2020: Wishing You the Best in 2021

This past year has been one of social distancing and mask wearing. There has never been a year when we have washed our hands as often.  It’s safe to say we have washed hands more in 10 months than during the preceding 10 years. Marcia is the exception because at the hospital she repeatedly washed and changed gloves many times a day as part of the lab routine.

Empty shelves

Trying to capture the essence of 2020, it would be easy to complain about social isolation and anxiety associated with COVID-19 fears. Normally, holiday letters cover the positive events of the year, the events that make you smile when you remember them.

In the spirit of being positive, here are things we are grateful for during 2020.

Before the pandemic struck in March, 2020 we escaped to Florida.

Artic Terns enjoying the winter in Longboat Key.
Marcia, Jack, Will, Sarah, Mya, and Ella walking horses slowly in a bay near Bradenton, FL.
Marcia getting ready to ride.

After our escape to Florida, we (including the kids) quadrupled the frequency of our neighborhood walks.  When the IU students were sent home in the spring, we strolled around the empty campus.  It was strange to spend an hour walking to the far corners of the campus without seeing another soul. We also did many family hikes at local lakes; Yellowwood, Griffy, Monroe, McCormick’s Creek, etc. 

The spring flowers were beautiful, but the IU students and most of the faculty were not on campus
Ella and Will on the quiet IU campus
Will, Ella and Marcia at McCormick’s Creek
Ella and Will hiking at McCormick’s Creek

On June 9, we adopted Scooby, a rescue dog, that was purported to be a Maltese, Jack Russel Terrier, and Chihuahua mix. The DNA analysis revealed Chihuahua, American Pit Bull Terrier, Small Poodle, Shih Tzu, Maltese, Dachshund, and a “super mutt mix.”  Despite a touch of Pit-Bull , Scooby turned out to be a great addition to the family.  Several times each day, we took neighborhood walks that often included a trip around Bryan Park.  With the addition of Scooby, the frequency of long walks increased yet again.

Scooby , our beloved dog.

Our traditional July fourth family gathering at the Stanton’s on Lake Minnetonka was canceled, but in late July we did make it to the Stanton’s for several days. 

Sunrise at the Stanton’s on Lake Minnetonka.

Ella, Sarah and Will on Lake Minnetonka at the Stanton’s

Ella participated in cross country in the fall.  Her coaches greeted the each masked runner with a hand cleaning routine at the start and finish of practice.  The cross country team was the only high school team without anyone testing positive for Covid. 

Ella near the finish line. She held off the runner behind her.

Sarah began her first job at Moe’s Southwest Grill.  Like other restaurants it was closed for a period of time, but then opened up for deliveries and curbside service. She ran the cash register, made burritos, cleaned up in the evening and eventually was closing the store.  She was promoted to assistant manager, working the grill, handling phone/online orders, training new hires, and closing the store in the evenings. Sarah also achieved Gold with Distinction with her combo at the Indiana State Music Association Competition.

Sarah, Audra, Nick, and Josie at the state competition.

Jack made frequent trips to the Lake Monroe Sailing Association in the spring, summer and fall. Most of time he was sailing solo, other times Marcia joined him.  When the COVID numbers were down in August and September, Jack taught the basic keel boat course and introduction to coastal sailing. Jack enjoyed it as much as the students, especially when the students had the boat well-heeled on a close reach in fresh breeze.

Sunrise at Lake Monroe Sailing Association.
A beautiful autumn day with new sails on Lake Monroe.
Sarah and Marcia

We wish you all the best in 2021!

2,300 Training Miles Completed between Will and Me

in the last 6 weeks, Will completed 1200 training miles and I completed 1100. It was more miles then I’ve ever riden by this point in June. For Will this spring was the first time he had ridden more than 20 miles.

On Sunday, June 16, we loaded our sleeping gear and bicycles on the two trucks that are headed to Tucson Arizona. One of the highlights of the final meeting was Will and his friend Jessica tying for most training rides. Here’s a picture of Will, Jessica, and Norm Hauze, the director of deCycles.

Information about the ride may be found at: http://www.decyclesindiana.org

Training for deCycles

In the past six weeks, Will and I have been training to get in shape for a ride from Tucson Arizona to Great Falls Montana. It is the Mexico to Canada deCycles trip. http://decyclesindiana.org/TripDetails/decyclesindianatd1.html I learned last Saturday that it may be challenging to keep up with high school and college students negotiating significant Hills. Since we will crisscross the Rockies at multiple points, as well as the continental divide twice, it will be a tough ride in terms of elevation changes. Heat will be another factor to contend with.

It makes the training rides critical.

