Octoberfest & Munich

Munich, Germany & Octoberfest, September 2011

I must admit Munich, Germany is my favorite city. It probably should be Paris or Buduapest or Prague but it isn’t. There is something intoxicating about this Bavarian enclave – it’s the people, the air, the street life that I find  makes me feel good. The city center is beautiful with its shops, restaurants, museums, parks, churches, open markets and beer gardens. I took a walk through town the day before the first day of Octoberfest and it was busy as ever. Locals and visitors are wearing their “tracht” which is a term called for the traditional dress of lederhosen and dirndls. For the next 16 days people will be rocking out their best tracht: they will wear it to work, to bars, to restaurants and of course to the festival. It is not unusual to see people walking around in their tracht on even if they are not attending the festival that day.

Zentrum, Rathaus, Marionplatz

Biergarten am Tal

Tracht for Sale

Walking in the Marionplatz I heard at least 15 different languages. There are groups of people that come from around the world to experience this massive party. Lines of festival attendees spill out of stores that sell dirndls and lederhosen. You can outfit yourself for as little as $100 and beyond $1000 as well. Bavarians are the “Texans” of Germany. They see themselves separately than the rest of the country and they are serious about their beer and their lederhosen. Similar to texans wearing cowboy boots and hats the bavarians don’t see the tracht as a costume, it is a normal part of their lives and dress.

For the next 16 days, 5 million people will have the O’fest experience that is often referred to as “Wiesn” which means “The Field”. For 10 months out of the year the grounds where the festival is celebrated is just that – an empty field. Every year the tents and buildings and fairgrounds are built literally from the ground up just for this festival. When it is all over, everything thing is dismantled until the next year. It is really something else.

Octoberferst Fair Grounds

The festival has rides and games and food in addition to the Brewers’ Tents that serve only beer brewed within the Munich city limits. The beer must pass a particular criteria before it is designated as an Oktoberfest beer which is a registered Trademark by the Club of Munich brewers which include Augustinerbräu, Hacker-Pschorr Bräu, Hofbräu, Löwenbräu, Paulanerbräu and Spatenbräu. Up to 7 million liters of beer could be served in the 16 day festival. Yes, bathrooms are a disaster here… normally very long lines…

Each tent has its own security team that tames drunken festival attendants when necessary. They look like marines and if there is some misbehaving happening, it is usually cleaned up in minutes. The tents can handle thousands of people where that drink the local beer and eat the local fare. The food you find here is typical of southern german cuisine.

Sampling of Local Cuisine

The table reservations are staggered and each reservation has about 5 hours to celebrate, then a clean up crew turns around a section in about 20 minutes. The first reservations are at 11 am and the fair is open until midnight. The servers here that work Weisn and can make a ton of money –   up to $30K in one season!  But the work is grueling and the days are long. The mugs of beer they carry are extremely heavy  but the more they carry the more they sell.  Many of the waitresses wear wrist guards and orthopedic shoes to support the heavy load. They have to deal with the demanding, thirsty, hungry drunks and do it with a combination of warmth and toughness and they do it in their dirndls. It is really an art form. Some of them have whistles and blow them while carrying the beer or trays of food to move people out of the way, some of them just yell. Our waitress was Juanita from Serbia, she handled about 75 people in her section.

Getting dressed and ready for the festival can take a few minutes for women, usually due to the fact that you have to push up –  stick up and adjust any boobs you have to make the famous “shelf” of cleavage that dirndls are most notoriously know for. They say that every women looks beautiful in a dirndl, tall and short, heavy or skinny as long as you got the cleavage, you are on! It is literally a boob fest not a beer fest! 🙂

We arrived at the Hofbräu Tent on opening day of the festival. It’s 11 am and there is no beer… yet… we are waiting for the master of ceremonies to tap the keg which happens before we know it. The tent starts to shake as the beer is brought in. People are screaming as if Elvis has just entered the building… There are 1000’s and 1000’s of people here it is totally insane. The hum of noise that surrounds is enough to make you deaf. The first liter of beer is drunk, the music starts and the rest is history!

With the Man Himself. The owner of the Hofbrau Brewery!

There is no real way to describe what happens next… but it is a marathon of drinking beer after beer, singing to oldies like “sweet caroline” and “if you’ll be my girl” and people standing on benches literally getting drunk. It is that simple. A day off from the world if you will – a total escape.  If you question for a moment the goodness in people, come to a tent and just watch the people in it. The Festival is surprisingly safe and if you look at the numbers, there is much more good happening here than bad. Sure – late in the night there are some ugly scenes, but just a few…  Only the Germans could pull a festival off like this one. It is a well oiled machine and it keeps going and going and going… No one parties like the Germans…. I have said it before and I will say it again. The Germans are Ze’ Best to party with! In addition a German is the best friend you can ever have. Daniel and Patricia are included in the picture above, Daniel has been a friend for 18 years his wife for 6… they are family to me and I am always grateful for their friendship and hospitality! They have invited me to Octoberfest they are the reason I am here. Below is a friend Hendrick who I met last year at the Octoberfest. He and I ended up dancing on the tables which is forbidden by the way and a picture was snapped! It ended up making 3 of the largest newspapers in southern Germany. Quite an honor! Hendrick and I met for Round 2 this year! We had a blast!

Hendrick and Stephanie - Round 2 🙂

Jens and Patrcia... Prost!

I have put together a  video for you to watch on snippets of the day… I feel like there is not much more to write than this… 🙂

Just once, in your life – visit this party. It is so worth it.

I want to thank the following friends of mine in Munich who always make my visits here special and to new friends I have just met… I can’t wait to come back and see them again.

Daniel, Patricia, Jens, Marlen, Jan, Klaus, Steffi, Sabine, Thomas, Sasha, Helena, Veit, Hendrick, Nicole and Swen!

Herzliche Danke für alles, bis bald!

Deine, Stephanie

p.s. They used last years picture of Hendrick and I dancing on the tables…


Dancing on the tables at Hofbräu tent with Hendrik!




Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Lanzarote – Canary Islands

I was lucky to arrive to Lanzarote Island by boat. As we silently sailed passed the black beaches, villages, ports, cities and vacation communities backed by brownish – black volcanic mountains, the island seemed surprisingly large. We are sailing on the southern side of the island toward  Puerto Calero, a marina south of Arrecife. The island of Lanzarote is 1 of 7 larger Canary Islands that lie 100+ miles off the coast of Morocco. The Islands are owned by Spain. As we scoot down the coast, Arrecife, Lanzarote’s largest city sits on the coast line halfway between its northern and southern points.

The Canary Islands are a popular sailing destination and often the final stop before sailors set sail for their Ocean crossings.  Even Christopher Columbus stopped in Grand Canary Island before his final sail across the Atlantic to finalize  repairs, pray in the local Cathedral and stock up on supplies. All the Large Canary Islands have airports that connect each island and  Europe. It also has numerous ports for both large cargo ships and sailboats like ours. About 15 years ago there was an enormous push to improve marinas and ports throughout the islands and it has proved to be a good idea. As a result the Canary Islands enjoy a thriving boating and sailing industry year round in addition to its enormous cargo ship industry.

Lanzarote from the sea!

It is estimated that 5 million people visit the islands per year. The number has decreased a bit due to the global recession but none the less, a thriving tourist destination. Lanzarote is one of the larger islands in the chain… Canarians  have different accents depending on the island they live and the traditional Spanish “TH” sound seems to be abandoned here. There are large distances between the islands and although there are high speed ferries and planes that connect the islands, if you are sailing like we are, it is a days sail between each.

On arrival to the Puerto Calero, a beautiful marina and port town on the southeast end of the island, we are relieved at the facilities. This is a full service marina with restaurants, showers, shops, grocery and a huge seawall surrounding the marina to the water is calm and the boat barely moves,  a welcomed change from the rocking and rolling we experienced for the last 5 days.

The crew at Puerto Calero!

We arrived and were greeted by deck hands as well as tourists. Jumping off the boat  I felt like screaming “I have been on this boat for 5 whole days sailing the Atlantic Ocean!”  I felt like a cast away come home and walking on land for the first time in days was strange and made me dizzy. There was a ton to do on the boat as far as clean up but all we were interested in was a hot shower and a glass of wine and a good nights rest.

The morning brings a ton of dew. I think it must be from the heat generated from the black mountains that turn lavender during the sunset. The morning calls for deck duties, cleaning up, organizing and fixing things that broke along the way here. I am told by the skipper that sailing is really moving from port to port buying parts for the boat. I have also heard that the best day of your life is buying the boat and the next best day is selling it.  We joke about posting a “se vende” sign on the boat after this trip, but actually, seems like a terrible idea. Boats can become addicting, I can see it happening. After a day of chores we decide to check out Arrecife, the main city here. We were looking to rent a car or grab a taxi – neither of which were available at the marina so we hitched a ride, thanks to the skipper who will now be referred to as Manuel for the next few posts.

