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Saturday, November 29, 2008

Relaxing (sort of) in Maho Bay

So here we are, back at one of my favourite spots, Maho Bay, St John. It's truly beautiful here, in the midst of the US National Park, densly wooded shoreline, pristine beaches and nice snorkeling. It's just great to wake up with the sun at 6:30 and enjoy the cool, fragrant beauty of a caribbean morning.

I say 'sort of' relaxing because there is always a wealth of jobs to be done after a passage and to make the boat ready for the family to rejoin. Things need to be moved from their 'ocean' stowage to 'day-to-day' if they are used regularly, or to 'deep under berth' storage for things like downwind sails, heavy duvets and other not to be seen for a while items. And each repacking involves a lot of moving around of other things, drying out or dusting and so forth.

Add to this our little varnishing project, which takes two of us two hours each morning but is looking so good, we are about halfway through applying the varnish, just starting with the gloss coats now and it's so worth all the effort.

And then the other little things that creep up and bite you - for instance I spent a joyous hour this morning unblocking the toilet which had managed to get clogged with paper. At least Yan was good enough to to the clean up and disinfect once I'd finished the mechanical repair!

But it's truly impossible to complain when we are in such a great place, in the warm sunshine. Got sweaty doing a task? Just jump over the side to cool off, have a fresh water shower and you're ready for the next job. I imagine people looking over and thinking 'what a shame to have to spend time varnishing when you are here' and I think 'what a shame to be going back to the office next week'.

St John is also the island for hiking - the national park trails are supposed to be excellent. Yan and Karla are off to explore a bit this afternoon, and once we have the family back aboard we will do some more hiking here. There are ruins to find, and mysterious petroglyphs (rock carvings) to wonder about, as well as beautiful forest and shoreline.

So I'll just run them to the trailhead at the beach, then back aboard for a few more tasks before a swim, methinks. Nice.

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Friday, November 28, 2008

Please forgive me but I am new to this, and failed to see or write about the collage I made for the new children's museum in San Diego, in the previous log. The new building opened in May and "provides a dynamic, playful public space and community center for children and families—a place to experience exciting art exhibitions, hands-on studio projects, performances, birthday parties, in-depth classes, camps and educational programs." “Our goal is to inspire children to think, play and create by providing accessible and meaningful art experiences,” stated Rachel Teagle PhD, Executive Director of the Museum. “We are a unique hybrid of a children’s museum and an art museum.” See more on their website:

As with all children's museums, there are plenty of hands-on activities, and many opportunities to question, like what is this?
(A) Giant Q-tips
(B) A birthday cake
(C) Your epidermis (skin)
(D) Growing daffodils

We truly enjoyed our experience at the museum, from painting a Volkswagon Beatle to blowing bubbles, playing amongst tires to swimming with dolphins. We walked away with plenty of photos, great memories and a bag full of artwork!! So, if you ever find yourselves in San Diego with the kids, it is a definite must see.
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Thanksgiving in Carlsbad, CA

It's Thanksgiving here in the USA, so neighbours drop by and play.

We watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade on television.
A turkey is cooked!
And we all sit down to a fabulous meal, all the usual trimmings. Thanks Julia, Peter and Aiden for allowing us to share this with you.
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Playing in California

The kids and I are coming to the end of a fun packed two weeks in Carlsbad, California with our friends Julia, Peter and Aiden. Nick is now safe on a mooring at St John in the US Virgin Islands, while we have two more days before catching our flight.
Although we arrived to beautiful sunshine and warm weather, and fires to the north (!), we have had a real mix of weather over here on the west coast. On the day we decided to go to the beach, the fog had rolled in and we could barely see the surf. However, it did not stop us from jumping in the waves, digging harbours and generally having a good time, as you can see. In between everything, I have been overdosing on Starbuck's eggnog lattes and other American goodies. Sadly, my waistline is very aware of this, as is my purse, sigh!

One of the great things about where Julia lives, is she is leterally 2 miles from Legoland, California. They are season pass members, and know the park inside out, which was brilliant. However, we had a bit of a rocky start, after Issie rode the Safari ride by herself (with Max and I in the jeep behind, and Julia and Aiden in front) and emerged at the end in tears. It is probably one of the mildest rides in the whole park, however, with very realistic animal noises coming from the Lego animals. This was too much for Issie, and after this we managed to work the rides a bit better. But go figure, do you know what she absolutely loved? The hairy, scary, roller coasters!!!!

Americans love their festivals, and California is no exception. All of us enjoyed walking around the Encinitas Street Fair last weekend. A colourful and lively event, with vendors selling everything from Christmas cookies to dog jackets, surf board shaped rugs to wooden carved baskets. Plenty of freebies for the taking, live music, and of!!
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Arrived - US Virgin Islands

After fourteen days, if you include the time hiding out in Beaufort, and 1450 miles of sailing, calms, gales and just great sailing days, we are here. We found a mooring ball in the bay outside Santa Cruz, St John and, remarkably, managed to pick up the mooring line first try in the pitch darkness.

A fabulous trip, and now we are in a fabulous place. The crew won't quite appreciate it until dawn, when the sun will reveal these islands to us. Apart from the stress of navigating in the dark, arriving at night is very cool.

Photo of our marlin from this morning. No more fish, sigh.

All's well, and we're here. N.
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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Land Ho!

21:25UTC 27/11/08 18'59N 064'55W

Land Ho! The Virgin Islands appeared on the horizon recently, indistinct but unmistakable grey lumps of land. Thirty five miles away, our ETA is about midnight, local time. We'll find a mooring buoy, as I know where those are, then do customs and other stuff in the morning before finding a few supplies and heading off to a tropical paradise anchorage for some snorkeling and relaxation.

All's well. N.

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Fish 3 Ty Dewi 4

15:30UTC 27/11/08 19'34N 65'03W

We've motored almost all night until a breeze sprang up from the east at dawn and we've held it for most of the morning so far with only occasional motoring to keep speed up. We are now in the home straight so no-one wants to hang out doing three knots!

Yesterday something very big grabbed our lure, span out all the line from the reel then a big splash behind us and twang, it was slack. At least we had all the line, only the lure snapped off the end.

