Monday, November 28, 2011

Presently crossing the Atlantic.

We are now crossing the big ‘O as in the Atlantic; a 2000M passage and two weeks at sea. You can always follow our progress by clicking on the “Where we are” button at the top of the page so see our daily position. See you on the other side!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Sailing home.

Go see the new video we put together to highlight the fact that we are starting our last major crossing before coming back to the Americas. Click on the “Video” button at the top of the page and select the video called “Chocobo Sailing Home”. It is a recollection of 40 something video clips we shot during our trip so far with the music of circumstance of “Sailing Home”. We are now in Cape Verde where we plan to stay a few days then we’ll jump across the Atlantic. If the plans don’t change until then we should land in Antigua and Barbuda, two islands we missed on our way down at the beginning of our trip. Note that this will not complete our circumnavigation yet since we need to sail across a path we already sailed which will happen soon after we leave Antigua and Barbuda. The bottle of Champagne is already put aside for the event.

Arrived in Cape Verde.

We arrived at Mindelo on the island of Sao Vincente in the Republic of Cape Verde in Africa from Las Palmas, Canaries on November 24th, 2011 after a passage of 866 nautical miles (1611 km) that took us 6 days and 23 hours for an average speed of 5.2 knots, which is relatively slow but we had to stall the boat for many hours the last day to arrive after sunrise.

A sailor’s soap opera.

Our main goal in the Canaries was to take a break from travelling and to relax a bit before venturing into our transatlantic crossing. And that’s what we did for at least a good two weeks. After visiting Lanzarote and Fuerteventura, two of the main islands of the archipelago, we stopped in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria the largest city of the islands. This picture is a vibrant sunrise taken over the harbor of Las Palmas. Sunsets and sunrises are like dolphins, we see them all the time but we are always in admiration when we see them.

The other day Joy, the second person from the right on the first picture, told me “Don’t ever show your friends a picture of sailors you’ve met in your travels. They simply have no interests whatsoever in people they don’t know.” And she’s absolutely right. Nobody but ourselves really cares about these people we’ve met here and there but the fact is that they are intrinsically part of our trip. You read this blog to know what we see and what we do in this trip then here they are all these other sailors we meet in every port and every anchorage and whom for the large majority we will never see again. Now you might think that this story is going to be awfully boring but there is much more to these bearded drinking sailors than what meets the eyes. First, you need to stick with me and follow the characters in the pictures as I go through some presentation. On the first picture we were visiting Gran Canaria and you can see from left to right myself, Danielle, Janie, Joy and Phil. Janie and Phil were married before Eve gave the apple to Adam and were anchored just beside us in Las Palmas and as for Joy I’ll come back to her in a minute. The second picture was taken in a get together on La Graciosa and I am talking to Marc and his wife Amanda while the Asian person on the very right of the picture is Mai, who is actually not from Asia but from Canada, Toronto to be more precise. Now behind Marc is a guy with a grey hat, a white beard and a white T-Shirt, this is Richard sailing on “Moonshadow”. On the third picture, which was taken on “La Palapa” just before the ARC party in Las Palmas, we can see from left to right; Roger (not me, the other Roger), Carl and Birgit from Germany, Seet, Danielle and me. The person taking the picture is Aimée. Now here’s the story and it all started in Gibraltar. While at the Marina in Gibraltar we met for the second time Tony and Joy on board “Tactical Direction”. Tony is the captain and Joy, the one on the first picture remember, joined as a crew from Australia. Everything was going well with the two of them sailing together and one night Tony asked us to join them for dinner at a Brazilian restaurant by the marina with another German couple they had recently met. The couple in question was Carl and Birgit who sailed on “African Affair” and with whom we had a good evening together. In Gibraltar we also went out a couple of times with Karli and Roger on “La Palapa” who we know since Egypt. Karli and Roger were then together for over a year and sailed from Australia where they’ve met. Karli was born in Australia while Roger was a newly divorced American from his wife after she decided to abandon the trip but Roger didn’t want to abandon his dream of sailing round the world and decided to continue on his own. Roger and Karli’s trip went well for a while but already we could feel that things were not to last too long between them. We left Gibraltar and then sailed to Rabat in Morocco and “Tactical Direction” arrived just a few days later at the only marina in town. As we were going to Marrakesh they went with other people on other boats on a tour to visit the Sahara and Morocco. Once back as we were recovering from our cold we saw Joy coming back alone from the tour. We asked where the others were and apparently something happened and she decided to come back to the boat while the others kept visiting for another day or two. We didn’t ask any more questions as it was simply none of our business and it stayed like that. Another boat was in Rabat called “Moonshadow” with Richard as the captain, the guy with the white beard on the second picture, and Mai the Asian from Toronto who had just joined as a crew.