Manuel ask Eugenio for a ride and Eugenio is a Canarian that is happy to accommodate our 20 minute ride into the city.  He suggests some restaurants and towns to see and is otherwise very personable. The Spanish here looses the “THE THE THE”  sound that we heard in the south of Spain, and the Spaniards here seem more Latin American to me… Eugenio drops us off at the city center  and after a quick jump in the water with the locals, Manuel spots a rent a car sign and walks over. For about 30 euros where we were offered a broken down Renault that I could swear was someone’s personal car that they slapped a rent a car sticker on as we were filling out the paper work!  Still, it moved and had air-conditioning so off we went.

For dinner we decide to go inland to a local town called Yaiza. Driving here is surreal, there are no trees and as the sunsets behind the mountains  it gets dark quickly – the car lights coming from the above hill look like they are coming in for a landing on the moon! Somehow the sky and the land blend into each other at dusk.

Arriving in Yaiza, we were happy to find an enormous town festival with rides and live music and asked around for a local restaurant. “La Era” was recommended and a bit of a tourist destination.  Still the servers were kind, the local fare delicious and the atmosphere divine.  We drank local wine and ate Canarian fish stew with Pappas con Mojo. “Mojo”  is a sauce usually made with garlic, parsley and pepper and such. They have green “Mojo” and red “Mojo” it can come spicy or mild, it seems that each restaurant has its own “mojo” and served with potatoes is delicious and vegetarian! Check out my menu and the english translation it is hysterical!

Kid for dinner!

The next day we took a drive around the entire island. Our first stop was Playa Blanca which lies on the southern tip of the island and is a German enclave. There are more street signs in German here than in Spanish! The port side of town is dotted with restaurants and shops and  beaches dotted with sun worshipers… the air is cool and the sun is hot. It is september and tourism decreased for back to school. Still The Canary Islands enjoy a year round tourist industry…  We found a restaurant that served us the most delicious squid ink paella!

Playa Blanca

Squid Ink Paella!

After a delicious lunch we decide to drive north towards the interior of the island. We were struck by the geography here. This treeless volcanic land is hot and arid. It is like being on another planet! We enter the state park and it is literally feeling like you are in the middle of nowhere. There are tours you can take on camels through the mountainside, but we chose the New York version –  just to cruise right through… Meandering through the towns and countryside we also see vineyards and small farms… the dirt here is black and the vegetation is usually surrounded by volcanic rock walls to either protect the plants from wind or trap the dew and the water at night. We stopped to by some local wines and found gorgeous local crafts which included lava jewelry…. Of course I bought a ton of stuff!

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya & Montañas de Fuego Camel Rides!

Another planet!

Farms in Lanzarote, Canary Islands

Moving north on the island we come to a small town on siesta named Tequise. They take siesta seriously here! The entire town shut down for a nap! This village reminds me of the Cycladic Islands in Greece. As a matter of fact – the whole island does… much like Santorini if fact!  Every single building is white stucco with blue, green or dark wooden trim. A woman sees us walking around and approaches us asking us for a ride to the northern most point of the island.  We agree to take her and out pops her daughter too (she was at the bus stop sleeping) and in addition to the child, they haul out a bunch of bags – so we made room in our little rent a car and headed north! As we cruised the countryside towards the port town of Orzola, the beaches  are on our right. The same beaches we saw on our arrival here 2 days ago. this was our LAND AHOY!

Hitching a ride!

After we dropped our new friends off at the port to catch the ferry to La Graciosa, a small island north of Lanzarote, we enjoy a delicious coffee. After that, we cruise back to towards to sunset to bring our first mate to the airport. This was his final destination.  Manuel and I will continue on to the other islands on our own.

Port of Orzola in Lanzarote, C.I. Land Ahoy!

The city of Arrecife feels like a Latin American city not a European city. It is a port town with pedestrian streets and shops. The architecture is Spanish Colonial mixed with the 50’s and 60’s modern apartment buildings. After bumming around town and some shopping we return our little car, decide to have a Havana Club Rum at a local bar before we hitch a ride back to the Puerto Calero.

Downtown Historic Fort of Arrecife

Downtown Arrecife

The sun is almost set, the lavendar mountains are in front of us and the ocean sits ahead. We will be sailing in that direction to the next island tomorrow. After battening down the hatches and a little organizing, we go to sleep. We have an early departure out of Puerto Calero tomorrow.

Sunsets behind "Argo" our transportation to Fuerteventura tomorrow.

Fuerteventura and Grand Canary

Sailing from Puerto Calero, Lanzarote to Punta Morro Jable, Fuerteventura

13 hours

The 13 hour sail started out smooth. As we left the beautiful island of Lanzarote behind and had smooth seas ahead, it looked to be a promising sail. Even better? I would see land the whole time! In the distance we see the mountains of Fuerteventura, our next island destination.

Fuerteventura coastline

Small villages dot the treeless coastline that has dramatic black cliffs dropping into the ocean. Since the Canaries are the first pieces of land that the ocean meets after 1000’s of miles of momentum, on Fuerteventura, most of the people live on the south side of the island to protect them from wind.  After about 8 hours of sailing we see some sport fishing boats headed toward what we think is the marina we see on our map.  Gran Tarajal. The next stop is about 4 hours of sailing away along the coast – 4 hours closer to the next island as well – so we decide to press on. The sun still high in the sky we might make it before we lose sunlight. At around 6pm we hit are a beam a narrow part of the island that is known for its microclimate. The winds build up and over the mountainside and produce up to 40 mile and hour wind gusts, literally out of nowhere… as waves start to hit the boat and water splashes on board, we put on the rain gear and literally batten down the hatches! On our right there is a dip in the mountain range which funnels extremely strong winds onto the beach and water. The wind, so strong, chops up the water immediately on meeting it again.  When the boat begins to rock back and forth and the wind begins to howell, even though we see land – it seems far away… A few rocky hours later it is dusk, we are close to our final destination as we search for the sea wall of the marina – the sea had calmed, it is dark and as we try to make out the port’s entrance! There it is! The green light we were looking for and  then BOOM! The wind picks up again…. Manuel has read in the guide that this was a difficult marina to enter during the day and without wind! We had both working against us as we searched for the entrance – kranked the engines and avoided the breakers and sea walls on either side.

Our arrival to the Marina at Punto Morro Jable might have been the talk to the town. We arrived during the night which always proves to be more difficult to dock and with the gusts of winds blowing us around we had a recipe for drama.

We saw the marina slips but due to the night arrival thought it was closed so scratched off that option. Then we saw the platoons but did not think we could fit… so we thought to drop an anchor in between. A lovely French couple with their daughter (Laurent, Gwen and Lelo) pulled up to us in a dingy and in broken English to try to help us out and tell us where to go, then the Marina guard with her dog in tow was flashing us with her high beams and flashlight screaming  “Cavalliero, Cavalliero” telling us we could not anchor. Then you had a group of 12 people on the docks placing bets on whether we were going to ground our boat  as it was low tide.  I put a flashlight to the water and land was just below.  It was a total scene, the French family cruising back and forth relaying messages from the docks, the security guard yelling at us from the breakwater and the winds blowing our boat left and right. With that a message came in that there was a slip available!  We were able to dock the boat in the marina – so we had to prepare the boat with bumpers and get ready to “pull in” – with the winds blowing us left and right and the group on the docks clicking their flashlights, we could not tell where the slip was… the radio is going off, the security guard is still yelling  and then we see it!  We decide to back in, and while docking we were greeted with too many people telling each other what to do! Due to the wind we come in pretty hot and Manuel starts throwing lines as a bunch of others on the dock out their hands out stop the boat from crashing into the dock, the dog is barking, people are yelling in Spanish –  it was quite and entrance.

Welcome to this fantastic Marina, small, local and full of energy, we were able to meet our neighbors and thank them for the all the help. Then we noticed all of a sudden there was no wind again. It was 11 pm and we were exhausted so we went to sleep. During the night the wind howled and the lines on the masts tapped – it was so strange. At one moment it was quiet and dead calm, within 30 seconds the wind comes through shaking everything up… I decide I don’t like wind anymore…. I know we need it for the sails but lately I feel it just causes trouble. 🙂

The morning brought a nice surprise.  The marina was beautiful there were plenty of boats and people around so the choice to dock was a good one. For about 11 euros we hook up to the water and the electricity and we decided to take a day off!  Our American flag sits proudly on the back of our sailboat and one neighbor shows up with a picture of him in front of the world trade center!

One of our neighbors showing off an old picture!