Today, Yan and I have been up since 6:30 when the fishing line sprang tight whilst I was on watch. It was drum tight and looking ready to snap so I hove to to stop the boat. The line did go slack, but reeling it in there was clearly still a fish on the end. He would occasionally pull back so I let him have line then started again. After ten minutes, there is a tail and dorsal fin gently breaking the water about ten yards behind us. The fish is just gently swimming along with us as the boat jogs forward at about two knots. He's not fighting. This is one cool customer. Yan gets his camera and we gradually pull him closer and closer. He's blue, very blue, almost purple and iridescent, with lighter blue stripes. And he has a bill, a big sharp sword. This is clearly a marlin. He's about four or five feet long and looking every bit the natural born hunter that he his. He's still being cool and I know he's got lots of fight left in him.

He's too big for us to eat and, besides that, just too beautiful to even think about killing (and I'm scared of that sword) so we decide we need to let him go. But how? I don't want to cut him free and leave him with, and us without, a lure. We'll have to bring him aboard, get the hook out and throw him back. Yan gets the gloves and my boots, I don't want this guy taking a chunk out of my feet. We edge him closer, Yan gets some photos and I try to tug him aboard. He fights hard. We fight back. He leaps back and forth and suddenly, thankfully, the hook comes free and I am left holding our line, lure and hook, complete, and a wonderful fish is back where he belongs.

So since then, we've been sanding, and almost all the wood is back to bare ready for base coat. It's going to look good and so easy when there's many hands and some time.

We're having a breakfast break whilst Yan makes crepes and then we'll do the varnishing for today. And we'd like a tuna or mahi-mahi for lunch, please Neptune.

All's well. N.

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Feast or famine

20:30UTC 26/11/08 21'24N 065'31W

After days of lots of wind, we now have none. It is sunny, warm, calm, lovely except for the incessant sound of the engine getting us steadily closer to the Virgin Islands. There's no wind in the forecast either, so this is probably it for the sailing and on we go. put.put.put.put

We did take a half hour to stop and have our customary swim in three mile deep water, it was beautiful as ever and all the crew went in for a dip. We've also taken advantage of the calm weather to sand a lot of the exterior teakwork and prepare for some varnish, one of the tasks we'd set for our time in the islands. It's certainly better to use the time for this now than be doing it whilst looking at an inviting beach. We should get a coat of base varnish on this afternoon so it will look very good. In all we need three coats of base and three of gloss so it's an ongoing task....

We also, in order to reach more of the woodwork, took the dinghy down from it's "ocean" position, lashed on the pilothouse roof, and inflated it and hung it behind in the davits. It's safe to do this now the weather is settled, it let's us do more of the varnishing and it saves time when we get there, so all worth doing. I also snorkeled around the boat when we were swimming and dove down to clear barnacles away from the little speed sensor, so that works properly again. The boat is remarkably clear of growing stuff - all that expensive antifouling we so labouriously put on in St Maarten has actually worked, thankfully. The only stuff growing is on things lie the propeller shaft support and through hull fittings where the antifouling wears off very fast. So I'm pleased with our choice back then in March.

Yesterday evening was one of the most beautiful evenings I've ever had at sea. The sun set about 5:30, boat time, and left a moonless, starlit sky. With a nice breeze, the boat was heeling over slightly and moving at full speed so we put some of my favourite loud music on the stereo. I stood up on deck, leaning back against the mainsheet watching the stars and shooting stars whilst singing along to the music (which explains why I was alone on deck). It was a fabulous hour, able to be lost in my thoughts and the beauty of the moment.

So we head south, enjoying our days, chatting about all manner of things and getting some productive stuff done too. All's well. N.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

We have arrived!

19:50UTC 25/11/08 23'32N 066'20W

Well, OK, we haven't arrived in the Virgin Islands (did I have you wondering?!) but we have arrived in true tropical sailing. There is a ten knot breeze, warm sunshine, almost cloudless blue skies and a gentle sea. This is what it is about. Shorts and t-shirt, lunch in the cockpit, beer in the fridge. Very nice. Only 320 miles to go....

The fish are holding their own in a series of honourable draws today. Three mahi have been on our lines, and one even made it onto the deck before flopping wildly enough to free the hook and jump back into the water. Argh.... We just keep trying and at least we still have the same number of lures and know that they work.

We haven't seen our additional crewmember for a few days. Either he has flown the coop, so to speak or, and this is my fear, he has crawled into a corner and failed to make it through the night. There was no note, you know 'I'm going out now, I may be some time. Oates.' Whatever has happened, I fear the worst for the poor little chap.

This morning was so beautiful, I didn't wake Yan for his 6-8am watch and just stayed on deck enjoying the sunrise and the sailing. He surfaced of his own accord about an hour later. I took the opportunity to get some domestic tasks done, including cleaning and filling the stove. When doing this job, it's easy to swap the fuel cannisters around and light the oven, which is what I did. Every time I open the breakfast and snack cupboard, a packet of brownie mix shoots out and lands on my head, so I finally took the hint and mixed it up and baked it. That's solved that problem.

All's well, and brownie flavoured. N.

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Wind easing, at last!

04:00UTC 25/11/08 25'04N 067'02W

After nearly four days when the wind has been over twenty knots, we're looking forward to slightly lighter conditions. Ty Dewi has been great, providing her famously smooth ride through all this rough weather but even so it will be nice not to have to hang on so much. Yesterday maintained wind speeds around 25, with gusts over 30 and there was too much spray around to sit out in the cockpit, so we all hid downstairs and read, chatted and ate our meals. It's fine but it'll be nice to be out in the sunshine today. Maybe do some fishing too....

Of course, within twenty four hours I'll probably be whining about a lack of wind and slow progress.

All's well. N.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

The night watch

05:30UTC 24/11/08 26'48N 068'05W

Woken by Karla, who has finished her two hour watch and is hurrying for some sleep, I stagger around the boat groping for my waterproof jacket and trousers, then my boots and lifejacket. Slowly waking up, I reach out of the hatchway doors, find the harness line and clip it to my lifejacket. I step out on deck and into another world.

Feet planted securely apart, I grab hold of the sprayhood edge with both hands and steady myself as I put my head above the sprayhood and into the warm but invigorating twenty five knots of breeze. The boat is a shadowy starlit shape below me, stretching out into the darkness and carving a path through the dimly lit ocean. In the water, the onrushing force of the boat pushes away boiling cauldrons of dull white capped waves and makes little creatures phosphoresce as they are churned beneath us. The sparks of green life make a carpet of stars mirroring those above.