3701 Nautical Miles Since May 6, 2018

After passing to the north of the shipping lanes and approaching St Vincent Point, we expected to see less wind.  We assumed the land would buffet the wind.  Not the case, the strong winds continued right up to until we were about 4 nm from Lagos.  As we passed the Point, we had to be vigilant to avoid fish traps.  Sailing directly into the sun it was hard to see them, until we passed them.  However, we managed to avoid wrapping fish netting around the keel, sail drive, and rudder. As we were dodging fish traps, it became clear that we would soon be docked at Customs in Lagos.  It was quite a feeling of elation, with a bit of relief we averted potential disasters.  The music sounded better than normal.  I’ll admit to a little of dancing at the helm.  It reminded my of a comment from a waitress in Flagstaff, AZ, who mentioned having a Grand Canyon high, while hiking below the rim.  During the final few miles it certainly was a great natural high.

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Our last sunrise of the passage.

Tough Going in the Home Stretch to Lagos

After three days of sailing in modest winds, we were greeted with much stronger winds.  Initially, the winds grew to 14-17 kts.  They gradually built to 17-20 kts with gusts almost to 30 kts. The wind was out of the north but then shifted northeast.  This made for a close reach and the pounding of the bow began.  The waves were coming from the north.  Initially they were in the 4-6 ft range.  Eventually, they grew to 8-10.  Every once and while, there were waves that were at 12 ft that showed signs of breaking.  They may have been 14 ft, but I have heard sailors often overestimate the size of waves.  Hence, I adjusted my estimate down to 12 ft.  Regardless when you are in the trough of the wave and look up at the crest of the wave next to you, it seems like a wall of water could crash down on you.

We wanted to go directly east and going parallel with big waves was scary.  There were times that we fell off the crest of a wave and were blown sideways, heeling at an angle that felt like a broach or knockdown was imminent.  Roy was not worried.  Carlos mentioned there was considerable righting force generated by more than 10,000 lbs of ballast in the keel.

The last thing I wanted was to dip the sails in the water and risk breaking the boom or rigging.  The loss of the standing rigging would mean dismasting.  I chose to head up and take the waves at an angle from 15-30 degrees.  The boat settled down, riding the wave down and coasting up the next wave continuing the same angle of attack.  The wild fishtailing stopped and comfort level increased. I was very pleased that through trial and error, I was able to find the heading to bring the boat under control. I kept on the same heading for the duration of my shift.  The negative part was we were off our intended course and would do more miles.  Eventually the wind shifted again, and we were at to head southeast between a beam and broad reach and recoup the extra miles.

Fast forward to the evening and almost complete darkness.  The issue is that you can’t see the waves and the autohelm follows more or less the heading you set. On a flat sea the autohelm tracks straight on course.  In the current seas the heading would vacillate across 30 degrees.  It was a rough last night on the approach to Lagos.  Carlos and Kathy were unable to sleep in the forward v-berth cabin.  Since we were heeling at an extreme angle in combination with the pounding of the bow, it meant they would be briefly suspended in the air and then slammed in the mattress.  This went on and on. They moved to the salon and unsuccessfully attempted to sleep.

Rather than one person on watch, there were 2 or more.  In the final approach to Portugal we chose to go north of the shipping lanes.  We had been warned that shipping lanes were dangerous.  A cargo ship can take out a sailboat and not even know it.  It would be like a mosquito hitting your car windshield.  In the Azores we heard a rumor that a sailboat met an unfortunate fate with cargo ship in the Atlantic.

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We are the black boat with the vector off the bow.  We had traveled from the upper left portion of the screen to position you see.  The triangular shaped boats to our right and behind us are fast moving cargo ships that travel at 15-20 kts. They have no way of stopping quickly.  They have hundreds of tons of momentum.  They have the right of way over sailboats in the restricted travel lanes.  At the bottom of the screen is the pink shipping lanes.  Carlos and Roy were on watch as they negotiated the traffic. Sorry for the blurry shot of the screen.  My excuse is that boat was rocking like crazy at the time.

Whales!

Carlos yelled, “Whale.”  Kathy and Roy were up through the companionway like a shot.  I was in bed, grabbed my camera and was right behind them.   Off the starboard beam about 50 yards were two whales moving in the opposite direction of the boat.  They would spout shooting water 10-15 ft in the air.  Then their dorsal side behind their blow hole would appear and continue above the water till their dorsal fin broke the surface.  Moving forward their dorsal fins would disappear and their dorsal side behind the fin would submerge.  I never saw the classic whale tail shot. Nevertheless, very cool. Again, there wasn’t time to get the camera, turn it on, and find the whales.  Given how quickly the whales passed, I made the right decision not to mess with turning the camera on and trying zoom in where I thought the whales would be next.

More good news was that we had 12 kts of wind on a beam reach, moving us at an average rate of 7.2 kts closer to Lagos.  It is nice when the forecast in wrong in the right direction, i.e., more wind than was forecast.

Second Day Sailing to Lagos, Portugal

While I was sleeping at the start of Kathy’s 0200 watch, the wind died and the Yanmar sail was fired up.  Much to my chagrin, the Yanmar was still running at the start of my watch. It was cold enough to wear a fleece and my rain jacket.  It was misty and we were surrounded by clouds.  The exception was a sliver of light on the horizon that appeared to be the sunrise.  The strange part was the light was not coming from the east.  It was directly south.  The clouds were so thick in the east that the sun could not peek through.

