Friday, December 30, 2011

Cape Verde Islands

After the first day of adjusting, 'picking up the pieces' and cleaning, we moved into the marina, which is a simple marina, but very expensive. For our boat, it is almost 30 Euros, more than we've paid for any marina in a long, long time. We went in for one night, so we can get the broken shroud repaired, and we weren't sure what it was going to cost.

The staff was great, we took the broken pieces into the shop and they had an estimate right away, 160 Euros, and we were glad to pay it. They had it repaired the next day and so we only ended up one night in the marina and moved to another bay next to the marina where it is really calm and protected.

So, this week is us talking ourselves back into us being brave enough for "The Crossing" and tackling a lot of last minitue shopping, filling propane tanks. and loose ends.

A twist is that our main laptop crashed and we have been scouring the town trying to find someone who can repair it. A type of a 'needle in a haystack' mission. We have a joke that as soon as we fix one problem on our boat another one pops up, and so fixing things sometimes is a risk as we're not sure what will break next.



I've mentioned before that cruising is simply boat maintenance in exotic locations and it is absolutely true! This afternoon, Levi and I were admiring the huge mountains surrounding the town as we had to dissasemble our toilet and clean every nook and cranny in the pump from.......stuff. I'm tellin' you, this life is NOT a vacation, it's mostly hard work, but it has been an incredible experience for our family, and we wouldn't trade it for anything!


Passage from H E double hockey sticks.

Wow, that was a long 5 days!

It started out OK as we finally left the river and headed out into the Atlantic ocean past Banjul, the capital. Once we were clear of the land, we were hit with a nasty swell from the starboard bow (front right corner) Most catamarans don't handle a side swell very well and for Mehari, coming over the corner is just miserable inside.

We've found that the quickest way to get over seasickness is to lay down. It seems like your body adjusts more quickly to the motion, Rachel and the little girls went to bed early, and that left Maggie, Levi and I taking turns for the night watches, and trying to keep supper down!

Soon after dark, around 7:30, Emma informed me that they were getting water coming into their bed from the windows above them. Sure enough the bed was already soaked and some sea water was finding it's way into the room. There was no way to look or repair it underway as it was dark and very rolly seas, so Emma moved to the couch and it ended up the girls slept in the living room the rest of the passage. By the next morning, it was soaked, mattresses, blankets, everything! Pretty miserable, and we were all feeling really sick. "Only" 5 out of the eight of us ended up throwing up ;) and it was all we could do to get the wet bedding outside to air out. Cleaning would have to wait.

Rachel was feeling too sick to cook, and we all were feeling too sick to eat. So for two days, we only drank water and did a LOT of laying around.

We found out later that there was some sort of high pressure system pushing an unusually large swell south from Europe, I think it had more to do with the angle of coming north from Gambia. Actually, I don't really care, I just don't want to go through a passage like that again! That's all we know!

Anyway, also on day one, we managed to break a shroud (a stainless steel cable) inside one of our front sails. This made our mast off balance, and we didn't want to push it and risk breaking our mast, a huge disaster. So we weighed the options of going back to Gambia, where repair would have been unlikely if not impossible, or heading back to Dakar, Senegal, repair a possibility, or to push on to Cape Verde where repair was certain, even though it was still 4 days away. We opted for going to Cape Verde, and tool it a bit slower, with only our jib sail out front, not using our main because we were afraid it would be 'pulling' back on the mast. Levi and I rigged up some lines to stabilize the mast, because as we were going over the waves, you could look up and see the mast flexing. Not a comforting feeling! If we started slowing, we would alternate the motors and keep a steady pace.

We arrived in Cape Verdes late Thursday night, after 10, and anchoring never felt better! The bay is large and while it wasn't the calmest anchorage.......,after our week, we were all asleep in about 4 seconds.

We have a tradition of making a big breakfast the morning after a passage and this was no exception: omelette's, toast, hash browns, and Levi even made chocolate chip pancakes, then we set about picking up the pieces, literally. The cabin, cockpit, and the rooms in the boat were destroyed, and we all pitched in, got some music crankin' and in a few hours, felt like we were getting a handle on it. Levi and I took 5 loads of laundry (for starters) to the laundry-mat, and picked up some fruit and milk.