And above, the ceiling is vibrant and packed with a billion seen and unseen suns, covering the sky from horizon to horizon. With no moon, starlight lights our world well enough and I search the sky for my new friend Leo who I found on this trip, cavorting with Virgo in a north eastern corner of the sky. He's harder to see tonight, there's just too many other stars for him to shelter within but eventually I pin him down, mid leap.

A shooting star blazes through Orion's heart and dies a lonely death behind the mainsail. A dull and lifeless rock ends a billion miles of anonymous travel in a fiery split second traverse of our sky seen by me and who else? Probably no-one else on the planet. We are privileged indeed to be riding our little spaceship through this vast universe.

A rare splash of spray lands on my face, suggesting it might be time to go back below and check the radar, our course and maybe raid the snack cupboard. I've got another half hour to go before I wake Yan and, wonderful as it is out here, it won't keep me from my precious four hours of sleep before I'm woken again.

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Fish 2 Ty Dewi 3

18:00UTC 23/11/08 27'45N 069'32W

Well, score one more to Ty Dewi, although Yan argues that it was probably a draw. We let the fish go, but got our lure back. It was the biggest, meanest barracuda I have ever seen, with teeth like nails and an evil look on its face. Thankfully, by the time we got it aboard it was hardly in any state to fight, so lay there fairly calmly whilst I donned my boots, welders gloves and big pliers to get the hook out. It decided to start fighting again when I tried to pick it up and heave it over the side, daft thing doesn't know when it's about to get set free. And boy was it heavy, but I managed to get it to drop back into the ocean and it looks like he swam away. Phew. Now, where's that mahi?

Actually, if you count the little flying fish lying on the deck this morning, it's Ty Dewi 4, Fish 2 but we won't count that really.

The last twenty four hours have been true champagne sailing, lacking only blue skies and sunshine. The wind has been a perfect 20-25 knots from just behind the beam, making it the fastest and most comfortable point of sailing, a BroadReach, as I used to call my business. We've covered a record 159 miles in twenty four hours and the wind is set to stay the same for the next day at least. Added to that the fact the the sun has now come out and skies are indeed blue and we are enjoying this a great deal.

As usual though, the half way point brings interesting feelings. 'are we only half way?' being a recognition that after a week of sailing and hiding in Beaufort we still have some five days to go, this is indeed a long trip. But also a feeling that the pleasure of being at sea and the luxury of time to do little but eat, sleep and look after the boat without other pressures of life. At the same time, I can't wait to see Gesa and the kids walk through that arrivals gate in St Thomas. It does look like we're going to be there a day or so ahead of them, which is great, they didn't want to have to find a hotel for a night.

It's my turn to do lunch, and in the absence of edible fish I'll prepare a salad and dig out the cheese supplies.

All's well. N.

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Saturday, November 22, 2008

After the gale

16:30UTC 22/11/08 29'57N 071'33W

Well, the wind continued to blow hard until about midnight, and has gradually eased away since then so that now we have put away the mainsail, unrolled the twin jibs and are running very comfortable in 20-25kt of wind. We are pointed pretty much straight at the Virgin Islands, a mere 820 miles away.

Yan and I did two hours on, two off all night as we didn't think it was fair to ask Karla to look after the boat in those conditions on her first ocean sailing trip. As it happened, Ty Dewi looked after us, we were able to sleep well and the autopilot drove the boat all night, through everything. Amazing.

Now we are running the engine to charge the batteries and make some hot water, I can then wash yesterday's dishes and we can move on with life aboard. We should have two good days before the wind goes a bit lighter and so we'll see if Herb can route us to stay in a good sailing breeze. Yesterday we covered 137 miles in a straight line, which is not bad, but because we took a roundabout path to negotiate the cold front, we actually sailed nearly 170 miles, which is exceptional. Today, we're going in a straight line all day, hopefully! Warm weather here we come.

We have another crew member, at least for a short while. A little bird has found us, he has clearly been blown out to see and is lost, tired and scared. He's actually flown into the cabin and perched on a piece of driftwood we keep as a souvenir. I guess it's the nearest thing to a tree around here. I'm trying to tempt him with a little fresh water and bread but he's very timid. If we can tame him then he can stand a night watch tonight....

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Live, as it happens from our intrepid reporters...

21:00UTC 21/11/08 32'00N 72'00W

Here we are at what is probably the height of our little gale. Winds have been gale force, 35-40 knots for about five hours and we have had gusts to 50kt. The waves have built magnificently, to about 4m, or 12ft, with curling crests and spray blown from the tops in long lines. Ty Dewi is riding it fine and fast, we've put away the jibs and are just reaching off in front of it with a deep reefed mainsail. When it really blows we run more down the wind.

I was wrong before, the front that passed was the warm front, it's brought settled, steady SW winds at gale force. The cold front is nearly upon us and we're waiting for the big wind shift to happen so we can settle down to that and have dinner.

A dinner that I prepared earlier, labouriously chopping many vegetables only to have the pan take a flying leap from the stove when we got a big gust. There was some swearing, but it landed down the back where it was neatly trapped and about 80% of it stayed in the pan. The rest fell on the stainless steel backing so was easily cleared up. Shame though.

Yan has been doing a sterling job riding shotgun on the autopilot, sitting a tthe top of the companionway steps to nudge us 10 degrees left or right to keep the wind at the right angle to the boat. In that position, in ful waterproofs, lifejacket and clipped on, he's sheltered from most of the waves and very secure. He also acts as a superb rain break when the squalls lash torrential rain from behind us. Only a few drops get into the cabin and he dries out fairly quickly afterwards.

Karla is reclining on the saloon berth with her feet up, reading a magazine and wondering what all the fuss is about, it seems. I quizzed her on whether she was feeling OK and it seems yes, warm, not scared and only a touch queasy so that's about as good as we can want from a novice crew.

OK, waiting for the wind to shift and moderate but right now, 38kt wind, 7.5kt boat speed and all is well.

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Roaring East

17:00 UTC 21/11/08 32'08N 72'27W

After a fairly quiet night the forecast cold front has arrived. The wind has been building from the south east and has now reached near gale force, about 35 miles an hour. We are beam reaching across this, with three reefs in mainsail and jib, and it is a wild but comfortable ride. We're heading just south of east, a good thing to be doing at this stage of the trip as it means we can get out towards the longitude of the Virgin Islands and not have to fight the normal easterly winds that blow in the last few hundred miles of the journey.