For an hour the Yanmar sail droned on.  Then the wind emerged off the port beam.  Not much only about 6 kts, but enough to unfurl the genoa.  Soon the wind was giving us a 1 kt boast.  After an hour of many minor heading and sail adjustments, my shifted ended.  It looked like we are in for a slow day.

When my shift ended at 0800, I made a nice egg, cheese and prosueto grilled sandwich.  I used goat butter and grilled the bread.  Goat butter is pure white.  It looks like Crisco, but tastes like regular salted butter.

Shortly after my watch ended and I had eaten, it was off to my bunk. This has been my pattern for the last 24 hours; watch – eat – sleep, watch – eat – sleep, watch – eat – sleep.

I woke at noon to a beautiful blue sky, and super light wind.  The engine drones on, aided somewhat by wind on the port beam.  It looks like another 48 hours of comparable wind.  Then I expect to have North Wind on its hull speed.

Early Morning Walk on Santa Maria

I woke up early and took a walk up the steep hill to the town.  I had learned that a century or so ago, Azoreans displayed their good fortune with ornate ironwork on their first-floor balconies.  Each design is unique.  I looked for duplicates and was unable to find one.DSCN5419

Shortly before casting off lines, there was excitement in the air.  Doing last minute chores, I took the trash to the dumpster.  I passed ten or more crew from various boats.  Everyone was smiling and had an upbeat greeting.   Anticipating the imminent departure, said; “Safe sail,” “Safe travels,” or “Fair views.”  With 5 kts of wind forecast for the next 3 days, fair winds was optimistic.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the winds were close to 10 kts as we lined up for the 1200 start.  Carlos was cautious, and we were .2 nm from the starting line when the final horn blasted.  Eventually we caught the pack and over several miles passed half the boats.

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We crossed the start line a bit late, but the sails were set well and we moved to the middle of the pack

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This was our last view of land for the next five days.

For most of the reminder of the day, the winds held, about 10-12 kts.  We were on a close reach and doing a respectable 6-7.  When the wind shifted so we could do a board reach, we were able to do between 7.5 and 8.5.  By making small adjustments to the heading, we saw low 8. Knots.  Great fun.

At the end of my 2200 watch, the wind started to drop.

Santa Maria

First order of business was getting the sail patched.  A check of resources available in Santa Maria revealed no one on the island with a sewing machine for sailed.  Dave of Himmel, volunteered to help.  He brought his patch kit and Carlos brought out the sail repair kit he bought at West Marine in Portsmouth, VA.  We hauled the genoa down and for the next 90 minutes Carlos sewed.  Pushing a needle through the heavy Dacron at the foot of sail took a lot of strength.  I took over and finished the job in a little more than an hour.    The patch looked darn good, considering Carlos and I had never sewn one before.

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Dave of Himmel offering technical support to Carlos.

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Dave and Roy getting the genoa sorted out and ready to hoist.

To celebrate our victory with the sail tape, I went with Roy to get a grilled tuna lunch.  I wish I had a picture.  It was a big tuna steak, grilled and served with a cup of butter.  The flavor of the wood grill added a new dimension to tuna.

Tomorrow we set sail for Portugal.  Hard to believe it is the last leg.  The winds are forecast to be less than 10 kts for the next three days.  It would be nice to have more wind, but it is what it is.

Day Sail to Santa Maria.

We had to take on fuel, so we were slow getting out of Sao Meguel.  We had to wait while Flying Doplin finished.  Eventually, the dock was free.  We fueled and headed out.  The wind was mild and right on our stern.  We sailed between 5 and 6 knots for five hours.    We had to gibe and in the process of shifting the whisker pole to the starboard side, the pole ripped a 5 inch tear in the foot of the genoa sail. We sailed on because it was in the foot of the sail there was two layers of fabric.

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Roy and Carlos setting the whisker pole on the genoa.

We were the last ones to leave Sao Miguel and eventually caught Migaloo.  At that point the wind died and we used the Yanmar sail, i.e., the diesel engine to reach Santa Maria before customs closed.

Once in Santa Maria, we were invited to Principal Interest for drinks and appetizers. We received the tour of another incredible boat.  If the Oyster is a Rolls, a Farr is a Bentley.  The mast is 95 ft tall, the keel is 9.5 ft.  Even the rudder is 7.5 deep.  It is 60 ft long.  The boat is built to go fast.  On AIS, Carlos and Kathy watched Ed maneuver the boat in the very tight marina.  Keeping with the auto metaphor, it was like parking a Chevy Suburban in a European parking garage designed for Smart cars.  Somehow without crashing into another boat or the dock, Ed found a space that would fit. The Migaloo crew joined the North Wind crew and told docking horror tales.

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Evening at the marina on Santa Maria.