Saturday, March 2, 2013

The Gran Canaria

Amara at the harbor in Gran Tarajel, Canaries
Amara arrived in Gran Tarajel, Canaries early yesterday.  The journey was smooth and the wind pushed Amara along the water making it an ideal trip.

Garry was even able to catch a tuna for another night's dinner.
Our friend and third mate, Garry, showing off his first catch!
And they got to experience beautiful sunsets...
When they finally pulled into the harbor in Gran Tarajel, the weather was a warm 70° Farenheit (21° Celsius).  This made a huge difference in Martin, Patrice and Garry's spirits.  Warm weather can do this to anyone after months of cold.

Because the weather was so lovely, the crew was able to spend 4 hours washing down the inside and outside of the boat in their shorts and bare feet.  The sun made everything so much more enjoyable—even scrubbing down a boat.  Those of us in Utah right now can only imagine what that must be like, since we have had a particularly cold and grueling February.  After hearing this news, I wanted to leave it all behind and join Martin in the Canaries.  Unfortunately, duty and responsibility call and I continue to get all our ducks in a row here in Utah before I take off for the sun.

More pictures to follow in the next few days...

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Sea Can Make You Do Funny Things

Here is a funny email that I just received from Martin and Garry while they were sailing to the Canaries from Gibraltar.

Martin writes: 

"Well it happened.  After 5 days at sea, Garry is wearing women’s clothing.  I guess, that if it gets cold enough for a long enough period of time; a man will resort to wearing women’s clothes. 
Garry came from sunny, warm Hawaii, where it never gets below 70° Fahrenheit.  Lacking proper clothing for the winter in Europe, Garry borrowed a hat, gloves and fleece pants from me.  Then he purchased a heavy sailing coat and boots.  From France to Gibraltar, he wore everything that he owned under his sailing jacket, trying to stay warm. At times he would wear his four mid-weight shirts and a fleece jacket under his layers of clothing for his night watches.

However, finally the cold and harsh elements got to him and he broke.  He knew that Kym had a brand new pair of Gill sailing overalls that I had brought over to France.  He couldn’t stand the cold any longer and squeezed into her overalls.  He said, ‘Sorry Kym.  They’re tight but they’re warm…'

Since they were made for a woman, he couldn’t figure out which was the front from the back since there was no zipper.  I wasn’t too much help either in helping him to decipher between each side.  So, each night that he wore them, he would switch to a different side.  Saying, ‘Thanks Kym for helping me to stay warm.’ 

It was always comical to come up each morning, seeing Garry at the helm, keeping us safe and on route… in women’s clothing.”
Because Garry would not be photographed in Kym's 
gear, this is Garry at the safety class in Gibraltar—NOT in Kym's clothing.
Interesting fact: In 1519, it took Magellan 6 days to sail from Gibraltar to the Grand Canary islands.  This being the first stop of his circumnavigation around the globe.  It only took Amara 4 days to reach the Canaries from Gibraltar.  …However, there is no record of Magellan ever wearing women’s pants.

*It should be noted, that I (Kym) purchased a LARGE pair of overalls not knowing who was going to need them and wanted there to be ample room for anyone that needed to use them.  Of course, any woman’s worst nightmare is to have a man fit into any piece of any kind of her clothing—or maybe just MY worst nightmare.  What I didn’t factor in, is that these VERY large (wink. wink) pair of overalls would be needed for a man!  I hope they kept you warm, Garry. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

The Journey Continues

Martin captured this picture yesterday from the top of the mast.

I had a great call with Martin today.  He was calling me during his 10pm-2am shift.  It was so much fun killing time with him and knowing he was sailing in the middle of the ocean so far away.  

Martin and his crew are over halfway to the Canary Islands with around 225 miles to go.  The 30 knot winds have been pushing them along with just a reefed genoa.  He sounded to be in great spirits and said that they are still having a wonderful time.  All of this was great news for me to hear!  

During this passage, Martin told me that they have seen sea turtles floating on the surface of the water and have had Pilot whales swim up beside the boat.  They even had a pod of dolphins, and their babies, play in front of the bow for a good 30 minutes.  Now I'm getting jealous.

News Flash:  It looks like those huge fishing rods that Martin lugged to France (and paid a hefty price to get onto the plane) have finally earned their keep.  They got their first catch!  It was a Bonito, which they promptly gutted, cleaned and ate for dinner.