As the front passes over us, the wind will shift back into the north west and we will turn and head more directly for the islands, down what is called the 'rhumb line', the shortest distance. The winds should remains just below gale force all day so we can expect to cover a lot of miles today

The crew like to sleep in (youngsters today, huh?) so we didn't have breakfast until almost eleven am. I'll cook an early dinner, it's moroccan vegetable stew tonight, always a good heavy weather recipe despite the large amounts of chopping and preparing needed in advance. There won't be fish today, it's just too wild out there to contemplate dragging a big fish aboard, let alone wielding a razor sharp knife to fillet it.

It's much warmer, I've been able to throw the thermals into the laundry and live in a tshirt most of the time, soon we won't even need socks, how nice. Still need the waterproof jackets but more for the odd wave that throws spray at us than for the warmth.

So, all's well. N.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Fish 2 Ty Dewi 2

19:45UTC 20/11/08 33'19N 74'08W

Och, darn it there goes another lure. We had a big mahi-mahi on the line and got him about two thirds of the way to the boat before he broke free. I think we'll take it more gently next time and try to tire the fish a bit more before reeling it in but it's a fine balance! Good to know they aren't just there for the taking, we have to work for dinner. But I remember the taste of mahi and am very ready to have that again.....

Conditions are good but tiring here, very rolly in big seas and building wind. The boat and crew are doing well but sometimes the constant need to hand on gets tedious. It's a good workout for the leg and stomach muscles though. We're punching across a strong north going eddy of the gulf stream which has been forcing us to track east rather than south, but that seems to be easing now and we'll turn with the wind to ride southeast before too long.

Good progress yesterday, 131 miles in the twenty four hours, so we have 11 miles 'in the bank' against my target of 120 a day.

OK, gotta go and talk to Herb now,

All's well. N

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Wednesday, November 19, 2008


PS1. Fishing. Fish 1 Ty Dewi 2. We caught another Tunny, a little bigger than the last. We're eating fish tonight. The impending disaster, however, is the fact that we are running out of soy sauce to go with the wasabi.

PS2. Grey Ships. A smudge on the horizon turns out to be a big grey ship pointed right at us. Radar says it is 10 miles away. We call them up and have a polite conversation and agree to alter course a little and clear them by at least two miles. They are a big aircraft carrier - floating airport and nuclear power station in one.

PS3. Gulf stream. Nearly there, water temp up to around 20'C and at sunset we saw a strange sight, the water 'steaming' as vapour rose from the warm sea into the cold, cold air. Never seen that before. There is a line of cloud ahead that we think is the moisture gathering over the even warmer gulf stream. Could bring a few little squalls so we have reefed sails a little for the night.

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Revenge is sweet

Things sometimes happen at sea that make you want to go and give someone a good talking to. Usually it's an obnoxious powerboat cutting too close or throwing a huge wake around. You want to track them down and give them a piece of your mind. Of course, around here those powerboat owners also have a huge pickup SUV with a gun locker in the back and an attitude to match, so you have to sigh and just wish it wasn't so.

Yesterday we hear a radio call.

"The powerboat off my starboard bow, this is warship 41 off your port quarter, respond please"
They repeat a couple of times, the voice is a well spoken female, but carries more urgency each time.
Eventually someone replies
"Warship 41, this is research vessel xyz at position blah, are you calling me?"
"Sir, are you the boat just in front of us, because we are at flank speed trying to launch a helicopter off our aft deck and we need you to alter course right now"
"Erm, what course do you want me to take up?"
A male voice cuts in and says "This is the captain of warship 41, that IS NOT the way you operate at sea, do you hear me, you have forced us to abort the helo launch and take evasive action. If I could find a way to get your licence taken away, I would"
"Err, I am at position blah, I'm not sure it's me you're talking to"
The female voice returns "Sir, we got the name of that vessel as 'Best Friend', is that you?'
"No maam, it's not"
"Sorry sir. Have a good day"

Now that was interesting, but if you have pissed off a warship captain here, be assured they have powers denied to most of us. Within minutes there are conversations between the ship and the local coastguard and things are happening. About ten minutes later we hear:
"Best Friend, Best Friend, this is warship 82 half a mile behind you calling you on channel 16"
And then
"Best Friend, Best Friend, this is warship 82 calling you and flashing you with signal lights"
And finally, though we can't hear Best Friend's side of the story, we hear "Yes, Best Friend, I copy that phone number. We will call you on that line momentarily to obtain your details"

Coming within 500 yards of a navy ship carries a huge fine here, plus that threat of 'deadly force' so I think there's one powerboat skipper sleeping poorly tonight. And if you ever find yourself at sea in a fast powerboat thinking "hey, that's a big grey ship there, but I reckon if we put our foot down we can just get across in front of him", well, think again.

There's clearly a big navy exercise going on near here, we keep hearing broadcasts on the radio asking boats to keep clear, the roar of jet engines taking off from a carrier, the occasional 'crump' of live fire and a few minutes ago a scary looking helicopter can towards us flying low over the waves, circled slowly around us and disappeared back to the west. Just making sure we were leaving, I guess.

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Underway again

17:30UTC 19/11/08 34'26N 076'31W

Well, the front passed more quickly than expected and this morning saw moderate winds and a good forecast. We left harbour at 8am. We are running downwind in about 15kt of breeze, very comfortable and fairly fast in the gusts, slower when it lulls. It feels like the wind is easing more than forecast, which will be galling to have waited out too much wind only to sail in too little. Such is life.

And such is fishing. We had one that got away this morning. It was THIS BIG, of course. WE spent fifteen minutes reeling it in only for the line to snap just before we got it aboard. We could see the fish in the water; it would have made a nice dinner and now it has our lure which, of course, it doesn't want either. At least the hooks rust pretty quick so the fish should survive. We've put heavier line on the reel and set out the line again.

It's a bit cold, the water is about 12'C and the air colder still. At least the NOAA data buoy on the other side of the gulf stream reports 24'C water. We'll be there in about 24 hours, yippee. A cold night to endure first though. Hot water bottles all round.

All's well. N.

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Photos (2)

- the fish we caught, small but tasty
- dolphins!
- watching the dolphins from the bow
- it's cold, windy, almost snowing, and eight guys are on the beach fishing.....go figure. We reckon their wives must be hard work if they'd rather be standing out here than at home...

Some pictures (1)

A few shots from our trip to Beaufort....
- The 'floating airport'
- That submarine, plus escort to provide 'deadly force'
- A container ship creeps up on us
- Karla, with the same container ship overtaking us

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Stormy Weather

22:00UTC 18/11/08 Beaufort, NC.