Another neighbor befriends us immediately so we invite him for a rum and coke on Argo around noon.  Jose Antonio is here with his beautiful family and enjoys speaking with Manuel about every nook and cranny of the Canary Islands and the surrounding seas.  He is a good sailor and a Canarian.  He has a 50 foot Beneteau that you could tell has seen a ton of ocean.  Jose Antonio  is a wealth of information on wind, climate, waves and routes between the islands and only speaks of sailing the entire time. He knows these waters so well that his family takes the high speed ferry home while he sails his boat alone!

What you don’t know is that had fallen ill the night prior in that famous docking event. It must have been something I ate. I always get a stomach sickness when I am away, and with that always brings funny surprises, new doctors, new medicines and sometimes even new friends. I decide I need a clinic. Manuel asked around and by the time I got myself off the boat, the entire Marina knew I was not feeling well. Most of them just asked something with the word “mejore” which means “better” and I was not feeling better. In the true spirit of adventure we hitched a ride and combined the doctors visit with a quick 5 cent tour of the town. In retrospect, we might not have even stopped here and maybe even pressed on to Grand Canary with such an annoying approach to this funny little marina but my belly ache forced us to come in and stay 2 days while I got better. The moments made here were some of my favorite of the trip!

We ride into town with a German named Mattias who has lived here for 3 years and is a tour guide. He loves it here. The town is a strip mall and everything is in German. If you are looking for a quaint village, don’t come here. We decide to head back to the marina where there is a local beach, a local restaurant and feels more quaint after I see a doctor and pick up some medicine which we found 10 minute away – the ony open pharmacy on a saturday – we head back to the marina… to get out of the hustle of the tourist trap.

After a long walk on a black beach that is littered with sea glass we run into the French family that helped us dock the night before. They are planning to cross the Atlantic this fall and are set to go to Las Palmas like we were. They were waiting for calmer seas – as the rumor was that the seas were rough these days. Of course I get nervous as we are due to sail the next day. We decide to get back the boat and clean up and prepare for our ride and on arrival we have a new neighbor. 2 Germans on a beautiful boat called 12 moons. They had just come in and had also sailed from the south of Spain to the Canaries like we did. They had stopped in Morocco so they missed the force winds… (lucky) and they were headed to Las Palmas as well. The Canarian, the Chilean, the American and the Germans, all at the end of the dock all speaking to each other… the world feels small all of a sudden…

United Nations at the end of the dock!

As the sun dips into the ocean we all stand on our boats, talking to each other sharing stories of where we have been and were we are going. We all soak in the most beautiful sunset, the marina is surprisingly calm. As the clouds continue to lay heavy on the mountain range in front of us, we check the weather and looks like condition will be great for sailing tomorrow.

Best sunset of the trip!

Jose Antonio who is discussing every nook and cranny of the current to the Manuel invites us on the boat with his family. We then leave for a dinner the marina restaurant and get some zzz’s we have a 7:30 am Departure tomorrow.

Jose Antonio and his beautiful family!

Sailing from Punta Morro Jable, Fuereventura to Las Palmas, Grand Canary.

9 hours.

We were lucky: for some reason the wind wasn’t blowing this morning.  We quietly loosened the lines while other boats slept  and snuck out by 7:45am. The sun rises behind us to a golden sky and the sea calm ahead… The mountain clouds as they had been for the past 2 days and continue to do on a daily basis, quietly crawl over the mountains and disappear the moment they hit the water…  the scene is beautiful.

Microclimate and mountain clouds

We put up the Genoa and the Bizzon and all is well, the marina shrinks behind us, the land stays on our left and somewhere straight ahead is Grand Canary Island, 8 hours away..

Sunrise, Fuerteventura

At the moment we pass the last piece of land on our right, huge breaks in the water… we are now rocking back and forth as the sea transitions from sea water to oceanic size. Things on the boat fly around and you hold on tight… The land disappears behind us and in front is just blue. The waves begin to swell and the boat eases into a tempo that as I have noticed, definitely comes in threes…. Looking around, there is nothing but blue… skies are clear and clouds are off in the distance… we are alone…

Cruising along for a while I see something behind us in the distance! It is another sail boat! And sure enough, here they come! The Germans on 12 moons! Slowly and surely catching up to us! 12 moons is a larger boat and probably doing a knot or 2 more than us… as they catch up to us we take pictures of each other get on the radio and give each other our email addresses! Waving along is was amazing to have a neighbor at sea! They are headed to Las Palmas as well and hopefully we will see them there!

"Argo" rare to have a picture taken of your boat while sailing!

The ocean seems small for a moment. As land begins to carve out a shape in on the horizon, we are a few hours away from the large port of Las Palmas.
see the video!

On arrival, I am shocked at the size of the city in front of us as Las Palmas has over a million people living here!  I am also shocked at the size of the port and the many containers and ships that are here, finally I am shocked on how huge this marina is with about 1500 slips. When we arrive, the marina is closed, the Germans are tied to the entrance dock and we find a spot behind a family from Denmark. The captain on that boat kindly takes our lines and helps us in. He is with his family and they just cruised in after 5 days of sailing from Portugal! We all have to wait till 8 am the next morning to see if there is room or space for us at the marina. Till then a Champagne toast and finding an internet connection.

Champagne Toast!

The Marina at Las Palmas is Enormous and where the yearly ARC sailing race starts. People begin to arrive around this time from all over Europe and the world to get ready for the race… the Marina is already full! We have Italians, Germans, Canarians, Sweeds, Danes, Brazilians and more! There is every kind of boat and ship and the port just outside the marina is busy with ships… At the local sailor bar – people are on their computers, sharing stories of sailings past and future destinations… I am loving life at the Marina…

Marina at Las Palmas, Grand Canary

Las Palmas – Grand Canary September 12, 2011

We only had a day in Las Palmas so we sent directly to the old city which was a 30 minute walk from the marina. Remember that Columbus came here before his sails and this is a huge port town – being part of Europe  – this is a bustling European Port City. It is a bustling city with plenty of traffic… reminding me of a South American city.  Colorful buildings surround us of old and new architecture. Our goal is to find the perfect lunch setting in the old city which we found. If you want to have a delicious lunch in a pretty setting go to Le Recova Vieja. It is also right next to the cathedral and sits as the entrance of the old city. Just beautiful. Our waiter is from Ecuador. His family is here too. There was an enormous migration of Latin Americans to Spain but since the economic recession and lack of work many of them are going back with the help of the Government. The government was actually paying people to leave…. really interesting. Anyway what’s better than local cheeses, fresh bread,  salad and fish for lunch? We drank Tinto De Verano (sangria)… and it was perfect!

Local Cheeses, Tinto De Verano, Ensalata, Pain.. Perfecto!

La Recova Vieja. Perfect Lunch Setting in the Pzta. F. Mesa de Leon Old City, Las Palmas.

Love this Green Building.

Final Sail – Final Destination – Las Palmas to Puerto Rico, Grand Canary Island. September 13, 2011

6 hours.

We rose with the sun and sailed through the enormous port of Las Palmas toward the South. With a 6 hour sail ahead of us this was peanuts compared to the last sails we have done. Oddly I calmed down. Manuel spotted a 7 foot shark in the water and it did not even bother me too much. As Grand Canary Island was in our sights we sailed quietly past the towns, the airport and even fish farms (which by the way are totally depressing. They are enormous cages in the sea… so the fish are trapped! I am now not going to eat farmed fish anymore either!) We pass resort towns and see sand dunes and beach umbrellas that most certainly Germans are sitting under and  as we reach our final destination of Puerto Rico, I can’t believe it… I have sailed for about 150 hours – it is like skiing a double diamond before every skiing a green trail… I did it! We did it! Our voyage was over! At this point, I am throwing lines onto the docks, tying up bumpers and even steering the boat… could it be? Am I becoming a sailor?

Puerto Rico, Final Destination

Puerto Rico, Grand Canary - Final destination

Boris and Marianne on "Chili"

The best news was that we had neighbors coming in right after us! It was the Danish Family! After our deck duties Boris, Marianne, Manuel and I enjoyed drinks on their boat “Chili”. Boris has sailed the Pacific Ocean and as we swapped stories of our voyages past and ahead… I feel calmed… I feel proud, I feel lucky to have had this experience…

The morning brings tons of duties while closing up the boat, we give Boris and Marianne our Perishable items, and before we knew we were racing to the airport to techno music in a taxi.

I am en route to Munich while Manuel heads home…

I take Condor Airlines which is an amazing clean smooth flight and even serves dinner! Grand Canary Airport is awesome and their security lines are small as they have the best system. There is a section where people set up and get their trays and then walk to the detectors so there are NO LINES!!! Brilliant!!

As Manuel and I part ways and I board my plane from the runway the old fashioned way – the plane take off towards the north… As I look out my window for the next 2 hours, I fly over the ocean that I sailed on. It looks so calm and serene, I spot a few cargo ships that look like peanuts in the ocean and think of our boat ARGO and what we might of looked like from an airplane flying above. The sunset is so magnificent and I realize that I will never look at the sunset or the sky or the stars or the moon the same again. These celestial beings were our sailing companions as I dream about getting on the ocean again soon to see it from that perspective.

