Ártico’s Birth Story

The Day You Were Born…

We had been invited to spend sometime in one of the farthest Vestfir∂ir (Westfjords) of the north of Iceland, Ísafjör∂ur meaning ice fjord, is the largest and most beautiful of all the fjords in the area. With a population of about 2,600 it is located on a spit of sand and despite its small size and historical isolation from the rest of the country, the town has a relatively urban atmosphere while still retaining a small town cozy feeling.

It was a sunny beautiful Saturday and we had been waiting to go on a hike in the snow for some time. Your father had been busy all week and the girls had been promised a family hike in the snow covered mountains surrounding the fjord. Your Grandmother Baba was visiting for the birth, so her, your father, your 3 sisters and I all got ready for the hike, we all bundled up with warm clothes and packed a lunch. We walked out of town toward the end of the fjord and once we got there we walked up the base of the mountain on the crest of a hill which led up to the ski lodge. At times it was difficult to continue on with snow up to our knees and the wind hauling by, nearly knocking us off the hill but as we ascended the view of the town was grand. We reached the old abandoned ski lodge and had walked for about a mile and a half, the new ski lodge lay still another mile up the mountain so we decided to have our lunch in the lee of the abandoned building and after begin our descent. On the way back I began having contractions and at times they were strong enough for me to have to stop walking until it passed, they were still far in between and didn’t last very long. I had already had a couple of false labors that week so I wasn’t sure if this was the day you would come. There are so many myths on things to do to make a woman go into labor and after 4 births, all in different countries and widely varied cultures, it is still a mystery to me. What has worked in one pregnancy hasn’t in the next and vice versa.  By the time we got back to the house and had walked about 3 miles in total contractions continued and we began getting things ready for your arrival. Your father made a delicious dinner while I put together the birth shrine on a table in the living room, there I placed candles, incense, photos of the family, drawings Sol and Luna had made for you and small objects that had a special significance. The birth shrine is a space I can go to during labor, a place that gives me peace and strength. After our usually late dinner, around 10pm labor continued to escalate and I became more sure that you were coming so your father began to set up the pool in the center of the living room, Baba prepared the bed and the girls and I lit candles. Then the girls began watching a movie and by midnight they had all fallen asleep in the bedroom and labor was at full swing. Your father tried to gage how long labor would be but even I wasn’t sure. Since my last 2 births were 6 hours long we thought this was my best time therefore we calculated that you would come sometime between 4 and 6am, so your father was filling the pool up systematically, that way it would be at the perfect right temperature and level at the time I would need it, he filled it slowly and with very warm water. Labor escalated faster than we thought, the rushes (contractions) got very strong and efficient. Labor with you was very different than with your sisters, I did not experience the distinct 3 stages of labor that I did with your sisters. Rushes never got closer than about 5 minutes apart but each one was very strong and I never experienced a clear moment of the “urge to push”, rather the rushes began bearing you down without me really knowing it, basically my body was pushing on its own. When you started crowning I told your father, it was only 2am and the pool was half filled and too warm so your father quickly began pouring buckets of cold water to get the temperature right. When he had it perfect I got into the pool. I had never broken water and as your head began to come out we saw it was covered by the caul: the amniotic membrane enclosing a fetus which looks like a semi-translucent bag like tissue, thought to bring good luck. You were coming out fast and I began to panic a bit, afraid I would tear as my body continued to push on it’s own, but your father calmed me down with his wise and calm disposition. I then toke a deep breath, went “inside of myself” and gently pushed with the next rush. I held your head between my legs while I felt your body turn inside of me, telling me it was now time for the rest of you to come out. On the next rush I gently pushed and your body gently flowed into the water as the sack broke dispersing the cloudy amniotic fluid. Your father had gotten into the pool with me at some point which I can not recall and we both reached for you at the same time slowly bringing you to the surface while taking away the caul which drooped from your limbs. We placed you on my chest as I began talking to you and welcoming you to this world, it was 2:30am on Sunday May 8th, 2015.

After a few minutes I remembered I didn’t know your sex but your cord was short so I couldn’t manage to turn you to see the secret you held between your legs. Your father helped me and even though it was dark in the room I was able to see, to my surprise, that you were a boy. I was delighted, I had finally gotten my boy but my celebration was interrupted by a contraction and my body wanting to expel the placenta. Your father helped me stand up, I held you in my arms as I stepped out of the pool and sat on a couple of stools with a bucket between my legs, a makeshift birthing stool to deliver the placenta. Baba wrapped us up in towels and blankets, you were comfortable in my arms and began to attempt figuring out how to latch on, this immediate instinctual behavior never ceases to amaze me. When the placenta detached from my uterus and dropped into the bucket it pulled you down since the cord was so short. I grabbed the cord near your belly and pulled it up while your father grabbed some nearby books and stacked them underneath the bucket to raise its level. Once this was all sorted and we felt no pulse on the cord, your father clamped and cut it after saying a few words: “I’m going to release you from the mamá and this placenta that has given you life for 41 weeks. Your big enough now that you can be on your own. You can breath and will learn how to suck and drink. We will all take care of you.” Baba then went to wake up your sisters so that they could meet you. After the cord clamping I walked over to the bed, all of the family surrounded us, we were all in awe looking at you and falling in love with you.