So here we are anchored in a nice little corner, tucked up close to the shore and sheltered from the waves, if not the wind. Beaufort is a rather flat place, and the little island we have chosen gives almost no protection from the wind, but that doesn't really matter as long as the water is flat. Our anchor is very firmly dug in, we have plenty of space behind us in case it drags, and the anchor alarm is on just in case.

We had flurries of snow earlier. Uch.

Herb reckons we can leave tomorrow afternoon, although if the wind moderates a bit sooner we can go whenever because it will continue to ease up all evening. We are fifty miles from the gulf stream so that's less than half a day sailing, then another fifty miles and we are across and on our way south. We took the opportunity of a brief lull in the wind to rig our second headsail so that we can run in front of the wind with the 'twins', two similar sails rolled up together and then supported by a pole each side. It's very effective, safe and easy to adjust for strengthening wind.

The wind generator is whirring wildly while wild winds whistle past, so we have power to spare and the crew are watching a movie as I make use of the come-and-go internet connection - each time a gust rocks the boat we lose the signal.

I've even been able to tick a couple more jobs off the list, adjusting the wind generator bearings to let it run more freely and running a new power cable to the instrument panel to combat a voltage drop problem we had. Nice to get those done, neither was urgent but time in port shouldn't be time wasted. I also sewed a patch and a couple of new fasteners onto the mainsail cover, since that needs to be secure in tonight's expected gale.

Yan and Karla have been helping me with the jobs, writing up their blog, doing email and relaxing a bit. Karla is struggling to keep warm sometimes so she's curled up under the duvet now watching the movie. It won't be long before we are in warmer weather.

Yan was strumming on the guitar earlier, and at one point played a Neil Young song, 'Long may you run' and there is a line in there saying 'we found things to do in stormy weather.' It's funny how often stormy weather and other such concepts are used as metaphors in songs and literature, yet I have to wonder just how many writers have actually experienced stormy weather in any meaningful, threatening way. Having to struggle with your umbrella on the way to the bus stop hardly compares to running from a fifty mile an hour gale and twenty foot seas in a small boat. Now Neil Young may just mean we got busy indoors when it was too unpleasant to go out for a walk, but the concept turns up often enough to beg the question. And so it also begs the question of what a reader or listener takes from these references. Since they are successful metaphors - they communicate the desired emotion within the song or poem, it means that writer and reader have a common understanding but is it commonly flawed?

Now being the type of sailor who doesn't try to find gale force winds, I've been lucky enough to only see a couple of big storms in my career, and none so far in Ty Dewi. Long may it remain so. Being at sea in a storm is usually a long, drawn out process preceded by rising anticipation and fear, which usually mounts as the storm hits but passes into exhausted acceptance after the first few hours when an uneasy truce is reached between boat and ocean and those aboard have become too tired and mentally ground down to continue to feel fear. Fear is driven by adrenaline, and the body can rarely produce it for hours on end so unless some new worsening happens, like a breakage or a big change in the sea state, then fear ebbs away to be replaced by a longing for the wind to ease and the seas to subside. Which they eventually do, and relief arrives with the chance to rest and recover. Then the experience can be talked about, the moments of fear relived and the terrific beauty of a storm appreciated in hindsight. This is the process of preparing ones story for the next gathering, to be shared with other sailors in a self-deprecating story, or told to friends and family as the drama of the storm.

I think perhaps what is missing from the cultural references to storms is that strange juxtaposition of threat and beauty. Big, wind driven seas are awesome in character and serve well to remind us of our place in this world. I vividly remember being in the midst of a sixty mile an hour storm in the North Sea when I was fifteen years old and thinking 'everyone should see this once, just to know how small we are'. Although once you've seen it and appreciated it, you are not always keen to go though it again.

All of which is really to say that I'm glad we're not out there, having to do it, and can just sing about in some vaguely related way. By this point in our sailing career, I think 'we ran to Beaufort and sat it out' is a more satisfying barroom story than 'we were hit by forty knots of wind off Cape Hattaras' even though the drama is somewhat lacking. As we have previously observed, the prudent sailor rarely writes the most exciting stories, there is usually a disappointing lack of disaster.

Well, hopefully we can set off tomorrow and ride the tail end of this one south to warmer climes. The seas may still be pretty big, so we might get some of the majesty without the violence of the gale, which would be nice. Tonight is meant to be darn cold so that's another good reason to be curled up in bed instead of standing a night watch.

All's well.


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Monday, November 17, 2008

Almost in Beaufort

23:00 UTC 17/11/08 Beaufort Inlet, North Carolina

We're almost at Beaufort where we will hide out for a day or maybe two. This storm front has developed significantly and is now causing the coastguard to issue warnings about fifty knot winds and advising all mariners to seek safe harbour. Thank you Herb, it's only because of his advice that we are within reach of safe harbour right now, otherwise we'd be hunkering down and preparing for a big one.

We'll find a good anchorage and write some more tomorrow. Meanwhile, all's well.

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Going the wrong way, but...

14:00UTC 17/11/08 34'50N 75'52W

We have turned round the bottom of Cape Hattaras and are heading west, towards Beaufort and a comfortable couple of nights at anchor. Hopefully this front will pass and we can set off again early on Wednesday morning. The marine weather forecast now agrees with Herb, 35-40kt and big seas on Tuesday, moderating Wednesday so we're OK with this choice. We could have got through, but it wouldn't have been much fun and there's always the risk of breaking something.

Almost as if in compensation, Mother Nature and Neptune have combined to give us a fabulous first day. The winds were perfect and we equaled Ty Dewi's personal best, with this skipper at least, of 151 miles in 24 hours. In the late afternoon, a couple of dolphins came and swam with us for a few minutes, giving Karla her first ever glimpse of these sublime creatures in the wild. The sun set rapidly in a cloudless sky, turning the sky a delightful shade of red and purple over the shoreline and then revealing a magical carpet of stars. The Leonid meteor shower is due sometime soon and so I picked out the constellation of Leo and sure enough, a couple of shooting stars made their way across that part of the sky. The moon rose shortly after, making it hard to see any but the brightest meteors, but it was a gorgeous moonrise so we forgive old Luna for outshining the rest of the heavens last night.