Ok.....no more doom, the next post will hopefully be how great Mindelo is......

See you soon!

~ Hems

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Gambia - Back from the River

Well, we made it 'back' to civilization.....as much as Banjul, the capital of The Gambia can be considered civilization, but much more modern than the middle of the jungle on the river.

We stopped at James Island, which is towarde the front of the river, and it is famous for being the spot where Kunta Kinte from Root's was taken as a slave to America. It has some old fort walls and it was really sad to imagine slaves waiting there, full of fear in leaving their homeland, off to a totally stange place and life.

From there, we went and anchored up a small stream near another "famous", but more modern place, Lamin Lodge. It is run by a German man named Peter who came in 1982 and has established a few lodges up the river. He is well known throughout the river and he has lots of local friends he has met and helped over the years. He was super nice and patient with us and, although people are constantly wanting his attention for something or another, took the time and sat with Levi and Lily and I and talked us through the river trip and the area, and as an old sailor, was full of cool stories from his decades of experience. One of those cool folks you get to meet in far off places, who make the place seem even mopre epic. We had a great dinner at the lodge, Chicken Yassa, and extremely cold beer, which after some hot dry days on the river, was very welcome!

We spent a day in the capital, Banjul, finding some provisions, milk, bread, fruit and the essentials, and had a great lunch at the French Alliance International, a product from the French government. They are located around the world and promote French language and all things French. They had a great cafe, super cheap local food, and we found out that there was a band playing that night starting at 9 pm.

Evern though we were pretty beat, we walked the 2 miles back into town and found a bus to take us to the concert. It didn't start right at 9, but not until after 10.....and we didn't get back to the boats until 2 am! It was lots of fun, hanging out with our friends on "Begonia", Sebastian and Carla, and their crew member, Juliano from Brazil. The music was awesome and even though it made the next day extra long.....it was well worth it!

So, after another day of cleaning the boat and swimming in the river, we are ready to head toward the Cape Verde Islands. They are 500 miles away, and a pretty popular spot for sailors to stop on their way across the Atlantic to the Caribbean. The most Western part of Africa and along with the Azore Islands, located in their own time zone.

See you in the Capo Verds!

Hems.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Gambia, Day 5

Hello from what feels like the middle of nowhere!
We're still afloat! Drifting down the river. We've had a busy few days making our way upriver, and exploring along the way. It's been really amazing and we're all really glad we made the extra effort to come here. It certainly makes the Malaria meds and bug nets worth it :)
We've stopped at several villages, which was an amazing experience for all of us, especially the kids who were swarmed with local kids. A bit overwhelming! They don't get many visitors, especially white ones with 6 kids, and here I thought we didn't blend in in Europe! Here it's almost a small mob!
We also managed to get stuck on an unmarked mud bank in the middle of the river, sat for a bit scratching our heads, and ended up using our dinghy to get us un-stuck. No worse for the wear :)
Yesterday as we were going through an area of the river where the water was really calm, we finally spotted some hippos on the edge of the river, making their way across!! It as incredible.....we shut off the engines, and coasted, as they were surfacing all around our boat, and poking their heads out, wiggling their ears! The kids had fun watching and waiting on where they would surface next. We learned they are the 2nd largest land mammal, to elephants, and can hold their breath underwater for up to 15 minutes!
Today we went through the Gambia River National Park, which is where they are doing a rehabilitation program for several different types of monkeys. We were heading through there with our boat, and when the 'rangers' see you they come over, and 'escort' you though the park. The whole park consists of 6 islands, and there are monkeys on 3 of them. We saw a few scampering around in the trees, and we did the best we could to catch some photos.
We've reached the "end" or at least as far as we're going up the river, and are making our way back towards the Atlantic Ocean. We are roughly 130 miles up the river and the landscape has changed several times. Now we're in rice fields on both sides of the river, but we've seen thick jungles, loads of mangroves, and sparse palm lined banks.
The afternoons get super hot and humid, being on the river, and this afternoon, we took turns taking 'showers' (consiting of a bucket poured over us in our bathing suits) on the front deck with the fresh river water, and it felt great! Well needed after several days of sweating!
We don't have internet to post photos, but we'll get some up as soon as we can.
See you soon!
~Hems