I was filled with joy to finally be holding you in my arms. Although your birth felt to both your father and I to have happened faster than we would had liked, it all went perfectly well and it went the way it was suppose to. It was an intimate and beautiful birth in a very special house, town and country. You were born in Albertshús (Albert’s House), a 200 year old house in the center of town where 25 babies had been born, the last in 1944. So in 2015 you were baby number 26 to be born in this house. Herdís Albertsdottir (Albert’s daughter) lived in the house nearly her entire life, she passed away four years ago at the age of 103 and her house has remained the way it was when she lived in it. All her belongings and her spirit are still there, I felt her wise and caring presence during the birth. The photos of her extended family still hang on the walls, we have met and befriended a lot of them who opened their doors and their hearts to us and made us feel welcomed and at home in Ísafjör∂ur.

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Iceland, our winter berth and birth

“Visited by only the most intrepid yachts, a passage to Iceland offers an experience difficult to match anywhere else in the world.” 

Our passage to Iceland was epic, riddled with highs and lows.

Iceland feels like it is centrally isolated.

Sitting right between America and Europe it feels central, a stepping stone in our journey across the Atlantic ocean.

Hovering right bellow the Arctic circle it feels isolated, a vastly unpopulated island of stark beauty, an island of ice and fire, of mighty glaciers, live volcanoes, hissing geysers and boiling lakes and rivers.

Iceland feels uniquely isolated as well as centrally located in the globe.

We picked Iceland as the birthing grounds for our next crew member, the extreme contrast to our last birth in the Caribbean appealed to us. Extreme dualities have naturally played out through our lives, so it feels natural to be here in Iceland to traer a la luz our next crew member.

We sailed into Reykjavík harbor in mid-October of 2014. We spent the first four months there in Reykjavík and are now in the northwest smaller town of Ísafjör∂ur. So we have experienced Iceland’s capital city, it’s majestic and vast country side and it’s quaint small town life in the westfjords.

The European-like, fast-paced and modern city life of Reykjavík surprised us. The amount of wealth, new cars, well dressed shopping-craze citizens, expensive restaurants, and the two-hour limit children’s birthday parties were all a big surprise.

The beauty of its countryside was expected. The expansive open landscapes completely covered in white snow this time of the year. It’s grand towering mountains which look as if they have been painted onto the blue sky. It’s rivers partly frozen but still running due to the waters warmer temperature from geothermal activity. All these things we had envisioned but perhaps didn’t expect for it to be as breathtakingly beautiful as it is, truly majestic.

The quiet slow-paced and snow covered streets of the smaller town of Ísafjör∂ur are what we envisioned it being like in Iceland and I suppose the vast majority is this way.

The Icelander is an educated bilingual person. It’s surprising how nearly everyone speaks very good English and many speak Danish and many other languages as well. Family is very important to the Icelander, they have large families, having up to four children is not rare at all, therefore we feel pretty normal here, at least in that regard.

Our two eldest daughters, ages 9 and 8, have been attending public school here in Iceland and for unschooled (non-curriculum based) children they have loved the school here. The educational system in Iceland has been a nice surprise. It is not heavily academic but rather very hands-on allowing the children to learn practical real-life skills suca as cooking, carpentry, sowing/knitting, library/research, community behavior, social behavior, exercise/health/swimming and even chess.

And finally birth in Iceland. On this topic we had no idea what to expect but thankfully birth in Iceland is viewed as a natural physiological process for women to go through. Icelanders believe women’s bodies still work, natural birth is the norm and all births are attended by midwives. Obstetricians are only involved in births if there are complications needing medical intervention. Home births in Reykjavík are gaining in popularity and in numbers but outside of the capital there are less home births, non in Ísafjör∂ur for example. Water births are very common in home births and in hospitals maybe only 10% are in water but they do have pools in hospitals which is great. But of course unattended home births are rare but we have been allowed and supported by midwives to do it our way, which has been wonderful. We formed a lovely relationship with a midwife who specializes in home births in Reykjavík who has been helping us with the necessary paper work as well as loaning us a birthing pool and helping us acquire all the special things we will need for the birth. Now that we are about a 6 hour drive away from Reykjavík, she has put us in touch with another midwife in Ísafjör∂ur who will help us announce the birth to the system once the baby is born so that we can get a birth certificate. I was even fortunate enough to attend a lecture by the world renown Ina May Gaskin, the mother of midwifery, who happened to come to Reykjavík for a lecture.

So yes, we like Iceland, we like it very much, a great place for this nomadic family to stop at and have a birth, a great country with great people to share our lives with for a short time. No regrets on picking Iceland to winter with our boat and as a birthing place, no regrets at all.

Unique Exposure in Iceland

Today the Coconuts appeared in 2 of the largest newspapers in Iceland. All of a sudden on the same day we were contacted by reporters who wanted to write an article about us. They initially heard of us from a story that was written in the Faxaflóahafnir Associated Icelandic Ports website.

The first paper to contact us was Fréttabladid who put us on the front page and Morgunbladid wrote about us as well, we appeared on page 4 of their paper. There aren’t many cruisers who venture this far north and especially not to winter here therefore our story and life style is sort of a novel idea to Icelanders.

Tomorrow we will be filmed by the National Broadcasting Service in Iceland for a weekly news and culture program that they produce called Landinn.

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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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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.