We had an easy night with little traffic and got some sleep then the dawn came nice and early at 6am. By 8am I couldn't doze any more as the sunlight flooded the cabin so I let Yan come off watch and head for his bunk. The sea has turned a nice blue out here in the sunshine and I thought I'd give the fishing line a try. I don't have high hopes for fish this side of the gulf stream but heck, I let out the line with a simple cedar plug - just a bare round piece of cedar with a hook on the end. Apparently the scent attracts fish for some reason.

It took less than ten minutes before the line was whizzing out of the reel. I put the brake on and played the fish a little to tire it, taking about fifteen minutes to reel it in. We have caught a lovely little Tunny, about six pounds and good for a couple of meals. So our fishing is off to a good start and the new fishing reel claims it's first tail.

It's getting on for half nine but the crew are still asleep so I'll let them be before making breakfast, then we should be in Beaufort shortly after sunset tonight. It's a well lit harbour, thankfully, and we'll report more later.

All's well.


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Sunday, November 16, 2008

On our way

21:30 UTC 15/11/08 36'28N 75'40W Wind W4/5

We're on our way south at last, and have had a very busy and interesting morning! Rising at 5am, we left the dock in the dark, with dawn a few minutes ahead of us. As we packed away the lines and motored down the river, we bade goodbye to Norfolk and, hopefully, the USofA for a while.

An hour down river, we are faced with a big cargo ship and a barge with two tugs, both coming towards us and occupying most of the channel. There's also a tug coming up behind us. I rapidly decide to take us out of their equations and, after a quick radio chat with the tug skippers, we go hover in a shallow spot out of the channel until everyone has passed us.

After that we hoist sail and head out into a cold, crisp and windy day. A hot cup of coffee is very welcome as the sun comes over the horizon, and as we are warming our hands the radio starts up again. The US Coastguard is escorting a submarine into harbour, they have a 500 yard exclusion zone and promise to police it with force or deadly force. We call them up and let them know where we are going, they are happy for us to pass them on the other side of the river. It's an impressive sight, a pretty big (but not nuclear size) submarine with a coastguard ship and three or four little coastguard boats patrolling around.

We go on our way, setting our course to stay out of the way of the big container ships chugging in and out of Norfolk. About an hour later, I look behind to see the same coastguard ship and escorts coming back out again, complete with same submarine. They are almost on top of us but they pass by just to one side and, again, confirm they are happy with us where we are. On the way out we also saw, docked at the navel base, one of the huge Nimitz class aircraft carriers. I took a picture for Max, who likes the idea of a floating airport.

Various container and cargo ships pass us by, and we chat to another British yacht also bound for the Virgin Islands. But they are bigger and faster than us so the next time we see them will be when we all get there. The container ships keep coming, we can now watch them on our new 'AIS' or Automatic Identification System which decodes signals sent by anything over 300 tonnes and shows us their positions, speed, heading, name, size and so on. We are passed by one 950ft long ship and just ahead of us the pilot launch speeds alongside. A pilot is a local expert who is taken on each ship as they arrive or leave to guide them through the harbour. In this case, the pilot had finished his work and was being collected to go home before the ship headed out across the ocean. We watch as a tiny figure climbs down a rope ladder on the massive steel wall of the ship, and the little launch powers in beside, eventually he steps from the ladder to the boat and it speeds off to Norfolk. That's a bit of the job I wouldn't enjoy too much, especially in rough weather.

The sailing is suberb, we are speeding along in near perfect conditions, the wind is off the land and just the right strength to keep us moving fast without being uncomfortable. We should make very good progress today. Tomorrow is supposed to be a little less windy and then there is the uncertainty about the cold front moving through on Tuesday. I am waiting to talk to Herb on the radio so we can make a decision about whether to keep going or head towards Beaufort, North Carolina. I'll come back to this entry when I know more.

And the answer is. We're heading in. If we carry on we could see winds of 35-50 knots on the other side of the gulf stream. By waiting a day we can set off again with a more settled forecast and then be far enough south not to be affected by the next front that will come over at the weekend. Sigh, it's a shame to be stopping part way but better than getting hammered out at sea. So right now we'll enjoy the sailing and probably be in port in a little over 24 hours.

All's well....N.

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We sail at dawn....

This morning, Gesa and the kids went off to Norfolk Airport, thanks to a lovely local chap called Andrew who chatted to us at the dock the day before and then asked, rashly 'is there anything you need?'. Er, yes, actually, any chance of a ride to the airport?! 'Of course'. It's only fifteen minutes away but how kind of him.

We finished tidying the boat then went to get fuel and water ready for departure. As we did so, at 12:10, a plane flew over. Same type as Gesa's flight, and same time, so we think we saw them go. They'll be in California now for what promises to be a great fun two weeks with Julia, Peter and Aiden.

Meanwhile we watch the weather and talk to Herb, the legendary Canadian weather guru. He confirms that Sun and Mon are going to be great sailing days for us, but we have to watch a storm system developing further north. This will push a front of rain and strong wind towards us on Tuesday. If we have made enough miles south, we'll be fine, otherwise we'll head for Charleston, a couple of hundred miles down the coast, where we can hide out for a day. It would still be progress. Either way, we have options so we're happy to go.

And ready. I don't think we've ever felt so ready for a trip. The couple of days delay has let me finish lots of little, optional jobs on the list, we've had time to relax, eat well, have a good shower at the local marina and double check lots of things. It still requires the usual vigilance and caution, 1300 miles in a small boat is not to be undertaken lightly, but we are all really looking forward to casting off the lines and setting out at dawn in the morning.

So from Yan, Karla and Nick, Adios America, it's been fun but now, let's go south.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Waiting to leave

Well, we are now in Portsmouth, just across the river from Norfolk, Virginia. We are here to pick up our two crew members, Yan and Karla, send Gesa and the kids off to the airport and on to California then sail Ty Dewi south to the Virgin Islands, a 10-14 day trip.

Right now, the weather is grim, it's going to rain for three days, blow a hoolie (technical yachting term) and generally make us happier to be in harbour. Especially as we are alongside a dock, for free, with cafes and other useful stores around.

It looks as if this weather will pass and let us leave at first light on Sunday, then give us a week of good winds and weather to speed us on our way, so it's worth the wait.

Meanwhile we have had fun exploring the area. Norfolk is the largest navel base in the world, full of enormous warships, and the USS Wisconsin is now a museum, the largest battleship the US ever built. Capable of hurling a 900kg shell some twenty one miles, this was a fearsome ship. It is part of a superb maritime museum called Nauticus, and the day we went we spent so long in the exhibits we didn't even get to the battleship. Thankfully the ship itself is free to visit so we'll try to go back.

