Thursday, September 15, 2016

Looking Back On Our El Galeon Summer

I've always been a big fan of posting (or at least drafting posts) in near-real time while things are still fresh in your mind.  But this summer as circumstances and bandwidth precluded that, I learned that an interesting thing happens over time ... the true highlights stand out, as I learned in this post I wrote for the website of the foundation that owns the ship:

Here on Life Afloat I hope to augment this post in future with notes from my personal log, and pictures ... lots of pictures.  Meanwhile, it was an honor to be part of the ship, and an honor to write for their site. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

... and I STILL don't have enough bandwidth for the blog ...

... but I'm able to keep Life Afloat's Facebook page updated, so check there for the latest news and pix; and I'll play catch up with the blog when we're back to land in August.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Newburyport, Massachusetts photo dump

Our job this morning: get the ship ready for visitors. That included sweeping and mopping (a.k.a swabbing) the decks, opening the cannon ports, and crawling over under and around various obstacles to turn on the videos music and projectors. Then at the end Dan couldn't find his headlamp (which as you see is on his forehead). Darn! Hanging out with all these twenty-something sailors simultaneously keeps us young, and makes us feel old!

Underway time! First, though, a great lunch, served up here in the galley by our ship's cook.

A misty overnight passage from New Bedford to Newburyport, MA
People on shore clapped and cheered -- and photoed -- as we went through the Cape Cod canal.  The crew of the off watch, for their part, waved back, and were sightseeing and playing in the rigging.

Running ahead of schedule and we have to wait around near to sea buoy for several hours for the tide. What better way to spend the time than a safety drill? The results here were disappointing to everyone. It took us quite a while; our hypothetical man overboard probably succumbed to hypothermia. Guess we need more of these drills.

What a reception we got in Newburyport! The docks were packed! People cheered and whistled, they were crazy-excited to see us.  I wonder if this is what it would have been like in the old days, when the ship arrived after months or more at sea?
When I posted on Facebook that we were in Newburyport, my cousin-by-marriage Sylvia gave me the address of her grandfather's house in town, the source of many nostalgic happy memories for her.  We walked over to check it out and snap this front-door photo.
A beautiful old stone wall on a residential street.
Pedestrian plaza, including one of the largest children's playground I've seen in a "high-rent district." Nice note, what it says about a town that they'd give up the tax income from another shop, to provide an open space for the citizens. We walked around town on our break, including a stroll circling the town square (which, to complete a bad pun, was actually triangular).

Couldn't resist this street sign!
The "red hat ladies" do pirate style!
We were in the newspaper every day.
Turnout was crazy -- we had two or three thousand visitors each day. We had breakfast events, open all day 10-7 as usual, then special evening events. No one had planned on that level of success - we ran out of printed tickets.  We ended up collecting them, counting them, and then running them back to the ticket booth to be reissued to the next day's visitors.  Cool way to save trees.  But the tix themselves were so pretty that we had many many people who wanted to keep them for souvenirs.

Finally underway again for Portland.  We had fair winds for a while and deployed the main sail ... which is so big I couldn't fit it all in one photo!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Facebook Photo-Dump (New Bedford; another mini-update)

An old whaling town, then industrial mill town, now a big fishing center, but trying to be known for the bigger context of their maritime history, which is why they invited us. We were treated to free passes to the local whaling museum, a huge, spectacular collection. My favorite oddity from the town was the large Portuguese population -- lots of folks from the Azores who got into the whaling in the 19th century. And a Portuguese restaurant gifted us coupons for free Portuguese beers in our welcome packages.  We took advantage of the coupons and also tasted their cod cakes. Different from the fish cakes we're used to in the South, in these the fish was so finely minced it was almost pureed, mixed with fresh herbs and mashed potatoes, and then fried.  Very light, very tasty, something we're hoping to try and replicate when we're back aboard Cinderella.

Goodbye, Wilmington, and goodnight.  We are underway!

Full moon in the rigging

Old meets new. The town of New Bedford is trying to expand its reputation from being known as a fishing village to highlight other aspects of its maritime history; that is why we are here.

What do a couple of people who live on a floating tall ship museum do on their "dia libre" (day off)? Why, visit a local maritime history museum, of course!

Pavement photos: Here are the ends of a crosswalk in New Bedford. Somebody in public works has a sense of humor!!

El Galeon docked in New Bedford, view from the whaling museum. My favorite visitor in this town had a conversation with me about the nature of the frontier that is such a part of the American psyche. His claim is that we had a frontier that was ultimately maritime in our roots, long before Hollywood romanticized the cowboy image of "frontier." Food for thought?