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Rollin' on the river

We're in the Gambia river!
After a couple of days of sailing down the coast of Africa in Senegal, we are officially on the river, about 18 miles in next to James Island. It's famous as the place where Alex Haley's: 'Roots' came from in Africa.
We have another 100 miles to go before we're in the fresh water section, which is where we are supposed to be able to see the crocodiles, monkeys, and hippos, so we're excited for that!
Today we had a dolphin pod escorting us most of the day to here, and it was dead calm on the river, just ripples from the dolphins jumping and splashing around us.
There are lots of cool places to explore on the shores, so we're trying to decide how we're going to choose or fit it all in!
Talk to you soon,
~Hems

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

In Senegal

Hello All,

We're in Senegal! after a week long sail. It was exactly 7 days, almost to the hour. The total trip was almost 900 miles and we had pretty good winds. We we're able to sail almost the whole way, and only had to run the motors a few hours a day to keep the batteries full. For several days, the wind was coming directly behind, and we put out the sails and only had to move them twice in 7 days. Quite a difference from the MED, where the winds seem to shift hour by hour.

Lily and Emma spent the first 3 days working on cross-stitch projects, then switched to coloring and making wooden puzzles we bought for passages. Most evenings, while we were charging batteries, we took the laptop out and watched a movie, while we took turns jumping up and checking for other boats. There was a 3 day stretch where we didn't see anything, pretty lonely.

The nights were spectacular, no moon, and zillions of stars. There was also a lot of phosphoresence in the water, and it often looked like a glowing trail as we went, amazing. Levi and Maggie and I got into a rhythm, taking turns for night watches, keeping the sails trimmed, and watching for other boats.

Emma and Levi spent yesterday on the final approach to Senegal making our courtesy flag, out of some scraps we found on the boat. A little sewing and coloring a star and we're 'official'!

We're waiting here for some friends on another boat and we're planning to sail to the Gambia river together. We're sending updates from a satellite phone because internet is really hard to come by.

We'll post again soon!
~Hems

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Passage, day 6

Hello from West African Coast -
We're on day 6 of 8, making our way to Senegal. We've had some strong winds in the 20-25 knot range for the last 2 days, meaning the seas are also quite rolly :(
Everyone is hanging in there, literally, trying to cope and doing crafts inside. Maggie, Levi and Erik are on the night watches, and haven't seen a ship in 3 days, pretty lonely out there!
We'll send a note once we arrive in Senegal, should be by Wednesday morning, or sooner would be OK too :) Thanks everyone for the prayers, please keep praying for us.
~ Hems

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I hope everyone has a great Thanskgiving!
We're on day 2 of our passage to Senegal. Making decent time with steady winds directly behind us, and we pray they hold. We're at: 26-21.69'N & 15-22.28'W

We're all very thankful for this chance to travel as a family and hope your thanksgiving is filled with memories :)

Erik - An amazing family. For sun, wind, and sea!
Rachel - God's safety and protection and my family.
Maggie - The best family in the world, my awesome boyfriend, and seasickness pills :)
Levi - Foul weather gear and new challenges on the horizon.
Emma - Mehari, a big pile of crafts, and family.
Lily - God's keeping us safe on this passage, and barely anybody is sick.
Zoe - My stuffed dog 'Max' and dad and Levi stayed up all night, keeping us safe.
Miles - My blanket and dee-dee (pacifier)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Canary Islands


We made landfall in Graciosa, a little spec of an island on the northern end of the chain of 7 islands that are the Canaries.


The Canaries are technically part of Spain, but certainly feel like their own world, and the people are quick to explain that they are Canarians first, Spaniards second. The islands on the east side, are all volcanic and look like the surface of the moon, very stark and very little vegetation, but beautiful in a unique way. A lot of vistas and mountains look a bit like Arizona, where we are from, but with the added bonus of being surrounded by a gorgeous blue sea.

Graciosa is a sleepy village with sand streets and low, white washed houses with large porches for staring at the sea. It has a collection of a few hippie folks who came to visit from around the world and apparently never left. There are 3 little markets, and it takes visiting all 3 to collect what you need, but a fun undertaking, nonetheless.