As the land of southern Spain appears beneath  me… what took the plane just 2 hours to cross took our boat 108… simply amazing.

The ocean we sailed beneath me... surreal.

It has been quite an adventure! Thanks for reading!



Gone Sailing… Gibraltar to the Canary Islands

We mustn’t forget what I am doing in Gibraltar in the first place. I am sailing to the Canary Islands from Gibraltar. I am sailing with a skipper and a 1st mate, both of which are pilots on commercial airlines, so I feel I am in the best hands. We are on a 46 foot Morgan which has a wide belly and cruises at about 6 knots – that should get us to the Canary Islands in about 4 days.

The skipper and 1st mate prepping the boat

Living on a Sailboat is not as easy as I thought. First, getting on and off the sailboat proves to be a little tricky, with a ladder hanging off the stern – oh shit, I meant BOW! so confusing these boats. you have to climb over the rails to land on safely on the dock, second, there are all these things around, knobs and lines and obstacles and steps and just all this stuff to climb around. Stubbing your toe happens at least 2 times a day, and I have hit my head a few times too. A sailboat actually slows you down, I am now moving at about 50 miles an hour and not my usually 150!

There are a few things on the boat that are considered gold and we use sparingly and considerably:

Fresh Water


Gas (for cooking)

Gas (for the boats engine)


It also makes you think of things on a whole: how much garbage we make and how much toilet paper you use, HA HA HA, How longs you take a shower for… Luckily, at the Marina there is Laundry – Water  – Showers – Electricity and the like… but starting tomorrow on the water – conservation time!

Oil change in the engine room...

Our mate arrived 2 days ago which jump started our preparations for the sail. He is setting up the GPS and some kind of radar contraption that will tell us when cargo ships are within a few miles from us. He is also a whiz on everything electric and was slicing wires this morning. I have yet to find something he can’t fix or comment on, he knows boats, engines, electrics… even some plumbing. To put it candidly, if it has an on or an off switch, he can fiddle with it. The skipper knows a few things or two as well 🙂 – he has been in the engine room most of the time and a few things he is working on are important. He has fixed a small water leak, installed the rudder, installed the Auto Pilot and has successfully put together a water maker which will turn salt water into fresh water during the sail. We had a taste test this morning and it really did taste like clean spring water! Today he finished with changing the oil filters and the oil on the genny and the engine… quite impressive.

The other morning I was asked to climb the mast and grab a line. Climb the mast? What? Before I knew it and before my morning coffee I was hoisted to the top of the mast to grab a line – the joke was – “hey I have to run to the store – do you mind waiting for a moment?” HA HA HA then the picture was taken! I don’t know how high I went, but it was HIGH ENOUGH! Luckily we were docked… I am not getting up there during the sail!

Up the mast before my morning coffee...


Other things to work on is getting the laundry done, securing all things on the boat that might fly over during the sail and grocery shopping. They have a super center here that you can find everything for a pretty good price.

The list includes:

Frozen foods that are quick and easy to cook, nuts, cheeses, fruits, yogurts, cereals, pastas, and lots and lots of canned items. You can actually throw cans off the boat. They decompose in a year or two, whereas plastic doesn’t,  so I was conscious of buying most everything in paper, cans or glass. Also putting food away is a production.

The packaging alone is enough to drive you nuts, and you try to get rid of enough garbage in the marina before you set sail. Living on a boat makes you think about your place on the planet what you need to live and what waste you make… I am going to be even more conscious of my dent on the planet now that I have had this experience.

The skipper gave me a few jobs – one of which  was cleaning out and updating the first aid kit which is now complete.  Second was washing the deck. Third, polishing and cleaning the interior teak which is looking nice and shiny. Fourth, holding newspapers and paper towels

waiting for oil to spill while he is working on the engine. You can tinker on a boat, all day every day and nothing will ever be 100% done. It is a perfect place for a busy body!

The boat itself is 46+ feet of living space and there is plenty of room! There are 2 heads (bathrooms for those who don’t sail) and pretty much a full galley (kitchen) which I am trying to make my domain.  We have running water, a stove, microwave, fridge, freezer, oven and a little espresso maker that makes the most delicious coffee! All in all, NOT SO BAD!

Home Sweet Home!

We have been watching the weather – following the tides – measuring the waves and it looks like the departure is tomorrow September 2, 2011 at 8:30 AM which will take us off the coast of Africa by night fall. Waves are looking like 1-2 meters and the winds are due to come in from the north midday which is just what we need for a smooth sail.

The exit out of the Gibraltar straights proves to be one of the trickiest in the business and we are ready for it, timing it just right which is what we are doing…

I won’t be writing from the boat as we will have no internet, but there will be more to follow when landed  in the Canary Islands! Also I have a sattelite phone:

Sat Phone number is: 011-870776406462

FOR EMERGENCIES ONLY!!!! IT’S $5 bucks a minute!

Love to All!


Second Mate Stephanie!

Gibraltar, United Kingdom (in Southern Spain)

Flying from New York City – Gibraltar August 24, 2011

There is no easy way to get to Gibraltar from New York City.  The options are limited, you can  fly through Manchester and London but with an overnight stay in the UK or through Madrid and Barcelona with connections into either Malaga, Spain or Trains into Algeciras, Spain. Don’t try going through Lisbon, it is horribly expensive and was our last resort.

Flying on standby with a Pilot has its perks. First, you know a ton of people at the airport so check in can be pretty quick, second, you can by pass security lines and go through the crew line, third, your carry on luggage can be almost double the size of a normal passenger although I was told “duffel bags” only! (So you can stuff them into the overhead compartments!) fourth, you can punch in a code and get behinds the unmarked doors in the terminal, where you can watch the news, look at the weather and “check the loads” on the computers, pretty cool!

We put ourselves on stand by for a flight to Lisbon and Barcelona, Barcelona being the first choice. As luck would have it, we knew someone at the check in desk and sure enough, 2 tickets emergency row to Barcelona! We were ON SCHEDULE.

Travel Tip: Make sure if you get a choice of the Emergency Row to take the second row of the two rows because these seats recline!

7 1/2 hours to Barcelona and we caught our connection to Malaga with Vueling Airlines.

Vueling has flights that connect all over Europe from either Madrid or Barcelona, for about 55 Euros we flew to Malaga, Spain and about an hour later we arrived on time and on schedule in Malaga.

The approach into Malaga over the Mediterranean was spectacular, the Iberian Peninsula to our right and North Africa to our left. From Malaga, you can hire a car service, rent a car or even grab a bus to Gibraltar. We hired our car with Europcar, and even made our reservation on line prior to arrival before we knew it, we were in our VW Golf cruising the Costa del Sol – our final leg…

The twisty windy A-7 through the Costa del Sol it a ton of fun. It is arid here. The blue sea to your left and mountains on your right, you wiz through towns after town of vacation beach communities… There was an enormous construction boom here over the past decade and in the Costa del Sol alone they have an enormous inventory of homes on the market to sell. In a push to sell these units, there are apartments up to 40% off their original value.

About an hour and 15 minutes later, we take a sharp turn on the top of a large hill and behold, the Rock of Gibraltar in the distance. It sits sternly but peacefully at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea. North Africa is slightly visible as a backdrop, quite a sight  and a bit surreal.


Population: 30,000, Country: Colony of the Great Britain,  Currency: Gibraltar Pounds, Reason People are even here: TAX HAVEN!

The border crossing into Gibraltar is quite hectic. I might even remind you of driving a in Mumbai and crossing into Tijuana– tons of people, very loud, lots of beeping, but oddly organized. You can cross by foot, by bike, by scooter, by car or by truck – and i ever saw a bucket loader crossing… just no taxis. Both the  British army and Spanish Police check passports on the way in, (the Spanish on the way out.)

We were lucky, it can take a few hours on busy days to get through, for us, just about 20 minutes. i have heard that up to 60,000 people commute to Gibraltar daily from work from Spain. A few minutes driving and we took a right hand turn into Queensway Marina… 18 hours later “door to door” we threw our duffel bags on the boat. We were here.

Gibraltar – August 26, 27,  2011

I woke up in Queensway Marina, with the boat slightly rocking, the sun sits HIGH over head. It is 11:30AM and it’s hot.  If you are sailing or boating and happen to dock in Gibraltar, which is what we are doing, there are a few marinas to choose from, even one just over the border in La Linea, Spain, but Queensway Quay has nice berths, good restaurants and is steps away from the old city’s Main Street. We are surrounded by multi-million dollar homes and apartments, (which I will get to a little later) and mostly sailboats…

The Boats are from all over, from Norway to France to the UK – sailors are either on their way in or out of the Mediterranean.