Meanwhile we learned that Karli and Roger on “La Palapa” decided to take a break of each other and that Karli took her stuff and flew to Bali to spend a month learning to become a Yoga instructor. The word was that she was gone for good. But even before we were through with our cold and Morocco Roger had sailed to the Canaries and rejoined with “Vagabon” a boat he knew way back from Pirate Alley. I don’t remember the names of the guy on that boat but I know he took a crew at one point, a girl backpacking from Russia, and now the two of them seemed to have a pretty good close relationship. Recently another girl joined the boat; it’s Aimée that you can see kissing Roger on that picture. Now you can see the topo here. Roger needs a crew to cross the Atlantic, Aimée is young and pretty and the Russian first lady on Vagabon is not very warm at the idea of having “another hot chick” on board “Vagabon”. It didn’t take more than two or three days and Aimée had jumped ship and was now sailing on “La Palapa”. We and a bunch of other boats all sailed from Rabat to La Graciosa in the Canaries where we would have a beer altogether on the beach at sunset. Then we learned that something wasn’t working well between Mai and Richard and that she decided to jump ship and joined Tony and Joy on “Tactical Direction” who now had two crews but Richard ended being alone to cross the Atlantic. Again we didn’t ask too many question because it wasn’t our damn business. Meanwhile we learn that Roger and Aimée after two weeks of partying are getting along so well that they decided to get married! At first we thought that this was a fun wedding just between the two of them but no, Roger confirmed later that they actually got married with papers and all! We are still debating of the legal meaning of a marriage between an American and a Canadian who got married in Spain! When we were done with La Graciosa we sailed south to Lanzarote while most of the other boats stayed in la Graciosa. At Playa Blanca we decided to take a tour to visit the island and the bus was to pick us up in front of a local hotel. As we stepped on the bus we ended up face to face with Joy who also took the same tour. But to our knowledge she was still supposed to be on “Tactical Direction” at La Graciosa. Then we learned that at one point, for no obvious reasons, Tony told Joy that it would better if she could leave now rather than later and he would continue with Mai. So Joy was now renting a room in Playa Blanca until she could take the ferry to Las Palmas from where she would take a plane to Rome about ten days later. We had a great visit of Lanzarote in company of Joy and then left a couple of days later because the weather made it untenable at that anchorage. We sailed down the island of Fuerteventura and the second day we stopped in a little town and a boat arrives the next day. It is “Adagio II” who we never met before but then I hear “Hey Roger!” I looked but with the sun behind them I couldn’t see who that could be. “It’s Joy!, came the voice from the boat. She had joined her friend Dusty on “Adagio II” and got a ride to Las Palmas with them. A couple days later we were in Las Palmas where the ARC was gathering. The ARC is the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers and is a huge fun race to cross the Atlantic. This year they should be about 230 or something boats crossing all officially leaving the same day. We are not really into that sort of rally with fix departure date and more of an independent mood and leaving when the weather tells us to do so. Nevertheless, Roger on “La Palapa” and his young new wife joined the ARC and consequently all the parties that come with it, which is about one party every day. They asked us to join them on “La Palapa” for a Mojito pre-party drink and we gladly accepted the offer. A Mojito is a rum based drink with soda and mint. Very good especially when it is Aimée who makes them with 50% rum! As we got on the boat Roger told us they were expecting a friend couple they just met. They arrived a few minutes later and sure enough it was Carl and Birgit on “African Affair” that we met in Gibraltar. They also had joined the ARC and all the six of us as well as Jen and Seet went to the party after two or three Mojitos of Aimée’s concoction. The party was sponsored by the largest chandler in town called “Rolnautic” and food and alcohol were served on an all you can drink basis. Well, let me tell you that a bunch of sailors can drink a lot and we sure did. A few hours later we were so drunk we could barely walk. Somehow I ended with Aimée in my arms and Danielle telling me to take her back to the boat safely. She on her side was carrying Roger who was barely able to walk. Note that Danielle and I were not in better shape but following our German friends I made it back with Aimée to “La Palapa” while Danielle and Roger went missing for a while until they arrived about an hour later. By then, Aimée was in bed; Carl and Birgit were snoring in their boat and Roger collapse in the cockpit. Danielle and I took our dinghy and I managed to find back Chocobo. The next morning somehow I was the only one who had any recollection of what had happened the night before and I had to tell everyone the whole story and reassure them that nobody had misbehaved and should not be worried of having said or done something embarrassing other than being completely toasted. But that morning as we were tending to our hangovers Danielle and I were very hungry and wanted to eat a BLT sandwich but didn’t have any tomatoes left. I dinghied to “Adagio II” to ask Joy if they didn’t have a tomato to spare. I got my tomato but Joy also told me that “Adagio II” was leaving the next day and that she had to stay another four day in Las Palmas until her flight on the 13th. Unfortunately, because of the ARC in town there was not a single room available for her to stay and was wondering if she could stay on Chocobo. Of course, there was no problem and Joy came on board and stayed four nights with us until she flew to Rome. We had a visit of Gran Canaria with Phil and Janie as well as Joy. One night we cooked a pizza on Chocobo with Joy, who is as I mentioned lives in Tasmania but was born in Germany so she was going along pretty well with Carl and Birgit who both were drinking water the day after the party but were again on the party two days later. The interesting thing about the pizza was that we made it with flour we bought in Turkey, the oil came from Australia, the salami and pizza sauce were from Morocco, the sugar from somewhere in South Pacific and the mushrooms, green peppers and cheese were from the Canary Islands. We cooked it in an American stove using butane gas bought in Spain and put in a bottle from Australia. It was what I call an international pizza! As we speak, Roger who is American and his new wife Aimée from Canada are getting prepared to cross the Atlantic and to find a deserted island to party while Carl and Birgit from Germany are also preparing their African made boat to do the crossing with the circumnavigation of the world in mind. Mai, the Chinese women who immigrated in Toronto is still on board “Tactical Direction” with Tony from Australia, while Richard from Oregon is still looking for a crew to cross the ocean with a stop in Senegal. Joy flew to Rome where she will spend some time with her sister before flying to Munich to see other relatives and then get back home to Tasmania in the south of Australia. As for Danielle and I we are still together and still deeply love each other even after three and half years living 24/7 side by side.
As you can see pictures of the other travelers we met are maybe boring but the stories behind them is not always and this is a huge part of our trip. In the last three and half years we met hundreds of boats of all nationalities who live their dreams and like us wander the oceans in search of an escape to our otherwise meaningless lives. They are great people and we have a lot of fun with them but every time we raise the anchor and wave them goodbye we never know if we will see them ever again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dry Canaries

