the journey



Last weeks of October, 2010

Location: Barcelona to Gibraltar

We are salty again. Nothing like leaving Barcelona with a forecast for winds in the 20-30's, the edge of the front roaring out of the Gulf of Leon, to strap our sea legs back on. It would be winds from our stern after all, at least that is what they predicted. The winds racing across the Gulf, just to the east of us would reach 40-50 knots possibly more, we were on the edge.

It has been months since we've had a true sailing passage. We left Barcelona under a brilliantly crisp blue sky, sunlight splinters dancing on the surface of the sea and a light wind out of the east. We scooped it up and were happy to turn off the motor and slide through the sea at 4 knots. It didn't last long. We shrugged and turned the engine back on, after all, we were still in the "motor-teranean".

That too didn't last very long. By late afternoon the temperature dropped and wind whistled behind us at 18 knots. The seas were kicking up and rearing their heads and DreamKeeper was dancing. I, on the other hand, had a sea stomach in knots, my body unaccustomed to the motion and my mind struggling to readjust to life on the sea, where nothing is predictable or controllable, some things are scary, but if I look at it right, everything is stunningly beautiful.

By my 2300 hour watch, the seas were still finding their rhythm, crashing in confused, irregular intervals. They were frothing and we were flying in 25-35+ knots of wind. I am sure my eyes were bigger than saucers and I clipped into the pad-eye by the helm. Peering through the moonlight night across the glowing, rolling horizon, watching the radar and AIS, I felt us roll up a wave, slide down, corkscrewing and slipping down the face, we bottomed out and another wave crashed over my head, seawater creeped down my front and back and dripped down my face. The cockpit was full of water just below my knees.

It is in these moments at sea, everything slips away and I become fully alive, in the moment, reacting instinctively to the boat, madly in love with the wind and the water, and deep down terrified of what they might bring. It is when I want to shout out to the world that she is beautiful and I am alive. I shake off water and fear, change into dry under-layers and return to my watch, acutely awake and seriously salty.

That was the biggest pooping of the night, the rest of it was wild but drier and the autopilot held through a strong sea test, thank you Raymarine for the new one! Morning climbed into the sky slowly, shedding the darkness like a long changing shawl, inky blue to steel grey and shades of icy green I hadn't noticed before. We were but 10 miles from a bay to tuck into and we decided we were salty enough now to remember to wait for calmer seas before heading out again.

Serendipity poked her head back into our lives and we spotted our old friends Anne, Uwe, and Kara on Magnum, coming out of the bay we were headed for; instead we sailed another 8 miles down the coast to join them in a lovely little bay at Isle Formenterra. After a couple of days of rest mixed with boat projects, dinners with the Magnum crew, and a game of frisbee on the beach, we left early for a few more days of mellower downwind sailing.

The nights were stunning, the horizon glowing silver in the full moonlight. It was so strangely bright, it reminded me of the wee hours in the land of the midnight sun. Content to sail under the moon's lamp light we made miles switching between light winds and no wind, sailing and motoring.

The sea is alive again and we are profoundly aware of our environment. Sea birds, boobies, gulls, and terns have swooped in and out behind us and we've welcomed the sight of pods of dolphins like old friends. A passage night out of Ibiza a little bird visited us, desperately needing a rest. I understood her need and watched over her, unwilling to work the sail and interrupt her rest by moving her from her perch atop out mainsheet lines. She stayed for over 6 hours and was off only to return again later than afternoon to her same perch. After a few hours of more shut-eye, she searched the boat for food, sticking her beak among the lines and into our cockpit cushion covers. After trying to feed her seeds, carrot peels, crackers and bread, I understood what she was looking for. I lunged downstairs, searching for any bugs to give her and not knowing how long she would be aboard, and tried to urge the presence of fruit flies for later. For the first time, I was happy to find two caterpillars feasting on my green beans. She gulped the two of them down and took fresh water in her beak. I urged her to head for land, we were just 20 miles away, the closest we would be for another day. She left with a a few tweets and a graceful spin towards the coast.

Left becalmed, staring at my reflection, I am grateful for the power, courage, and lessons being on the edge of the sea brings to me along with the strength of little birds, the grace of dolphins, and the company of my love, my captain. Cheers to staying salty and wildly alive, with thanks.

last weeks in Barcelona

Mid-October, 2010

Location: Barcelona, Spain

After some sweet mountain adventure days in the Spanish Pyrenees, we scurried back down the hills under black skies and a deluge of rain. The temperature had dropped and it was clear old man winter was a'coming.