After a morning of tinkering on the sail boat and hungry for lunch, we drive up to the famous Rock Hotel, that has spectacular views of the port.

Algeciras, La Linea and Gibraltar surround an enormous industrial port. Hundreds of cargo ships enter weekly and you can count 30 just sitting in the harbor as I write. It’s the first stop into the Mediterranean and last stop out to the Atlantic. The Rock Hotel has an spectacular view overlooking the port and is a perfect setting for a first day’s lunch. Built in the year 1932,  this old world hotel sits a on the cliffs of the West side of the rock. It enjoys spectacular sunsets, has a range of gorgeous gardens, tea rooms, restaurants and parlors.

Rock Hotel has a feel of English Royalty but with time passed. Its marble floors and oil paintings prove to be a beautiful setting and a must see.

In Gibraltar you drive on the “right” side of the road, not the left, all the street signs are in English, currency is in Gibraltar Bank Notes, although Euros and Sterling are accepted. The news here is that they just introduced the new Gibraltar Bank Notes and sure enough, the Queen’s mug shot is printed on each bill. The British Flag hangs high on many homes, buildings and outside apartment windows.

There are Policemen or “Bobbies” patrolling the streets, English Pubs, and the people, especially men, could be cast in any Guy Ritchie movie. They all have buzz cuts, weathered red faces and tattoos and speak with local English accents that are rough and tough. I don’t see too many people smiling… Along with that, you have an enormous Spanish/Andalusian and a large Morrocan population. Catholic is the majority religion but the area itself is enormously diverse.

We met Gemma, a local GIBRALTARIAN who has just returned from studying in the UK. She is 100% English, and tells us there are 29,000 people that are considered local Gibraltarians. Even though a large foreign population, growing up here can be quite isolated. There are just 2 high schools and it is an English based system. If your grades suffice, college education is complementary of the Queen.

Gibraltarians, however need work permits to live and work in the UK and many of them, if they study in the UK, do come home. Gemma loves the weather here stating, “it is much better than back in the UK”.

The local architecture includes what look like Roman ruins, Morrocan style homes, Soviet public housing, Brazilian Favelas, English style Tudor homes and Miami Beach like high rises… it is an eclectic mix of architecture to say the least, although I am finding beauty here, I don’t think it would be considered the most beautiful area in Europe… still there is an quirky charm here that begins to grow on you as you begin to feel the tempo of area. There are 2 parts to the rock, the old city that sits behind a large wall with gates and the new side of the Rock filled of new construction, dockside shops and grocery stores. The old side with its typical square like European style village and the new side with bayside shops and restaurants, that reminds me of Miami… and yes, there is a McDonalds and a Kentucky Friday Chicken… GO figure.

They have been building out into the Port as much of the area that has all the new architecture is fill. The original city stood close to the dramatic rise of the Limestone rock, as people moved in and demand for space and housing grew, they have moved fill into the port and land around the rock continues to grow.

This is an mix of North Africans, Spaniards, English and Europeans. Today I heard people speaking, English, Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, German, and French, and believe me that is just a start. People don’t just come here for the Tax incentives there is also an enormous market for Weddings, so far I have seen about 5 brides…

There is an old world feel of” something great happened here once”. I am just not sure what it was…

August 26, 2011

The Calata Hotel sits on the East Side of the rock, under a dramatic vertical drop  – considered  the sharp side.  High above are the white sided mountains that we are set to climb in a few days, but today, we decide to stay in vacation mode and have a beach day in Catalan Bay.

The Calata Hotel is much like the other hotels, built in the hay day,  there is an old world richness that exudes from these walls.  Hotel staff fervently set up for more weddings, and it restaurants and pools sit cliff side looking towards the east. There are various, levels of gardens, parlors, restaurants, pools and sitting areas that over look the public beach of Catalan Bay.

The food here is ok. Not amazing. No to offend the English, I find it is difficult to get really good seafood, and decide to dine on Scottish lochs, still the service by a Spaniard and an Argentine was good and the setting lovely.

After lunch a walk to the beach, which has almost blackish sand. Purple and pink and brown shells. The water is clean and cold as it ripples onto the shore. Easy wading, there is an energy here mostly enjoyed by locals.

When the locals beach here, they bring an entire set up which include card tables, coolers, chairs, blankets, carts, games toys and umbrellas. They camp for the entire day as kids collect delightful shells. There is no undercurrent nor big waves… so it is a very relaxed atmosphere. There are cottages that dot the beach side under the dramatic cliffs of the Rock in all colors. As the sun dips behind it, we decide to chase it around to the other side of the rock where it then sits high above once again.

It takes about 20 minutes to drive around the entire rock of Gibraltar. Maybe 25 minutes, maybe 15. It is hard to tell and depends on traffic. We head south and find the dump,  where monkeys are picking through trash almost like people. One monkey limps as it has an infected foot, and we wonder how long he will last. They are tail less and there are about 150 of them living on top of Gibraltar. We will see them on our climb. Rumor has it they will steal your purse and pick through it, so purses are not encouraged. You always forget that your garbage has to go somewhere, seeing the monkeys  pick through it makes me sad… as we drive off. I make a mental note to try to make as little waste as possible.

A few hundred meters south we come to the southern most tip of the rock, where an enormous new mosque sits exquisitely on the cost line with a stellar view of Africa across the way. There is also the Trinity Lighthouse  and we are on Europa Point. The road also tunnels through rock, there are tunnels throughout Gibraltar that cut through what it its biggest resource here. Limestone.

As we round to the western side of the island, this is where you feel as if you are in England. A route of one ways with narrow streets dotted with private homes and apartments that climb the cliffs. As we get to the bottom, a huge public pool and a view of the mouth of the harbour where cargo ships etch out to sea. This is the Little bay area of the island. We decide we are thirsty and go in for a quick cider to a local pub, where Manchester united is playing and the cast of characters at the bar is what you might see in the UK. Weathered faced men and women, in a smoke filled pub, yes you can still smoke around here and most everywhere…. They have yet to get the “no smoking in public spaces” memo. I have to say – I love it. The smoke is tough to take but as I spend time here on the Rock, it seems that anything goes here actually, that they are allowed to get away with more than anyone else…

We make it back to the marina in time for sunset…. Which is around 8:30pm which makes for wonderfully lazy long days.

Hope you are all well after that Hurricane in New York.

Love, Stephanie

Tarifa, Spain

Tarifa, Spain

Leaving Gibralar was easy today. Follow signs for the A-7 and head West if you want to get to Tarifa.  Along this sun soaked countryside we see dozens and dozens of windmills. The famous winds that hit this coast are now powering the area. The jury is out: I have heard mixed reviews on if they are actually cost effective. In the long run – on an environmental side – it must be. On the short term, in this economy, probably a bit of a financial disaster. Still Spain has a ton of wind power all over the county.  You can say what you like about them being eyesores on the hills, I must say I quite like them. It is funny to me that people resist the mills meanwhile, this coastline is dotted with condo complexes – one after another you get either windmills or condos so take your pick: no pun intended… one can’t exist without the other… people need power… period… and the cleaner the power the better.

Vacation Consdos on the ridge



Windmills on the Costa del Sol

Tarifa is an old port town on the Costa del Sol.  It is the closest distance to Africa from Europe and a 30 minute hydrofoil speeds takes you Tangier, Morocco. There is an incredible castle that sits at the point and an old town of narrow streets, Spanish tapas bars and a relaxed group of tourists and locals. Tarifa is beautiful and after a lunch of Paella at La Olla on the port side of town we walk through the old city…

Tarifa's castle and fishing port

Tiles like these are all over the town, telling stories of old!

Menu at the fish store

Apartments in Tarifa

Tarfia has old world charm and new world Spain. From tapas bars to coffee shops, canned fish stores to shoe stores… it is a really beautiful. The influences of Morocco are everywhere mixed in with the Andalusian flair and its crumbing architecture makes for quite an ambience.

More Tiles

And more Tiles!

The old Castle peeks over the apartment buildings.

Leaving Tarifa we make our way to Las Dunnes! The land of Wind, Mud and Sand!

The small hotels and camping sites that dot the coastline  proves this area to be an incredible stop on the Costs del Sol. We parked and took a walk towards Playa Valdevaqueros what looks like a desert, Las Dunnes is a a hillside where the ocean meets land that has white warm sand. Just at the end of the point you have an area with speacial mud to put on your skin and on the water are 100’s of wind surfers with Africa in the distance. Another breathtaking site. The mud needs to be mixed with salt water and spread on evenly. Then you wait until it turns bright white and is totally dry. With that you jump into the sea to wash it off and your skin feels amazing!

Mudseekers at Las Dunnes


If ever you are in this neck of the woods please visit this spectacular site! Beachcombers, Windsurfer and MudSlingers. There is a restaurant located on the beach as well and everyone here is down to earth.