Friday, May 27, 2016


We're nearly net-less, and on the free days we have we're exploring town, not blogging (sorry!) Posting intermittent pix to Life Afloat's facebook page, and will get a good update here after June 1, when we have 2 weeks in Portland.  Till then:

Underway in good weather, we do maintenance. Here Dan is polishing some of the brass plaques and awards that the ship has received.  

Keeping watch. 
It's just a blob in this photo -- sea turtles mating!

And the requisite sunset photo.

Mackerel skies and mare's tails make tall ships carry short sails...

Sure enough, here's the next day's weather. Windy and chilly; Dan and I alternated at the helm for 4 hours.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

The Adventure, Book 2, Begins

Saturday afternoon/evening we rejoin El Galeon for another summer touring ports in the US and Canada.  Having done this last year should have made it easier to pack this year. Knowing what to expect in some ways made it easier (don't forget a EU-US adapter to charge the phone! and a water bottle you can wear on your belt because you're going to be talking to visitors all day long! and even though it is sticky hot in Florida, remember you are going north so bring a hat and scarf for those cold night watches in the North Atlantic!) But it also made it more challenging, as we thought of small things to make our lives aboard easier. A fold-up organizer for a car trunk will help tame the chaos of the big undivided locker we have for personal possessions. A stash of high-protein energy bars will supplement the breakfast that is sometimes skimpy by American standards.

Dan convinced us that wheeled luggage would be helpful since his shoulder is still injured making lifting heavy objects inadvisable. It of course had to be collapsible because there's no where to store hard-sided bulky suitcases. We ended up with the two dark gray duffels in the photo, directly below our gray backpacks.  They are advertised to hold 3-5 days of packing each.  Um, huh??? We need to fit 3 months of clothing in each of these, for both warm and cold weather! All those lessons in simplifying that living on a small sailboat paid off, because everything fit.  But any wonder the US is considered a consumer culture? 3-5 days? The bright yellow duffle and green Army duffel hold a full set of foul-weather gear for each of us, plus pillow, sleeping bag, and sheet.

Some hilarity and creative stowage ensued when we had to pick up a large teak grating custom made for the ship -- it only fit in the largest rental we could get from Enterprise by setting it on an angle and tying it in with ropes. Testament to the rough seas the Galeon experienced on a previous voyage -- a big wave came up under the cutwater deck and knocked the previous grating up and out, to be claimed by the sea.

Every single scrap of food, personal care items from the bathroom, liquids that can't stand excessive heat, and valuables are off our boat, either given away or placed in storage; the fridge is turned off; and an assembly of friends and neighbors and marina staff are keeping an eye on Cinderella for us. Two-day road trip to North Carolina, then, let the adventure begin!

I've tried to put links to follow the ship, and see the summer schedule, in the box on the upper left corner of the blog.  Having some trouble with this link and this one for you to follow the ship. If neither one works for you, go to the marine traffic website and type "El Galeon Andalucia" in the search box in the upper right.  I'll blog when I can, where I can, but please be patient, especially with my sluggishness answering comments.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Looking Back on This Year's A to Z

During the month of April last year, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge - one alphabet-themed post per day (except Sundays).  I had such a good time with it that I did it again this year.  My posts were loosely organized on the theme of downsizing, minimalism, and small-home living that I've learned in 14 years of living on a small boat.  I started with A is for Anchoring Out, Anger-ing Out, and ending with Z is for Zout en Zwarte Peper (Dutch for salt and black pepper). Now that the dust has -- sort of -- settled and I've caught my breath, a few thoughts I had on this year's Challenge.

Like many things in my life, this was a lot of work, and a lot of fun. And, like last year, I wrote all my posts on-the-fly. This I can't figure out. I knew better, I knew that I had committed to participating again this year and I had months to work on pre-writing these, but it just didn't happen.  I needed the pressure of a deadline, it seemed, to both inspire me and to make what I was writing about timely. I had pre-planned my general topic for most of the letters, but that is about all. Must be a function of my personality style, as I mused in one of my posts.

The absolutely best benefit for me in doing this year's challenge was finding five other boat-related bloggers who were also AtoZ-ing. The social benefit of the AtoZ has been amazing -- I've already managed to meet up with one of these bloggers in "real life" and have plans to meet another next month; maybe someday my path will cross with all of them. There is absolutely no way I could have kept on track without the daily support and comments from them.  A big, BIG shout-out to (in alphabetical order):

(A sixth boat-blogger also participated, but Little Cunning Plan's AtoZ was informational about anxiety, generally as related to boating, and I didn't find the blog until toward the end of the challenge.)