Back on DK in the heart of the city, we were back at it checking off our "to do" list on the boat projects, having fun little city tourist outings, and enjoying some nesting time in the cabin while the rain poured down and the wind whistled through the city.

Nicole remained in constant communication with the liferaft servicing rep in Belgium, and then, thankfully, it had a successful return from being tested and serviced. Gwendolyn, the rep at SKB Lifesaving, was amazing! Hopefully we will never have to use our liferaft, but if we do, at least we know it's good to go for another 3-4 years until reservicing again.

Our autopilot corepack was replaced on warranty and a Raymarine technician onboard for one afternoon helped solve some small issues in our electronics wiring that had been troublesome for sometime.

Our bimini came back with replaced zippers (the metal zippers had seized and corroded) and we did a thorough cleaning and waterproofing of the stamoid, our first in 4 years of use.

We strolled more of the city taking in Gaudi's Park Guell, a fantasy-like outdoor park originally intended only for the weatlhy, but eventually handed over to all the people of Barcelona to enjoy. Hundreds of green parrots and vendors share the space with the thousands of daily tourists who visit, not to mention all the very-happy-to-have-their-picture-taken landscape workers.

Nicole lucked out and found a nearby movie theater showing "Eat, Pray, Love" in English. (Gar was a trooper and endured the whole thing).

We ate tapas in El Born district and visited the Gothic church of Esglesia de Santa Maria Del Mar and the Mueseum of Picasso, not to mention all the trips to poke around the little shops...Nicole's favorite being a great tea store where she stocked up on her supply.

We found a couple of good fishing stores and scored some new lures to replace all our favorites that had been taken by the "big ones" this past year.

We met up with some "friends of friends" of Nicole's family, Marcos and Roser, with Marcos taking us to the Fundacio Joan Miro up on the hill of Montjuic, for a peek at the artistic legacy one of Barcelona's most famous artist's paintings and sculptures.
And then in the evening after a visit and some glasses of wine at their flat, Marcos and Roser took us to the hip Bar Mut for a delicious tapas meal and some drinks in the upstairs "who's who of Barcelona" nightclub. Thanks so much Marcos and Roser!

And Nicole made trip after trip to the local markets stocking up all our supplies for the many long passages ahead. A nearby import store scored big for us with Mexican food and we finally got to stock up our supply of black beans, salsa, and ingredients for chicken posole, a favourite we haven't made for years.
One of the downtown fresh markets was also a gem with everything from delicious hams, sausages, chicken, and salamis, to hard cheeses, vacuum-packed pizzas, fresh eggs, and a cornucopia of fruits and vegetables.

We are now pretty much stocked up until the Caribbean!

And lastly, because we finally had the time, even despite the rain...

I managed to do a major clean up of our terribly-looking teak toe rails and teak cabin strips. We also finally had the chance to mount our new bowsprit teak piece that Thumper at Pacific Seacraft generously sent us (Thanks again Thumper!!) after our old one snapped and floated by our cockpit as wave after wave consumed our deck in the gnarly northen Red Sea.

After discovering a great painting/varnishing shop nearby, we stocked up on some new Rapidclear Epifanes varnish (excellent for adding multiple coats of varnish without having to sand in between)

and proceeded to add 7 coats on the exterior teak, and about 5 more on the new bowsprit. A big job. If you ever find you are bored living on your boat full-time, then we highly suggest you have some exterior teak to need to say more...

And then we were out. A weather window looked decent, though not very nice, to head south to the island of Ibiza and on our way towards Gibraltar.

Even though we never expected to stay so long in this city, we were so glad we did, and it really was the perfect place for us to be for most of October.

A return to the Alpine

Beginning of October, 2010

Location: Pyrenees Mountains, Spain

As John Muir said, "The mountains are calling and I must go."
And so we went.

Driving out of Barcelona up into the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains of Spain, the masses of people and cars began to disappear. It is autumn and the leaves are turning, the tourists have long since gone, and the locals are quiet, enjoying some respite between seasons and awaiting the rain and snow that would soon be upon them. It's my favorite time of year.

It wasn't long ago when I was still living out of a backpack and spending the majority of my spring, summer and fall in the mountains. Alpine climbs in California's Sierras and Colrado's Rockies, big wall climbs in Yosemite, domes in was then such a part of me and a connection I don't intend to let go of. Nicole also feels that inside herself, and once out in the high elevations tiptoeing thru alpine tundra, lounging on a lichen-covered piece of granite beside a tumbling brook and staring up at the dancing cumulus clouds, she is easily reminded how much she loves that part of our world too. Sometimes we just need reminders.