Windsurfers and Beachcombers

Heaven for wind sports

Las Dunnes Beach

Soft sand on the dunes...

An incredibly beautiful day in the town and at the beach… the sun seems to set slowly here and your blood pressure calms… you inhale slowly and fell wind lift you away from everything that you know….



Sailing Gibraltar to the Canary Islands September 2-6, 2011

Map of Gibraltar to the Canary Islands

I am writing to you from the Atlantic Ocean, off the coast of Morocco at 1:30am in the morning. We have been sailing since 9AM – that makes us 16 hours into what might be 80-hour trip! The skipper sleeps, the mate is on night watch and I am up literally freaking out silently with my ipod on listening to RADIOHEAD – In Rainbows disc 1 and 2.

And I ask myself……. WHAT AM I DOING ON THIS BOAT?

It is night 1 of at least 4, the boat keeps rocking, it is dark, and after spotting 3 shark fins today off the boat’s stern I am freaking about falling overboard! Where is civilization when I need it? I mean how the hell am I supposed to take a shower when I can barely walk on the boat? I am trying to think if I really knew what I signed up for on this trip – well can tell you that I had no idea. HOLYSHIT I AM ON A BOAT IN THE MIDDLE OF NOWHERE!!!!!! And I am officially missing my beloved garbage trucks that wake me up every night, my sirens that rock me to sleep! My late nights facebooking, texts and bbms. Where are my Golden Girl or Nanny reruns????  Ok, I know this is a travel blog, but I am missing home big time tonight. Where is my dog Beckett sleeping next to me on the floor? Where is Elke stealing stamps out of my wallet? Where is the world I know? HA HA HA

For those of you who know me, you know I am kidding… For those of you who really know me, you know that I am not… Is that confusing enough for you all? Well it is for me. The open water forces you to converse with yourself. And I have been doing it all day… It’s enough to make you nuts or sane? I will let you know in a few days… As this boat rocks side to side and up and down – I wonder if my Dramamine is even going to keep me from puking while I write this to you below deck!!!!! I am having a serious love hate with deep ocean sailing right now so I thought the only way to come to terms with this is that I write to all of you…

I also hope you know I am laughing as I write this. I mean, if I was not laughing, I would be crying!

Leaving the Gibraltar - Rainbow on our Starboard.


Wake up at 7:30am for an 8:30am departure out of the Gibraltar Harbor. We manage to get our stuff together on time and find ourselves moving out of the marina and into the port dodging massive cargo ships on our way out. The engine putts and the weather gets worse. The current is out of our favor and at one moment we are doing a whopping 1.5 knots and then the rain hits… and lots of it. Off in our distance we see various storm cells so we head for the smallest of the 3.

Mate on the left and skipper on the right

On a lighter note we had a beautiful rainbow bid us farewell off the mountainside of Tarifa, it was a full arc and it was amazing… it was a slow start but we knew it might be, but we left anyway and now are happy to have these 16 hours behind us at this point. As the Gibraltar rock began to slip away and we left Spain behind us, to our left or “portside” is Morocco. Plenty of towns on the coast that will take us in should something go wrong – the only thing I wanted on this trip was to stay near land… even though we see the lights of Morocco tonight in the distance at the rate we are moving it is hours away. An odd feeling to say the least. Still those lights are comforting me tonight.

Cargo ship at sunset... probably en route to Gibraltar

First of 4 sunsets at sea

We put some sails up today and we picked up some speed that excited me… to watch putting the sails up is actually a beautiful sight. To watch wind catch the fabric is satisfying, tomorrow we expect much better sailing conditions and there might even be promise of shutting the engine off. This is what we have come for… silent movement across a large body of water, just like Columbus and the rest of those guys. It was interesting to think of the men who left Europe behind in search of new lands. I mean the horizon is flat, it is no wonder why they thought it would eventually end and you would literally fall of the planet. In addition they did it without engines… another thought, oh and no GPS or satellite phones or radios… so this should be a piece of cake right?

A big thing to look out for out here is the movement of all these cargo ships. We have a program that spots them miles away, alerts us and even tells us the name of the ship and where it is going. At night it is a bit more tricky, but if you see a green light that is starboard = red light is port side and if you see both on each side, she might be coming for us so it important to have someone on watch.  We have lights on our center mast so it should help them see us. The issue is they rock at about 20 knots and us at 6 so really we need to just get out of the way. Otherwise it is like turtle trying to move out the way of a car on the road… not too promising. The good news about the ships is that if we are in distress, they should come right for us! I know where the distress button is thank God and I keep my eye on it!


On the radio you hear local announcements in Spanish and Arabic and there is news given out to the fisherman that we see in our distance.

We are on autopilot most of the time and the boat seamlessly floats through what are pretty big waves. Argo is a beautiful boat. I asked the skipper if she had a soul and his answer was 100 percent. After sailing on this boat for 20 years there is history here. It is very sweet. She also is wide bodied, so we have plenty of elbow room on deck and below and she is pretty long, so far we are in swells so none of this crashing off waves, and we are at about 2 meters or so, luckily they are swells to much smoother to deal with. You use your stomach muscles a lot just sitting, since you are rocking back and forth all the time. In addition, the ocean has different terrains that I never really thought of. Choppy waves, swells, currents and smooth water.  Also the water on the back end of the boat looks dark blue but for some reason straight ahead the ocean looks black and menacing.. Like shiny garbage bags all scrunched up… isn’t that a weird observation?

I swore I saw 2 shark fins off the stern and no one believed me until the skipper saw a third… “I told you I saw sharks!” and we laughed…  a few minutes later I saw an enormous fish flying through the air I think it was a swordfish, a specialty of the area. I am hoping to see some dolphins and maybe even a whale.

Today the skipper urged me to put on my life jacket, plugged on my safety line and go for a walk to the bow and sit on the nose. Which I did for a few minutes, it was like a roller coaster up there. Amazing to move through the water at that pace, it was pretty cool.

I have been making the crew their meals, and so far they have been light snacks. Um, no one told me how hard it would be to cook on a boat.  Putting things here and there and everywhere so they don’t slide around and never the less use a sharp knife! One false moves and look ma! NO HANDS! I have been using the dull butter knives and I am simplifying my menus. Dinner turned into literally canned tomato soup- yes out of the can! We have an oven that flows with the ocean, it literally rocks back and forth and the liquid stays flat… What the????

Cooking in my galley!

I can honestly say my biggest fear was to be on the boat at night. As the sun dipped into the horizon we had a the most beautiful pink clouds behind us which was beautiful but still the sad sign that darkness was ahead and, then out of nowhere, a little gift – the crescent moon! Even better we were in the same path of the reflection it left on the ocean, and we had that for about 2 and a half hours so that was really nice.

Then bye bye moon and hello, yes you guessed it… tons of light? We have light from some of the Coastal Moroccan towns, we have stars above and the milky way, we have lights from cargo ships far away and even better we have the stars in the sea… the effervescent light of the that dances around the boat it is the movement of plankton that hits the hull of the boat that spills our fireworks of light! (Bioluminescence.) It is spectacular and continues all night. Somehow Mother Nature always figures it our for us doesn’t she?

On our 12-hour mark we figured that we had moved about 60 nautical miles… that was not so bad if you figure in the straights we had to fight to get out of the Med.  As our engine hums, I am told we have enough gas to get to the Canaries but we hope to get this wind that everyone keeps talking about that should help us along.

It’s cold out here and I abandoned my sailor pants and opted for gortex waterproof gear,. This ain’t now fashion show and I am still trying to even figure out the science behind sailor pants. THEY ARE TERRIBLE for a boat, they catch onto everything and you trip on them? What is the sailor pant all about?  Can someone find out for me?

Well I might try to hit the sac as they say and I am feeling a little queasy…. Night night for now.

Love Stephanie


“You are never really alone on the sea. At the very moment you think there is nothing… there is something…” sjb

Night Moves...

Last night we were in medium seas and some medium winds and I wrote you from below the deck. Both the skipper and the mate were shocked as I did not get sea sick typing in the dark while the boat rocked back and forth and frankly so was I.  It was night of potentially 4 nights at sea.

The boys slept in the cockpit under a starry sky and I slept in the living area. It seemed to be the least movement I could find on the boat. Every hour or so we either all moved or got up to check the sails or radar or the cargo ship tracking device. The winds beat the boys as they lay under wool blankets, sometimes I would get up and sit on the cockpit floor to hunt for shooting stars. There are so many it is really incredible. With Orion sitting right behind me and a very clear big dipper – I see a formation that I make up myself. It is a triangle of stars that looks like my collie Beckett’s angular face. I name the new constellation Sir Beckett.