Amara is set to arrive in the Canaries (Las Palmas) on Friday.  Once Martin and his crew arrive, it looks as if the weather will still be working against them.  So, they'll probably have to sit in the Canaries for a few days and wait out the storm... again.  

Meanwhile, I am home and still packing.  A typical scenario for me is that I pack up all the boxes, sit on them for an evening, then wake up in the morning and say to myself, "We don't need that.  Now which box is such-and-such in?"  Then I proceed to unpack all the boxes until I finally find the item.  Another typical scenario is that I'll think of something that, "I forgot to pack", then I'll get up, grab the item, take it downstairs to the boxes and throw it inside of one of them.  Tuesday night I stayed up late into the night and finally itemized each box.  First, because I'll need to do it for customs forms anyway, but mainly because I can't play this game of "go fish" another day.  Luckily, the boxes leave next week so I can stop playing this "song and dance" every day.  It's all so exhausting.  

Honestly, I don't think that I'll be able to relax until I am finally at the dock in St. Maarten and have Martin in my line of vision.  It's all just too much not having him here in Utah with me.  Last night, I had a dream that Martin was in bed next to me.  I even remember taking my foot and reaching out to touch his leg. This is something that I do so often and obviously take for granted.  When I woke up, I reached over to his side of the bed and realized that no one was there.  It took me a good 30 seconds before my brain could catch up and realize that he is still so far from Lily and me.  

We really miss him.

Monday, February 25, 2013

On their Way to Las Palmas!

Martin at the top of the mast while underway to Las Palmas.
They are finally off!  There was a break in the weather early this morning and Amara and crew are headed for the Canaries (Las Palmas).

Martin was very anxious last night and ready to leave Gibraltar.  Looking at the weather reports, they did see a break on Sunday giving them the chance to leave and head to the Canaries (Las Palmas). However, Patrice was watching the water and he felt that even though all the weather reports were reading a definite break, he told Martin that he just felt that the wind was going to pick up more than the reports were indicating.  So they decided to "sit still" in Gibraltar for another day.  Sure enough, about an hour after they made the decision to stay, the wind really picked up.  It was howling so hard that when Martin called me from the dock, I could barely hear him on the phone.  Martin said that it really was much stronger than what any of the reports were reporting and that he respected Patrice's excellent sailing skills and seaman's intuition.
The skies looming over Amara in Gibraltar.
Dinner last night with a delivery captain (a captain who is delivering a boat to an owner down in the Caribbean).  He is also planning to leave Gibraltar today.  Of course, Martin made friends with him at the dock and invited him to dinner.  What's new?  He makes friends everywhere he goes.
Martin buying provisions for the long 5 days ahead.
...and then they took off early this morning.
Martin at the helm while Patrice pulls in the lines.
...and then, Garry at the helm.
Goodbye, monkeys!
Oh, and goodbye, Gibraltar.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Amara's Taking Up a Large Piece of the Rock

Looking down at the dock from the top of Gibraltar.
I guess that I didn't realize how big Amara really was until I saw this picture that Garry sent to me yesterday.  It's a little comical to see how big Amara is compared to the other boats that are tied up to the dock.
The massive mainsail of Amara.
While on the tour around and up to the top of Gibraltar, Garry snapped some photos of its main attraction.  MONKEY'S!  I love this photo.  If comparing it with Martin and me, it hits a little too close to home.
Since Martin and crew are still in Gibraltar due to weather, Martin and Garry learned about a Survival and Safety at Sea course that was being given in the marina.  So they signed up to take the course.  The first half of the class was held in a classroom and the second half was in a freezing pool by the marina.  There they learned how to survive in the water if something were to happen while at sea.  One of the most important elements was learning how to turn over a raft onto its right side.  This proved to be more difficult than they thought.  The class (12 people) had to learn how to swim together, tread water for what seemed to be an infinite amount of time, then finally get everyone successfully loaded into the raft.  You can only imagine how cold and wet they were once they got into it.  But that didn't keep the instructor from giving them a 1-hour lesson while they all stayed huddled together freezing inside the raft.

Martin and Garry thought it was a very well-done course and both were so glad that they found out about this and signed up for the class.  (Of course, once the class was over, they both got out of the pool, peeled off their immersion suits and then jumped back into the pool in their swimsuits.)
Martin in the water taking on the task of turning the raft to its right side.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
 Crew Spotlight!  