Norfolk is also a town full of mermaids - sculptures of these lovely folk decorate many spaces around town as a type of public art. Issie loved it. Here in Portsmouth is yet another children's museum, which the kids have visited today. So we're not short of activities.

Anyway, it's time to head back aboard for dinner and get the kids to bed, so I'll keep everyone informed on our expected departure.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Murals in Hampton

Bit of a strange place, downtown Hampton. It doesn't seem to know whether it's commercial office space, small retail or drive through banks. The architecture is generally of the 'sixties planning disaster' style, although the place has clearly been smartened up lot in the last few years.

One interesting element of this is a preponderance of murals on otherwise faceless blank walls, which certainly add to the view. There's one round every corner, pretty much. Click on the collage for a large view.

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Max is five!

The birthday flags are out because Max turned five years old yesterday. Below the Canadian flag, the signal flags spell out MAX5 and at least one other boat decoded that and wished him a happy birthday.

The kids actually woke up on a different boat in the morning because we had made friends with another family in the harbour who have kids almost exactly the same age. Their daughter is a week apart from Issie. We all went over for a playdate (meaning drinks for the adults too!) and that turned into pizza (and more drinks) and before we knew it the kids were tucked up in bed on board and we kept chatting (and maybe drinking, I forget) until almost midnight.

We went back in the morning to find the children enjoying a pancake breakfast, Max's favourite, and eventually managed to extract them with a promise of all getting together again later in the day.

Returning to Ty Dewi, Max was faced with a fabulous cake and table full of cards and presents. Well done Mummy for staying up until 2am to sort all that out. He opened them with care, attention and delight. (apart from the little motor boat we'd bought. Apparently it should have been red.)

We headed ashore and met up with his new friends to go see Madagascar 2 at the IMAX cinema. Wow. The movie was pretty good and the screen was awesome. After that, we took them to a lovely restored carousel that is housed next door, so they could have a couple of rides on the merry go round.

All the children came back to the boat to play for a few hours, and enjoyed cake and ice cream. Max played with his boat, even if it is the wrong colour, and is enjoying his other gifts. New books are always good for bedtime stories, even if bedtime is delayed by trying out the new 'night vision spy binoculars'.....
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Air and Space Museum

Hampton is home to a fabulous museum, because it is so close to Langley Field, the birthplace of America's air force and NASA. The museum is very 'hands on' with plenty of flight simulators - very tricky. Max managed to get the DC-9 to take off but shortly after he calls me over and stands on his head. "Look Dad, we've landed upside down".

As for the jet fighters, none of us could stay in the air for very long at all. The kids got a chance to wave aircraft around on an aircraft carrier, holding the big yellow lollipops, and the space section was very interesting too. The real lunar module from Apollo 12, so we could explain about how people flew to the moon.

We spent a good four or so hours in there before tiredness gave way to hyperactive grumpiness so we headed home to our own little space capsule.

(oh, and look, Gesa's short hair, not so bad after all, I'd say. Ho hum.)
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Friday, November 07, 2008


We're sailing south, a long trip, and Gesa comes up on deck having spent some time preparing a bite for the kids. Since she finds it hard to work down in the galley when at sea, this is a particular labour of love.

"The delacacies I prepare for our kids," she tells me, "mushroom, cucumber, smoked salmon and crackers"
"And I'm sure they were grateful for it", I say hopefully.
"Nope, the first thing Issie said was 'what took you so long, Mummy'."

Sigh. One day they'll thank us, but I'm not holding my breath for the next fifteen years.

Solomons to Hampton, Gesa writes....

We've travelled a lot in the last few days and are now resting in Hampton, getting some jobs done and hiding out from some more wet and windy weather.

Gesa describes the travelling days nicely in her recent email to friends, so I share it with everyone else here.

I have 'escaped' and find myself sitting in a warm, cozy cafe called the Coffee Connection on the Hampton (Virginia) waterfront, where we are now anchored. It has been a long three days since Solomons Island. Solomons was the break we needed after a few days hard, cold, and windy sailing from Baltimore. The wind died down, we found a great town, the sun came out (and wow did the temperature go up too!), and we had the most amazing Halloween. Just what the doctor ordered.

It was windy Sunday; in fact, as we were putting up the mainsail, Nick said one reef, but as we got out there and I took the wheel, I yelled "two" (meaning less sail). Nick of course looked at me with a frown, but has learned to trust my instinct, and obliged. As the winds gusted 25-30 knots he agreed it had been a good move. As we rounded the shoal areas and turned away from the wind we were able to let out more sail and have a fast and comfortable reach to Mill Creek (Reedville) in the new (to us!) state of Virginia. We wound our way up a narrow entrance to Mill Creek and found a lovely quiet spot to hang out for the afternoon, working on 'Sea Breeze' and fishing. OK things were grey, but they were dry and not terribly cold. It is all relative.

As usual an early night for two reasons. Sailing makes one tired, even if you are not doing much; and secondly we have a failed alternator so we have limited power and need to be more conservative with power. So, careful use of lights, computer etc. Easier just to go to bed!
Monday and another long day sail ahead of us. Still grey, but not raining. Wind is still there, but not strong enough to have a steady sail the whole way, so on and off motor sailing. Shame none of it was actually charging the batteries! The sound and vibration of the engine really drain you. So. it really is a fine line between nice sailing (ideal 15 knots of wind) and edging on uncomfortable sailing (20-25 knots)...for me at least. 10 and under often means motoring. We make it to Deltaville and what a treat to find such a huge, deep anchorage. A couple of boats are already there, as we have arrived mid afternoon, but by sunset, five more boats have joined us. A popular spot on the way south.

With time on our hands, I take advantage and have individual school lessons with the kids, while Nick either works on Sea Breeze or the alternator. It is also still light, so I grab Nick for a quick haircut. His is easy, and I am now used to doing this for years. My hair on the other hand, has been manageable up till recently, but has gone funny as of late and needs a trim of sorts. Unfortunately, never trust an untrained man with scissors. For all the other haircuts, I did my own front and let Nick finish the back. But I was tired, figured Nick by now knew what was required and I left it to him. I was alerted to some problem mid way through when he went "oops...ah just kidding". But as he came to the end, Issie said "Mummy you look funny". I then panicked, looked in the mirror, laughed in shock then broke out in tears. I have enjoyed the compliments all these years of how nice I look with short hair, and I agree. However, I feel like Samson when Delilah cut off his hair. My powers are gone!!! Too short is too short, I might as well be bald!! In true childlike fashion, I curled up in a ball in our bed, hugged my bear and cried. The kids tried everything to cheer me up. Max added a few stuffed animals, and Issie made me a wonderful card. Yes, it will grow back, but I have taken to wearing a scarf on my head. And what makes it worse, now that we are in Hampton, we are right next to a hair dresser. If I had only waited!!! Sigh, all in hindsight.