It was cold, it was windy and it was dark and our first night came to a close.  Sunrise is slow and arrives at around 8am giving us 10  hours of darkness and I night that feels very long…


When the sun came up, I slept for an hour longer and then woke up to a frantic boat. The wind was terrible, and the skipper needed to change things. Swells were coming from the northwest and we were riding a current in such a way the swells keep side swiping us… the Genoa jib was put up to catch the little northerly wind we were promised. We continue to wait for this famous northerly wind. In addition to the Genoa on the front of the boat, we have a mizzon sail (on the stern) that rudders our boat keeping it as steady as possible and then engine hums away, it has been on since we left 24 hours ago. We are traveling an average of 6.5 knots.

The mate said, we are going ok, should have clear skies today and if we continue on like this we will be in the canary islands on the 6th of September.  WHAT??? The 6th of September that was 4 days from now? I ran to the chart and took a look at our progress and surely we were getting somewhere… but slowly. OH MY GOD It hit me. This was a big sail. I asked for the land that I wanted nearby and the skipper said if I wanted to look at land I need to look at it on the GPS…

I felt sick as a dog waking up to this slow progress. We did the math and it was correct, I am going to be on this boat for 4 more days. –  And then the panic hit me! I was very unhappy and my spirit was deflated. I felt a little seasick, like I was going to throw up so I threw a blanket around me after telling the skipper how annoyed I was and went back to sleep.

2 hours of glorious sleep to a very rocky boat, my outlooks suddenly changed. The sun was warm above us, and the swells were much smaller than yesterday (or maybe I was getting used to it.) I had a big bowl of grape nuts and an apple and suddenly felt spry again. I decided that I was going to organize the boat a little. First do the dishes and dry them and secure the kitchen from flying objects. Second, fold up blankets and pillows and clean up everyone’s night clothing. I then scrubbed the bathroom toilets and sinks and opened the windows. Then I drank a big glass of water, which I needed, looking at all this water does not actually make you thirsty – but staying hydrated is really important. I tackled lunch and make fresh tuna fish sandwiches with fresh tomatoes and lettuce and thought – shit I forgot to by pickles, how delicious would a cold pickle be right now?  After a lunch on deck with the sun warming us up I cleaned up and decided to boil potatoes for dinner tonight.

I felt revived, so I went to take a sponge bath, change my clothes, brush my hair and I felt like a new person. After that morning sleep and realizing that I had my sea legs going, I was actually enjoying this!

I went Sunbathing on deck for a few hours listening to music, and then talking to the boys, watching the cargo ships go by and pretty much just staying quiet, I felt I should take a nap in my bedroom. I open the hatch and the warm wind hits my face… I fall deeply into a sleep and wake up to something sensational….


During my nap the winds adjusted themselves to come from the north, just like we wanted. We were officially sailing meaning the engine after about 31 hours was turned off and the sails were carrying us at about 7 knots! What an amazing feeling? It is so quiet with the just the sounds of this boat rocking her way through water. The seas had calmed as well, I went to the deck and just took it all in, it was simply amazing. The ocean around you was so quite, the spitting of water against the boat. I decided to celebrate with a glass of wine, I watched the guys work on the sails for a while and starting to think about cooking dinner. I browned the potatoes I had made and served it with baked cod… Delicious.

Could not be happier!

Our sunset was beautiful as we searched for the green flash the moment it crosses the horizon. Rumor has it; once in a while if you are really lucky you see a flash. I swore I saw something; the boys assured me I did not.


Night watch is annoying.  I decided to go to the living area to fall asleep, it was around midnight. The stars were out and it was very clear and the was weather warmer than the night before. The boys setup their posts and I agreed to relieve the skipper at around 4am. On night watch, you wait for the alarms to go off on the radar that tells you which ship is close and where. It also tells you at what speed it travels on. We had two interesting situations last night. The first was that two ships were coming straight for us from opposite directions.  We turned on the lights on the sail to get us even more visible, checked their timing and waited. With a few changes in both directions on their part and ours – we were in fine shape… then hours later, the mate asks me to wake up the skipper. We might have nets ahead… Nets?   A series of blinking lights set ahead of us out of nowhere. There were 4 of them. We were on beam with Casablanca so possible that it was fisherman and nets. (On beam is a term that defines something that is parallel to the boat, but off on distance.)

We were warned of this, we check our depth and it is 80 feet, so now were are sure it is fisherman. The green blinking lights were confusing. Usually green light means starboard side of the ship, we felt that these lights were not helping us at all. We tried to call them on radio and no answer. What was it? I picked up the spotlight flashlight which is strong (by the way – always aim first and then turn on a flash light – this way no one gets blinded) and I aim for the green blinking light and sure as it was, there it was a painted wooden fishing boat! It was red and blue and there were 2 men aboard. They had to have been 200 meters away.

The blinking lights are confusing as well; some of them are also lobster pods, which we learned after thinking we were avoiding a boat.

After a very exciting last few hours of the morning the sun finally rose. It took longer than we wanted. Had the sun been up just 30 minutes earlier – we could have seen better what and who was in our sights. We don’t expect any more fishermen as we are moving further out to the Atlantic while the Moroccan coastline revert back and away from us. Our boat named “Argo” has a set course and is now B lining us to the Canary Islands. Still hundreds of miles away.

I was put on watch early in the morning and after 2 hours I passed out. The sun was strong and I could not really stay up much longer. The skipper woke me after he had a good 2-hour rest and were back up and running.


Sailing is work; it works your body and your brain, especially this kind of sailing, oceanic crossings. Something I have never done before.

… The hours and minutes move at real time. It is so strange to actually soak in time. Something the skipper told me about but did not understand until being on the boat. After the most delicious cup of coffee we all talk about our plans for the day. It is about 10AM since there is NO RUSH to actually do anything, you pace yourself, something I have had a better time doing. I washed bathrooms, cleaned the kitchen, cleaned up last night’s blankets, opened windows and started dreaming of the shower I am due to take today. I can’t wait. As I am washing the rest of breakfast dishes and setting up lunch I hear a scream!

“Stephy!  DOLPHINS!!!!!!!!

Oh my god the most amazing school of dolphins paid us a visit frolicking off the wake of our boat.

The skipper got me to the nose of the boat where I can really get a good look and as the he blew a whistle and I yelled at them off the bow, they were all there. Jumping up and blowing water at my feet! After tapping on the side of the boat by the skipper and I clapping and saying hello the most extraordinary thing happened. One of the dolphins cruised right in front of us, surfaced and actually “clapped back” with his flipper while to others next to him, jumped out of the water and flipping in the air before falling back into the water…

I kept yelling Bravo Bravo! Give us more, and they did! They played with us for a good 25 minutes.

They were TOTALLY SHOWING OFF! I swear one of the winked at me under the water just under my toes. It was an amazing sight! I kept calling to them and some I started to recognize. The water is so clean here and I noticed 3 dolphins with scratches on their back, they were distinct. They keep under my toes a few times.

I promised that I would not eat seafood anymore. I made a packed with the ocean and with the dolphins. I am also going to get active again to keep our oceans clean. These dolphins are the ambassadors of the ocean and I totally got it. They can literally change your life in that moment.

These amazing visitors!

After the invigoration of the dolphins we finished cleaning and prepared a hot lunch. Cheddar cheese and bread sticks to start. Pasta for lunch and all was just delicious.

After lunch and another clean up, charging started. We threw on the genny and put all our electronics on charge, which is why now I write to you! I stopped half way through to take a shower and put on clean clothes. We all did actually and we all feel like a million dollars.

On dolphin watch!

It is 5pm and I ask myself, where has this day even gone? Off in the distance having my glass of wine the dolphins are back. There must have been 100 of them, jumping out of the water one came right to the boat as if he was saying one last goodbye… then they left without a trace… I hoped to see them again, but I did not.

Le Grand Bleu!


Be careful for what you wish for. It might come true! I am referring to the wind from the north we wanted…

At about 7pm, things started to change… the skipper was getting excited about the new wind on our backs, it was getting stronger… I could not have been happier actually, I could live with this! This is an amazing way to spend time! The wind began to blow and we were cruising, at this rate, our time at sea will most certainly shorten as we head closer and closer… for me, the faster we were going, the less time on the boat! We were moving and grooving and making our way due south for the Canaries!

One thing you forget is how big the ocean is. The other thing is how strong the wind is. When you combine the two?  These next 48 challenging hours happen…

Dinner was quick, the waves and current were in our favor as we are sailing.


The northern wind we were waiting for was in full affect. The good news is, we were headed in the perfect directions for all these elements to add up. The bad news? 1000 of miles of momentum and you have Sea conditions force 6- 7.

After a few adjustments to the sails we buckled down for what seemed would be another rocky night.

I woke up at 4AM that always seems to be the witching hour, to a big crash. Everything was flying everywhere. I grabbed my life vest and went to the cockpit. At 4 am it is 4 hours before sunrise and 30 minutes after moonset, it is usually very dark. The winds were howling, the sea was high and we had to get through the rest of the night. I looked up to see what was going on, and all I heard out of the skippers mouth to the mate was… “They are getting bigger.”

