 months in Martinique. Which we picked as a birthing place because Sol and Luna wanted to learn French and because we wanted to have a boat birth. Most of the children that the girls had met while cruising were French and for the most part the children weren’t yet bilingual so the girls were eager to learn the language to be able to communicate with them and knowing the laissez-faire nature of the French we knew we would be able to have the birth we wanted without quarrels. So it was either Guadeloupe or Martinique and the later was the sailing mecca which meant work for Jay.

So without further ado here is Caribe’s birth story as I have written it to her:

The Day You Were Born

It was summer in the island of Martinique, French Antilles in the Caribbean. We had been waiting for you for about a week after your due date. Baba had been there for over a week and she was only staying for a week or two more, which stressed me out because I needed more help after the birth than prior, and you were in no hurry. Your Papi Jay and sisters Sol and Luna were eager for you to come out as well. I had been having a few false starts during which your father and I would walk the long docks of the marina of Le Marin to try and get things going but you weren’t ready. Your fathers birthday was coming up and sure enough you came the day before.

On the night of February 23rd around dinner time I felt labor start. We all had a lovely dinner together around 8 o’clock. Your father started preparing the pool which we placed in the middle of the saloon floor, bellow the water line, and getting everything else ready. We also set up a placenta birthing chair in the V-birth, naturally. Labor quickly escalated and by the time the contractions were strong Baba, Sol and Luna had all fallen asleep, perfect, now I could go into laborland. We had closed up the hatches and windows, placed small candles all around (a touch of las Chicas), had some incense burning and soft music playing. Your father was at the galley with 2 big pots heating up water for the pool in his speedo, he looked very sexy. I stood at the mast, which is keel stepped and a strong structure inside the boat on which I could lean on while I rocked back and forth during contractions. The idea of laboring at the base of this tree like phallic symbol just made perfect sense. Around 2 o’clock in the morning I had the urge to push so I got into the pool hoping to enjoy it for a while but no, you were coming out fast. I was, as always, afraid of tearing so I tried holding you in but my body was pushing hard on it’s own. My moans and screams woke everyone up. Las Chicas were sleeping on the settee on which I was leaning my back on and their heads popped out on both sides of mine and Baba who had been sleeping in the cockpit pocked her head down the companionway. I told Jay you were coming so he got into the pool with me just in time to ketch you. By the time I opened my eyes after pushing you out Jay had already placed you on my chest, you came out so fast.

You slowly started breathing, I was surprised at how wide you opened your eyes and started looking around, it was pretty dark just with candle light which I guess made it possible for you to do so. It was close to 90˙F/32˙C inside the boat which made it very comfortable for both of us. A little time passed, you were now breathing well and had started making little sounds, we were all in a baby mesmerizing state when finally Baba asked “Well, what is it?” The surprise of your sex had been forgotten and didn’t seam to be so important during our state of awe of just your existence. So I lifted you up but I could hardly see it was so dark, we all thought you were a boy but I couldn’t make out a penis, you started screaming as if telling us “I’m a girl! Now put me down!” We were all so surprised, you were perfect and very long. I then got up holding you in my arms and walked to the V-birth where I sat on a V shaped chair with a bucket between my legs to birth the placenta. You started sucking on the breast trying to figure it out. About 20 minutes later I birthed the placenta which came out in one big beautiful chunk. Jay felt the umbilical cord until there was no more heart beat felt through it, then it was safe and time to cut it. Las Chicas were Jay’s little helpers getting him all the tools to cut and clamp the cord. Your father gave a little speech right before cutting your cord, he told you you no longer needed the placenta which had been your life source up until then and that now we would take care of you and that you could breath on your own. He clamped and cut the cord, he gave you that perfect belly button you now have.

I laid down with you while everyone was busy doing things, breaking down the pool, picking up the placenta room, making me food, but once everything was done it was time to rest. You and your father fell deep asleep in the same fetal position side by side on the settee, you looked just alike. Las Chicas toke turns holding you while whispering, they were so gentle and happy. Your birth was a family event, it was personal and perfect in every way.

You were born on February 24th at 2:30am weighing 7.5 Lbs/3.4 kilos

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Lunenberg to Saint Pierre Passage

August 31, 2014 – 11:00 ~ Lunenberg to Saint Pierre

It was time to leave the beloved small town of Lunenberg, Nova Scotia, the weather was right. We greatly enjoyed our 13 day stay in this quaint and extremely friendly place. The contrast of culture was surprising, we were in Newport for 2 years and found it difficult to connect with people, aside from a few exceptions. People we met in Lunenberg were so giving it was astounding.