The second-best benefit was finding the wild, wild variety of blogs out there, as other bloggers stopped by my blog or I stopped by theirs. I learned about old-fashioned printing presses and common themes of diversity in folk tales. I met an author each of whose characters did an AtoZ guest post, and a poet who posted a poem a day that ended with a word for the next day's letter.  As one blog led me to another, I read about people who were born enslaved and later were freed, musings about life lessons in India, a series of original recipes for easy to prepare comfort foods, interesting sites in Arizona.

My own writing got a push and I was delighted to see my stats for growing audience too, as we head out for our summer sail.  And speaking of stats:

Favorite one to write: J is for the Joneses

Overlooked, and wish it got more visibility: R is for Rebaselining

Most surprising (I didn't know it would go in this direction when I started writing it): L is for Leaving ... On A Jet Plane

If we're in a location with solid internet I'll probably play again next year.  Maybe maybe I'll get more of the posts written in advance so I have more time to visit other blogs.  (But given my track record, yeah, I doubt it).

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Annnnd In Other News ...

Other fun things have been happening for us in April that I didn't get to write about while I was blogging my way from A to Z! (image from here)

The A to Z blog challenge in April was fun and intense and I'll probably do it again next year if I'm somewhere with reliable internet, but, lots of other things were going on in our lives while I was busy AtoZ-ing. We rented a car to drive to West Palm Beach to visit friends, and to meet up IRL with a fellow boating blogger over the unlikely quest for a can opener with no moving parts. I think it was this post that started the conversation.  We learned that Dan had torn his rotator cuff (again!). Most likely this happened when we were hoisting the dinghy getting ready for our annual visit to Aruba last February, but he hadn't wanted to admit it for fear of impacting our diving trip. When we got back, though, and checked with the doctor it was confirmed. The size of the tear, 1 cm, is right on the dividing line -- any larger and surgery would be recommended, any smaller and physical therapy would be sufficient.  Of course, we opted to try the less-traumatic approach first, and he's spent the last month doing physical therapy to help strengthen it. Progress is slow, but it is happening.

Our minds are really a-swirl for our summer adventure on El Galeon Andalucia.  This year, we'll be participating in the Tall Ships Challenge again and touring the Great Lakes. We're looking forward to getting back to our old stomping grounds, and seeing some new-to-us cities in the region as well. We've got friends and family in several of the ports and are already planning meetups in Portland, Toronto, and Chicago.  And through the magic of the internet, you can follow us and the entire Challenge fleet on Vessel Tracker.  But just now, we're still in the getting ready stage. We have lists of logistics and items to pack.  We spent several hours researching and downloading metric units conversion apps and Spanish-English apps to our phones and ordering EU-US charging adapters.  Almost all the clothing we'll be taking with us has been laundered and packed.  We used the magic words "vacation override" at the pharmacy to get enough of our prescription meds to last the voyage. We've set up schedules with the friends and neighbors who will be keeping watch over our boat while we're gone, and taken down the headsail and bimini in case of high winds.  Monday with the rental car, all the valuables that we won't be taking with us, and anything that would be harmed by Florida's summer heat while we're away, will be moved to our secure storage unit. After all the getting-ready scramble, the actual work of sailing and tourguiding on the Galeon will feel like a vacation!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Blogging from A to Z: Z is for Zout and Zwarte Peper ("salt and black pepper," in Dutch)

During the month of April last year, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge - one alphabet-themed post per day (except Sundays).  I had such a good time with it that I'm doing it again this year.  I'm loosely organized on the theme of downsizing, minimalism, and small-home living that I've learned in 14 years of living on a small boat.  I'm starting with A is for Anchoring Out, Anger-ing Out, and ending with Z is for Zout and Zwarte Peper (Dutch for salt and black pepper). Click on the A to Z logo on the lower left sidebar for links to many other bloggers participating in the challenge.

Chayote (image from here) will forever be associated with Hilda in my mind.  Awkwardly, I later learned that the Jamaican nickname for this mild, zucchini-tasting vegetable sounds remarkably similar to a Spanish slang word for a portion of the female anatomy. 

When we first visualized exploring the US East Coast, Bahamas and Caribbean by boat, I imagined lots of opportunities to explore exotic foods. And to be sure, that happened. Almost twenty years of friendship with my Jamaican friend Hilda began when I asked her, then a near-stranger, how to use an odd greenish vegetable I found in the supermarket. 

I have no idea what these are, or how to eat them. If their name doesn't translate to "porcupine fruit," well, it should!