The Canary Islands were for us a stop to wait for our transatlantic crossing which will be our second longest passage at sea after the Pacific. Obviously, we have to wait because of the hurricane season in the Caribbean and the huge storms in northern Atlantic but while we are here better take the time to enjoy the place. Did you know that the name Canary from which the archipelago takes its name is not about the little bird of the same name but really about the huge dogs that used to roam the islands? They were called Canaria, which has its root in canis, the Latin for dog. Who would have thought? I was sure to see tons of Canaries, the birds, here but nope if there were any in the past they probably all died from the major volcanic eruptions that happened a couple of centuries ago although there’s been regularly eruptions in the archipelago at an average period of 40 years. In fact, at the very moment there are many underwater eruptions happening around El Hierro the westernmost island of the group.

Among the pleasure of the Canaries we couldn’t miss trying a paella for the last time which is probably the national dish of Spain and for our geography lesson of the day let’s mention that the Canary Islands are part of Spain. Paella is a rice dish cooked in the oven with sea food or a choice of meat. October 31st is still Halloween although not very popular around here. As you can see my imagination is boundless when it comes to choose what costume I should wear. Note that if I really wanted to be accurate in my disguise I would have need to paint my skin black like Somalis, wear dirty worn out pants and t-shirt and carry an AK-47 as well as a rocket launcher. But unfortunately most of those items were missing on board Chocobo! Finally, there’s no need to be fancy to have fun. A simple walk can rapidly turn into a photo shooting frenzy.

If you’re like us you thought camels were only in Africa or Middle East. Well, geographically the Canaries are really in Africa but still somehow we didn’t expect to see “camelus dromedaries” in a Spanish territory. For 6 Euros ($8.70) per person our humpy friend took us for a 20 minutes ride in the black desert of Lanzarote Island.

The dromedary ride was part of a visit tour we took on Lanzarote, one of the seven major islands forming the archipelago. During that visit we saw many things out of the ordinary. The first picture shows a vineyard where the vines are planted in the middle of a little stone wall to protect against the elements. The island is very dry and growing anything is a definitive challenge. But what really impressed me was the number of these little walls and last time I checked there was no machine to build that kind of wall! Click on the picture to enlarge it and you’ll see that the circles expand as far as the surrounding hills. On the second picture if it wasn’t of the blue sky and the sea in the background we could easily believe we just landed on the moon. A large portion of the island is actually less than 200 years old from massive eruptions that changed the nature of the landscape. Finally on the third picture, besides Danielle unforgettable smile, we can see in the background a small green lake in the bottom of a volcano. The green color comes from an algae living in that pond.

We couldn’t pass on that one. We always say that sailors are always challenged when it comes to clothing wearing wrinkled faded t-shirts and over reused shorts. Well here we have the proof that tourists on cruise ships are fair contenders to the fashionably challenged specie in the world. I mean yellow socks in sandals with blue shorts and a beige shirt it’s hard to beat!