After a 3 days battle installing our new autopilot, which does not come with amateur instructions, I suppose they assume a professional will be doing the work, Jay was close to loosing his mind, he thought it was too similar to a motor and nearly gave up. He, as usual, persisted and we were finally ready too leave, actually a day late according to the navigators good weather window predictions. We woke up at 8:30, early for us Coconuts, on Sunday, and headed out the harbor. We did a few tacks to check the rigging and make a couple of adjustments. We tried calibrating the auto pilot but the boat wasn’t flat enough, I suppose you have to have a motor so that the boat can be flat when calibrating it, all too high tech for us. I made breakfast burritos, toast, oatmeal, coffee and tea as we headed out to sea. All 3 chicas feel fast asleep right after, we don’t see much of them the first 6 to 12 hrs of sailing.

Winds were SW at 20 knots, we beam reached until the entrance to Halifax and then turned running down, straight towards our destination, a lovely sunny sail. Well, it didn’t last long and our beautiful sail turned into a hell of a sail. The toughest passage on our, las chicas, log book. The winds picked up to 30 knots sustained, gusting up to vomiting speeds, seas got rough and stormy weather rolled in for the next couple of days. It was unbearable to be on deck, the wet and rocky conditions made it a torturous work out to be out there. Bellow deck was damp and not very pleasant to the stomach. There was a lot of upwind sailing during those couple of days and thankfully Messenger can sail well alone with the tiller tied up which speared me having to drive and gave Jay plenty of time down bellow to rest and dry up. Everyone, except for Caribe and Jay, got sick on this one but they were both also on the verge. At one point Jay laid down on the windward deck and he nearly drowned when a wave engulfed him and filled his napping wide open mouth with water. Tactfully the Captain did great and got us to our destination in a little under 3 days.

It was rainy when we arrived early on a Wednesday morning, no one answered on the radio when we called and had no idea where to go but we saw a couple of douane gentlemen waiving us down from a pier so we sailed up to it and tied up. After a worshiped shower and a nap came the immigration agents and then down went the yellow flag and up the French flag, “où pouvons-nous trouver une baguette?

After a fancy dinner out we had all forgotten about our kick in the butt passage and it all seamed so worth it!

Jay’s encounter with a great white shark

After this story you will understand why Jay could only think of sharks when he jumped into the ocean to save our dinghy, rather than the million other things that I was thinking of, what if he can’t get back on to the boat, will I be able to pull him up, what if he becomes untied and floats away, could I be able to sail this boat alone…

It was early January 2011, 3 years ago, we arrived to an uninhabited island, one on the very south end of the long strip of the Bahamas Islands. The sea bottom close to the island went from 200 ft to 40 ft and in-between lots of coral reefs we anchored in a patch of white sand. Jay jumped in with his mask to make sure the anchor had a good hold since there was reef all around us it was important we did not drag. I was tidding up things onboard, the girls were playing on deck. I heard Jay yell something back to us from the water but being upwind from him I did not ketch what he said, Luna who was closer to the stern of the boat repeated “He said let go of the dinghy”, I replied “No he didn’t”, I watched him and his head was in the water with his back floating on the surface when he began to launch forward, arms open, splashing the water violently as if doing an awkward butterfly stroke. He then slowly began swimming backwards without lifting his face out of the water, he reached the dinghy which was tied up behind us and jumped in, he was as white as the sandy bottom we just anchored in.

He came aboard and told us his story. He was swimming around checking out the reefs when out of the corner of his eye he sees something big move, he turns and about 20 ft away is a great white shark, 4 times his size, it has turned towards him and is slowly coming at him as if sniffling him out like a dog. This is when he yelled to let go of the dinghy which was about 10ft upwind from him, good quick thinking but his wife estaba en otras. So then he quickly thought “I need to convince this thing that I am going to eat him otherwise he’s going to eat me”, so he immediately started to launch towards it, as if he were a wild cave man, growling, kicking and splashing like a wild animal, it worked! The shark turned around and swam away from him, Jay kept his eyes on it as he swam backwards, the shark did loop around about 30 ft from him and started coming slowly towards him again but by then Jay had reached the dinghy and managed to jump to safety.

Lesson learned, always trust your husband, no matter how crazy his request might sound.