That night, with an early nightfall, we set the kids in motion for bed, and find both are in bed by 630pm!!! I was all set to go to bed too, but really did find it unreasonable to go to bed quite that early. So potter for another hour before I finally call it a night! The clocks have changed so it is suddenly so dark so early.
Tuesday, day three aboard without shore leave and another 40 mile-day (that is about 8 hours sailing). This time however, we wake up to rain, ug!! The forecast is not getting better, and despite the rain, it is the best time to go. And with no wifi access and the elections that night, we wanted to be somewhere with results.

Despite the grey day, we have wind and another quick sail. Sometimes uncomfortable and rocky, which wears me out more than anything, as I have to deal with nausea as well as the inability to do little else (I hate not being able to do anything). 2/3rd the way to Norfolk we catch a radio conversation with Hands Across the Sea and manage to intercept them. We met Harriet and TJ in Dominica, again in St Martin and then finally again in Annapolis. Until then, we really had no idea what they really did. Visit their website for more (basically they are a charity under sail!) Turns out, they are in Hampton, a few miles north of Norfolk, with the Caribbean 1500 rally, waiting to set off to the Virgin Islands. Some bad weather off shore has delayed their trip until Friday. So, we cut our trip an hour short, no one complains, and wind our way up the creek to what turns out to be a tight anchorage.

The marinas are full with all the Caribbean 1500 boats, and of course Hampton and Norfolk is the launch place for any boat going south, so things are busy. We squeeze in, and are firmly set, but I wake this morning to watch the motor boat in front slowly move, until it finally seems to come to a halt by the pillars. I keep asking Nick if they are dragging, but he seems unconcerned, looks to see their dinghy is on board, and anyway, as I also agree, the catamaran is closer and can alert them. It seems like they have now tied their line to the pillar. It is windy, so perhaps that is the best thing, but it is at times like these I am glad we have a good anchor. Once set, it is set!

Tuesday late afternoon, Max and Nick go for an explore ashore and quickly find Coffee Connection. They come back to get Issie and I , and we are set for the next hour and a half with free wifi, coffees and election coverage. The kids are literally bouncing off the couch, the chocolate chip cookies probably didn't help! But we get kicked out at 6pm when they close, feed kids and put them to bed.

Nick is on line keeping track of the election, while I try and stay up, but find my eyes closing by 730pm. Nick stays up till 1030pm when McCain concedes. I awake at 530am (there can be times when you sleep too much) and ask him who won. Apparently Hampton (Virginia is normally a Republican state) whooped and hollered when Obama won. I was asleep so didn't hear a thing. Well, America wakes up to a new president, and a piece of history. It has been fun and interesting being amidst it all. Obama has a big job ahead of him, I do not envy his position, but am glad of what can be.

So here we are Wednesday, windy, stormy, rainy, as is Max's mood. So after a rather turbulent morning, I have escaped back to the cafe, where I have spent the afternoon, finally catching up on email and other computer stuff. It has been nice, I dread going back out in the weather, but at least we are not sailing in it! Unfortunately, my peace has been shattered by the return of my family. Ah, it is nice to see them again, but they are hyper, a typical end of the day thing I do not like, just when we are trying to wind down.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Halloween Aftermath

I like the days after halloween. I get lots of sweets to eat!

Whilst we have our issues with the kids, especially Mr Max who takes the word 'no' as a red rag to a particularly stubborn bull, I must say that when it comes to Halloween candy, Gesa's parenting skills worked a treat, so to speak.

After returning with a grand, supersized American Halloween Haul of chocolate and candy, the rules were explained. We laid out everything they had, let them say what they liked and then divided that evenly. What they didn't like goes into another bowl. Score 1 for Daddy. The day after Halloween is a free for all, they can eat as much as they like as long as they still eat a normal breakfast, lunch and dinner. After that, they can have two treats a day until their bowls are empty.

They wake up and tuck in, a few chocolates disappearing before breakfast. Max eats some, but not all of his breakfast. Well, Max, if you don't finish your breakfast, then your Halloween treats are put away until tomorrow.

'That's fine, Mummy, I don't want any more anyway.' And sure enough, he doesn't mention it again until the next day.

Issie lasts till lunchtime before following her brother's lead. With permission to pig out, they both walked away from the trough of their own accord. That worked pretty well.

Daddy, on the other hand, has been warned off the chocolate by Mummy and is now forced to trawl though the bowl of dubious candy to try and find edible titbits.

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

A few more Halloween photos

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Trick or Treat?

We've been keen to find a place where the kid's could join in the Halloween fun and games that is so popular here in the US. Solomons, a little village in Maryland on the Patuxent River, looked like it might fit the bill and turned out to do so admirably.

- A walk around the village showed plenty of preparations for Halloween
- and we carved our own pumpkin in piratical style
- we all dressed up (and met a couple of other sailing kids). Issie the witch, Max the doctor - really, his choice - me the pirate and Gesa the 'mad woman' (how appropriate, ho hum)
- the kids count their haul of candy back on board. No eating until tomorrow.....

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Meltdown Max

Another sequence of 'life with Max' pictures. He is something of a Jekyll and Hyde character is our Mr Max, and on a stroll around Solomons village today he turned on the darker side. Demanding to be carried he reacted very badly to 'later, maybe' and decided that perhaps screaming, hitting and namecalling would help get what he wanted. Some strange logic there.

I deliberately didn't link our destination, the ice cream shop, with the debate at hand, but once in sight of the store I stopped dragging him along and continued alone. Gesa, ahead of us with Issie, kept her finger on the shutter.

'Hi, how are you' says the lady at the ice cream store. 'Three of us are fine, but one back there isn't so good', I reply. 'Yes, we could hear that from a way off....' Ice cream quickly quelled the whole thing and Max was nice as pie afterwards.

Again, click the picture for a bigger image, if you dare.

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