Meet our captain, Patrice.  
Our captain, Patrice at the flybridge of Amara.

When Martin and I were motoring through Europe this past fall, we used the opportunity to look at a few used boats in France that we were interested in purchasing.  We were quite interested in a Privilege 585 that was located in La Ciotat—which is a city on the coast in the south of France. 
La Ciotat, France—Our first look at the 585 Privilege
We had our broker set up an appointment to meet the captain at the dock and have him take us out to the boat in a dinghy.  In the end, we obviously didn’t purchase that cat, but we were beyond impressed with the captain. You could tell that he was a professional from the moment we stepped foot onto his dinghy for the ride out to the catamaran.  His knowledge was impeccable about the vessel and it was obvious that he was a true seaman.  He was also very patient as Martin and I opened every drawer and locker while he explained all facets of the boat.  Plus, he was just about the nicest and most amicable individual that we had ever met. 
Patrice taking us on the tour of the 585 Privilege this past September.
Lily sitting at the helm during our first meeting in France with Patrice.
Jump forward to November.  Martin was out of the country and didn’t have access to the Internet.  We were in the process of purchasing Amara and knew that we had to act fast in securing a captain if we were going to acquire Amara, get her ready and cross the Atlantic by March. 

In the sailing community, there are quite a few websites that yacht owners can go to in order to find crew for their boats. I scoured those sites and just didn’t see anyone with the kind of experience that we needed.  We needed someone who had crossed the Atlantic and knew how to handle large catamarans.  We needed  someone who was comfortable with all the gadgets and software on a very complex system, and someone who was willing to teach Martin along the way.  Yes, I found lots of talented and accomplished captains, but what if we got them on board and didn’t like them?  That is a huge factor and we didn't have the luxury of meeting them, evaluating them and then deciding on someone given our timeframe.

So, one night when I was talking to Martin on the satellite phone, I said, “I wonder if Patrice from the 585 Privilege would be interested?”  Martin thought it was a great idea and said to try and contact him and see if he would be interested.  So, I sent Patrice an email to see if it sounded interesting to him.  As luck would have it... or the stars aligned... or maybe just good karma, Patrice replied and said he would be available for those two months that we needed him.  Jackpot!  We would have taken Patrice for the entire trip, but he does have a lovely family in France, and well, a family does take priority. (Smile.)  

How qualified is Patrice?  Not only has Patrice been the captain for large, complex catamarans and monohulls for over 20 years, but he is a very accomplished technical sailor.  This crossing will be Patrice’s 18th passage across the Atlantic.  One of which he did single-handed.  Not only does Patrice have years of experience as a captain, but he also has an impressive background in racing sailboats.  I think Amara is in good hands.  

In fact, while Martin was in France this past month and getting Amara ready to sail, Patrice was there every day negotiating and working with all the individuals that were working and making repairs on Amara.  Martin said that he proved to be invaluable for just that part alone, but the skill at which he sails Amara is nothing short of amazing.
Garry said that even though they all take shifts throughout the day and night, he is sure that Patrice sleeps with one eye open and one ear listening all night.  He said, "Patrice is always sensitive to the sounds of the boat, sea, waves, wind, creaks, groans in the rigging and change in the wind direction and engine speed.  He is instantly awake at the tiniest sound and always checking on us—even when we are up in our dark, solitary perch at the wheel in the middle of the night. When we arrived in Gibraltar, it was evident that Patrice was tired and welcomed a good night's sleep." 

See how lucky we are?

Patrice is from one of my most favorite regions in France called, Provence—I fell in love with it while we were there in the fall.  Patrice has a lovely wife, Marie, and a darling, young daughter, Luce, who are both eagerly awaiting for his return.  I feel Marie’s pain in being separated from your spouse and can only thank her for letting us have Patrice during these two VERY long months.  

Also, a “Happy Birthday” to Luce since Martin told me tonight that it will be Luce's birthday tomorrow. (Marie, if you are reading this...  If it brings you any comfort,  Martin has missed Lily’s birthday for the second time.  Not on his own accord, but just because of circumstance.  I hope Luce has a wonderful day with her mama and family!)

On Sunday,  Martin and Patrice will decide if there is a window in the weather.  If there is a break, they will take off in the afternoon and head toward the Canary Islands.  As always, I'll keep you posted.