What is getting bigger? The waves? oh my god, this is like when Roy Schieder says in Jaws “we are going to need a bigger boat!” or when the footsteps  of the dinosaurs in Jurrasic Park get closer and closer and louder and louder. Frankly, the tone it was said in was the tone I did not want to hear and frankly I panicked. The skipper was all business as we all put on our life vests and I tied myself to the boat. “You never leave the boat unless it is 100% sinking. It is much easier to find a 50 foot boat, than a life raft.” Which is what I was told earlier on in the day…  (That was not too comforting, p.s.) I came down to the living area and for the first time in a long time or maybe even ever, I was afraid shaking like a leaf. I sat quietly and waited… for something… Then my name was called.

The skipper needed to soften the sails. We were going too fast. Almost 9 knots!  The first mate was steering the boat and we were all rocking around.

“Stephy, hold this rope, not too tight, not too loose. Listen to what I tell you and don’t let go.” was the direction the skipper gave me as he adjusted the front sail. Oddly this was the most calm I was that morning. Having something to do always calmed me down.

After adjustments of both sails on a very rocky boat and while he was tied to it, we watched to speedometer decrease…  he has slowed the boat down.

The physics is amazing as is the rigging of the boat. The skipper has had this boat for 20 years and knows every nook and cranny – to watch him maneuver around at night in high seas with this balancing act that he does is incredible. There is very little light, there are waves splashing around, the wind is howling, sails need to be moved… it is all very intense… and very scary.

The first mate and I stayed up the last few hours while the skipper tried to catch some sleep and the boat was rocking. The first mate rocked out working the steering and the autopilot. We were both exhausted but kept each other up and going. I called out times every 10 minutes waiting for that dam sun to rise. While we were sailing, everything flew around down below. When I went down, it looked like 10 people had ransacked the place. Every room toppled over with stuff, it was a mess…. I could not really see what was around us on the ocean; we had very little light and in the end proved to be much better than for me that I thought. All I wanted was for that sun to come up and the mate and I were waiting and waiting but when the first light came out, we did not like what we saw.

After about 2 hours of darkness to light, I went to wake up the skipper, I said, “you are not going to like what you see.”


“Sunrise is always a reveal, one way or the other, it reveals what is around you, whether you like it or not.” sjb

The ocean was roaring and galloping southward in a way that I had never seen water move before. For miles and miles around us, we had white caps and wind and waves. It was overwhelming for me to see.  Luckily our boat was sailing right along with it. I sat in the cockpit as I was explained how you really measure a wave. We determined that the swells that were hitting us from behind were anywhere from 15-20 feet tall. 35-100 feet wide. This was the real deal; we were in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Wall of water behind the boat

I sat up on deck in awe. I had never seen an ocean like this. It was so strong and our boat “Argo” cruised it with grace. As walls of waves once behind us picked us up along the way and then ahead of us. The boat rolled with it at about 9.2 knots. There is tempo about the whole thing. The ocean has a rhythm and it is usually in threes. It was 3 swells, 1 rock left 1 rock right and a whimper to the bottom of the swell… then quiet for a moment and it would do it all over again. Then every 12 swells there would be 3 big ones. I had never been in seas like this. There were walls of water behind us that were higher than our stern. There were crashing waves next to us and rolls of water ahead. It was scary. Our radio went off and there was a ship with in 10 miles. I picked up the walkie and got the information on the name of the boat and called it.

defintion of force: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beaufort_scale

Volendaro Volendaro, can you read me? Over.

With accent  ”who is calling volendaro”

“This is sail boat Argo, due south for the Canary Islands. We are on your starboard. We were curious if you had a weather report.”

Then there was silence. I asked again and he responds…

“Force 7, Winds from the north, but decreasing.”

“Thank you very much” I respond, have a safe journey.”  His response is, “Bon Voyage” This news made me very happy, I just need to sit it out a little longer and the winds will die and the waves too and all will be well.. but wait, did he just say FORCE 7 ?????


As that ship passed up about a mile on our starboard going the opposite direction I dream of being on it! There were moving against the current, something the skipper told me, if we were doing, we would be in much worse condition. The thing was, we were in high seas and the wind was strong but that is really it. No storms or anything just big big water.

The boat rocked and rolled, I was told that this is what we needed and that the wind should not die down too much, we need it for the sails to keep up with the swells. I also that learned even though the wind would decrease, it could take hours for the ocean to respond, maybe even up to 2 days depending on the momentum. This I did not like.

About 2 hours later another ship in our sights. I check the GPS get the ships name and call it. I needed another weather report.

“This is Argo sailboat sailing off your starboard to you read me westwind?”

“Yes, hear you.”  (Thick Russian accent)

“We were wondering if you had a weather/wind report for us.”

Then silence. We lost them….

“The skipper gave it a try, hello, do you have a weather report for us?” and nothing again….

It killed me to see this ship coming toward us and he was not answering, so took the radio again and said.

“Hello, Westwind can you see us? We are headed south toward the Canary Islands and wanted to know if you can give us a wind report.”

We all wait in hopes for a response.

“Yes I see you, you are off my starboard,” he answers with his thick accent.

“Oh great, yes hello we are waving to you guys! We are getting killed here with these winds and waves, do you have any news for us?“ I respond.

“Winds are from the north west, up to 30 knots but are decreasing,” he says.

I respond with “thank you has a safe journey”

He responds “OK”

Then I give it a chance! And say

“spaceeba!”  Which is thank you in Russian

He responds.

Ha ha ha, hello, where are you from!

“New York City baby!”

The mate and skipper and I all break out into laughter….

“Where are you from and where are you going?” says the Russian captain

“We are on our way to the Canary islands! These winds and these waves are killing me. I got to get back to New York!”

The captain responds, “ok, good, well, maybe I see you in New York!”

Watching that ship pass by, after having contact, all I wanted to do was get on it. It was great news that the winds were decreasing but it would take time. When we hit about 24 hours and we figures we have about 30 hours left of the trip, it took every bone in my body and every morsel of strength to just deal with it.

After asking a million questions about water, waves, wind, boats, life rafts, helicopter rescues, emergency response and the like, the skipper looked at me and said,

There is no turning back, we are in it and we are going to ride it out on board. We are going to be ok.

That is when I looked at the second mate who put his hand on my shoulder and said, “it’s going to be a little annoying and uncomfortable, but it is going to be ok”.. My response was, “well we have been doing it for the last 24 hours and we are here, so we will have to ride it out till the end… right?”

Sunset over a galloping ocean

I can’t really recall the next 24 hours but it went something like this.

The skipper told me the plan – “there is nothing we can do but drive the boat in the right direction and go with the flow and ride the waves.”

Well I went into a Stephanie Mode, and for those of you who know me, like a tazmanian devil, I decided to somehow try to clean up the place and keep myself busy. I did dishes and got somehow organized al little. We made a sat phone call to our friend in Madrid who gave us a very promising weather report. That in fact there were no storms, not weather patterns, and that the winds were dying down and so were the waves… it just all needed time.

Geared up, Hatches battened, bracing for the night!


We had a very small and short dinner. We had to eat, it is important to eat. We then plotted out where we were going, and thought that we had to re-plot to another marina that was further away so that we would show up there at the right time. We set our course and it was about 9pm. We had 160 nautical miles to go and I started the countdown.

We all put on our weatherproof gear, set up on our posts. Turned on the engine and literally battened down the hatches. The skipper put the boat on autopilot and rode the shit out of these waves. Last night every hour I gave updates to the boys who were sleeping in between reports and both got thrown off their cots that night. I lay on the couch thinking I am climbing a mountain and realized that I am living the most challenging day of my life.

“There is nothing to fear but fear itself” fdr


Working the sails!

After a very very long night, we woke to a much calmer sea… not calm but calmer. The swells had diminished to 10 feet, the wind had died down to 15 knots, and the galloping waves seem to be at a fast trot…. And we woke up to the promise of seeing land for the first time in 4 days. At 9AM we had sailed for 96 hours and had another 10 hours to do. Our first sight of the Volcanic Mountains of Lanzarote, one of the Canary Islands, was a relief.

Humbling moment approaching land

We had the most beautiful approach and sailed our way into the most beautiful marina in calm seas. We made it.

Safe and sound, arriving in Puerto Calero, Lanzarote

Gibraltar to Puerto Calero, Lanzarote, Canary Islands. 108 hours portal to portal

Give me a drink…

Love, Stephanie

I want to thank the skipper who is fearless and knows wind and water better than anyone on this planet and always made me feel better with a simple “wink” 😉  and I want to also thank my first  mate – a great sailor and was always concerned about our safety.

This fish literally flew onto the boat! 😦 he died...