It's October and our first real "fall" season in many years. We are both missing the seasons. I am especially missing the changes in the high country where everything seems more dramatic and intense. The wind temperature drops and begins to bite. The trees throw off their colorful clothing, and the animals are prepping for the quiet time ahead.

Our destination is one of the Spanish national parks, Odessa, on the French-Spanish border. It is supposedly the most dramatic and, in season, the most busy, but not now. Everything is quiet.

We stay in the quaint hamlet of Torla and wander the narrow stone-walled alleyways that beg exploration. We drink delicious cafe con leche's and green tea. We poke around in the small shops, the few that are still open, and enjoy watching the old men and women gather in the little square to watch the world and catch up on gossip.

But Torla is just for nights, as the days are for walking in the high country and that is where we spend our time. We pack freshly-baked baguettes, salami, cheese, delicious local apples, and copious amounts of water, dust off our shoes, pack our fleece, rain-gear and camera equipment, and we are off. Back into the alpine world we return.

Among the marmots, pikas, and herds of cows, yes, herds of cows, we walk and walk and walk and emerge into the alpine world again. The place where rock and meadow and sky all meet. The place where the krokus flowers shoot out of their rocky niches. The place where climbers come to wrestle with their demons and dreams. The place where the seekers come to find their Gods.

After five days it is time, as we need to return again downhill to the world of water, our floating home, and the reality of boat projects that still need to happen so we can continue heading west. It's a short trip, but important for both our spirits and also our physical bodies. We are refreshed from the long all-day walks in the thin mountain air. We are grateful for the reconnection. And even though we are now ocean dwellers, part of our spirits will remain in the peaks dancing with the clouds and wildflowers, awaiting the next time when we can return.

Be Here Now

Late September/October, 2010

Location: Barcelona, Spain

We spent our seventh wedding anniversary on passage, crossing the Gulf of Leon. It was perfect. We have spent almost four of our seven years together 24/7 on this boat; what a more perfect way to honor us than navigating a crossing and our relationship for the last time on this journey on our anniversary. We celebrated another successful year crossing in mellow, chilly conditions, under rainy skies and leaving a wake of swirling, flashing phosphoresence.

This year our goal together is to stay present in our lives and be here now. We have always had a tug of war going on in our minds but now the pull is stronger. The struggle is trying to stay present where we are when we have to look forward and plan for the next country or the next three countries and look months ahead let alone for the next part of our lives. It is both fun and distracting.

We're finding a balance in Barcelona. In four days we've managed to get internet and a phone set up, find a box to send our liferaft to be serviced (after walking all over town for miles), get our bimini sent out for replacement zippers, inquire about a valve adjustment on our engine (way too expensive), see Gaudi's La Segrada Familia Church...

wander through the streets and see many of Gaudi's famous buildings...

check out the aquarium...

snack on tapas and wine, eat black paella, watch street performers, visit La Boqeria, one the biggest markets in Spain, connect with Taru and Alex on SV Caos, buy two pairs of Spanish shoes (Nikki)...

go through our provisions and make a big new restock list, locate different markets to buy it all in, plan for our next landfalls in the Canary Islands and Caribbean, and get a new teapot to replace the rusty one...the list goes on.

Having just returned from a super quick trip to the States for a cousin's wedding and to celebrate our mom's birthdays, we were reminded of all of the things that will greet us upon our return to the States in less than year. Dear friends and family (those of you we saw in the Bay thank you!!!), the reality of endless opportunities to buy anything and everything (even a box), the constant presence of technology for good and bad, hot showers and clean sheets. We always play the game: Where are we going to live? What are we going to do for work? What will our home look like; the mountains or the ocean... This time we are playing for real.

Before we know it everything we have right now will be painfully missed and we will long for this life on DreamKeeper that keeps our senses sharp, challenges our beings, and fills our spirits with wonder. We will miss the endless opportunities to feel the sun searing our skin, the wind singing, and rain on our faces without the opportunity to leave it whenever we desire. We will miss the greetings of dolphin song and knowing exactly what the night sky looks like at anytime because we've been watching it for so long. We will miss the kindness of strangers and the unique challenges and joys of a new place. We will miss the rawness that this life gives us and each other’s constant company. We will miss more than we know. So our goal for the next nine months is to stay present, soak it up, and enjoy it all-the challenges and the sublime.