I'm as happy, no, happier, browsing a new grocery store than I am in a jewelry store. I'm just curious about how people from other cultures make their way in the world. 

Part of a pickup truck load of pineapples

Trinidad's version of the Saturday morning farmer's market
Of course, you can't roam the Caribbean without thinking spices, and we were always on the lookout for the exotic -- especially those without too much extra heat.  (You know you're in trouble when the haban~ero sauce is labelled "mild.") Yet one of the most intriguing things I found in my wanderings was also one of the plainest: salt and pepper. Mixed together in one jar.  

St Martin/St Maarten, I think.  At least, it's labelled in Dutch on one side (zout & zwarte peper) and French on the other (sel & poivre noir). 80% salt mixed with 20% ground black pepper, in one shaker. Handy for picnics or the ultimate minimalist.

As we've downsized and streamlined and minimalized and downsized some more, the topic of cooking ingredients in general -- and spices in particular -- took up a disproportionate amount of space in our minds and on our boat. We would invariably bring back a packet of something exotic to try and recreate an interesting flavor, only to be disappointed months later when what we did failed to match our memories.  In fact most of our carefully-selected herbs and spices resembled jars of gray sawdust more than the bursts of flavor we were aiming for. That, we learned, was because heat and sunlight and humidity -- all things we have in abundance aboard -- are the enemies of freshness. We tried different kinds of jars and transitioned to blends instead of individual spices, reasoning that if we had less of each, we'd have a decent chance of using them up before they went bad, and save space at the same time.  Our lockers are now full of blackened fish rub, curry blend, chili powder, Italian seasoning mix, sweet baking blend (ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves) ... but we never thought of the very simplest and most basic combo. That, to me, is the ultimate benefit of travel -- to reexamine ordinary things you've always taken for granted.

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This concludes my "official" A to Z posts.  The challenge was fun, and tiring, and, well ... challenging. I met some interesting new bloggers and had lots of fun following 5 other boat bloggers (listed in the lower right sidebar). I'll be back to posting roughly weekly, or whenever I have something cool to talk about, next week.

The Monkey's Fist has some truly outrageous grocery "finds" in other countries here.  The Boat Galley lists some hints for storing spices here.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Blogging from A to Z: Y is for "You Never Know"

During the month of April last year, I participated in the A to Z Blogging Challenge - one alphabet-themed post per day (except Sundays).  I had such a good time with it that I'm doing it again this year.  I'm loosely organized on the theme of downsizing, minimalism, and small-home living that I've learned in 14 years of living on a small boat.  I'm starting with A is for Anchoring Out, Anger-ing Out, and ending with Z is for Zout and Zwarte Peper (Dutch for salt and black pepper). Click on the A to Z logo on the lower left sidebar for links to many other bloggers participating in the challenge.

You never know. (image from here)

One of the biggest challenge for me is finding a balance in living simply.  On the one hand, we want to live with less and be open to new experiences.  But on the other hand, when we think about having what we need to be self-sufficient when we're off the grid or at sea, we can get into almost hoarder territory. You never know if you're going to be able to find a marine supply store if something breaks, better carry a supply of spare parts. You never know if you're going to find friends in the next anchorage and want to invite them over for happy hour, better provision with lots of snacks and munchies. You never know if you will (somehow) find a way to reuse the  piece of teak left over from the last boat project you did, better store it somewhere. And, my particular challenge: finding a special food ingredient or condiment that I love and learn to depend on. Knowing I'd be frustrated if I couldn't find it again when I wanted it, so stocking up on lots.  All too often, it sits in the lockers slowly aging when I find a new enthusiasm. 

It reminds me of the parable about the traveler who was walking to another distant village and found the path blocked by a wide river. He cast about in the woods and gathered materials and made himself a raft. He crossed the river safely.  The rest of his voyage, though, was terribly burdened, because he decided to bring the raft along, just in case he came to another river. 

The moral of the simple-living story, of course, is that the lesson of the raft can be taken two ways. Certainly experience has taught our traveler that there are rivers that need crossing, and it's handy to have a tool to cross them with. But experience has also taught him that he's creative and can build a good-enough raft from materials at hand. He might have to repeat his work if there is a second river, but in the meantime he can travel lighter.

So while I try to prepare for you-never-know-what, I have to also learn that I don't need to prepare for everything; it's also okay, even advisable, to leave room for spontaneous solutions so I can travel a bit more lightly. Our boat's waterline will appreciate it.   

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(Except for knowledge, of course. I love filing away random bits of knowledge, that you never know when they will be applicable. Besides, knowledge takes no space!)