The wind was quite strong for several days, and the anchorage we were at was not the most comfortable, but we toughed it out and then headed south to the next island, Lanzarote. We wrapped around the bottom of the island, another 35 miles south, and anchored in a bay right outside a marina, and next to a large resort town called Playa Blanca. We met up with some friends, on Begonia, and Imagine. Begonia was heading west to meet friends on another island so we hung out for almost a week, working on boat projects and getting things ready for the crossing. We rented a car one day and drove to the other side of the island where there is a large, inexpensive grocery store, and we did another provision for the next few months. It takes a staggering amount of food and planning to feed 8 people and try to predict what well need the most of.

We then sailed to the next island, Fuertaventura (big adventure) and found a great village called Gran Tarajal. It is neatly manicured and every planter is cleaned and raked everyday, a very clean place. As an added bonus, the town marina is the cheapest in the Canaries, something every cruiser is ALL about, so we relaxed for a few days. We had a sail repaired in the marina from a guy living and working on his boat, and as the crossing is starting to loom, feel like we’re getting things in order. We’ve also spent a lot of time researching the right medication for Senegal and Gambia, both malaria prone areas, and getting things like mosquito nets for all the beds.

We’re excited to see Gambia and Senegal, but part of us is wanting to get on to the crossing, as the anticipation seems to just keep building and building. I’m sure we’ll be really glad we went to west Africa, and there really is no better way to see it than from your own boat, I mean, when else might we be in this part of the world with this amazing opportunity?

We’re moving on toward Dakar, Senegal in the next few days. Again, our longest passage yet, 800 miles and about a week at sea, and almost ½ as long as the passage across the Atlantic. The Atlantic crossing will be approximately 2000 miles. Baby steps, right?!

If we don’t post again before we leave, we’ll see you from Senegal!  

~Hems

Friday, November 11, 2011

Passage pt. 2.......fish on!


By the second day, we were well clear of the coast and the fishermen, and all the other boats we’d left with were nowhere to be seen.  We were trying to get in our groove, and the wind was fairly steady out of the north so we settled in. It takes a couple days before your body gets adjusted to the constant motion and no one on our boat had any appetite, just trying to get though the first days and into a routine.



The good news, we finally got all of our fishing gear sorted out in Gibralter and picked up some proper lures for Atlantic fishing. Levi also got some lures as a birthday gift from the crew on Imagine, our friends on another sailboat. We were anxious to try them out and so we dropped a hook and let is troll about 50 yards behind us as we went.  5-6 hours later, we heard the reel spinning and had a fish on! Finally! Levi worked it for a while and let the fish tire himself out and reeled in a beautiful blue fin tuna, not huge, but plenty for our family.

We were all really excited to grill it, so we cleaned it and soaked the fillets in sea water for a bit before we threw it on the grill. All it needed was a bit of lemon salt, and several minutes on a hot grill, and it was done. It really perked everyone’s spirits and it was delicious! We all ate every scrap of the fish and couldn’t wait for the next one.

The next fish came the next day, and the day after, and we ended up catching 3 on the whole trip.  I’d let the reel out when I woke up at 7 in the morning and by 10, we’d caught another tuna, and we’d grill it up for a late lunch. It was a fun few days, living on the bounty of the sea and we thought this was a pretty cool way to live!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

On from Morocco


We were able to stay in Morocco for almost two weeks, and it was time for us to head south to the Canary Islands, the next stop for us. The situation of the marina in Rabat is a very narrow entrance from the ocean, and it has a sort of criss-cross of sand bars that are very shallow at low tide, and with any sort of wind pushing a ‘swell’ eastward, makes the entrance difficult or even dangerous to enter or leave. Often, the marina will close the entrance and boats are not permitted to enter or leave.


So, with this scenario, there were a lot of boats, like us, wanting to head to the Canaries.  So, when the weather finally showed a window that was OK to leave, they ended up with 22 boats all scheduled to leave the same day!  The customs office, and passport control people, etc., had a very busy day checking everyone out of the marina and the country.  They wound up going from boat to boat throughout the marina and checking us all out one by one instead of everyone going to the office and overwhelming them.  It worked out pretty smoothly for a country and for officials who don’t normally like to bend the rules, and of course LOVE stamping papers and things.  So, they brought the ‘drug dog’ around and he climbed on everyone’s boat, sniffing for illegal stuff, while the officers were clambering around, sorting out the documents.  All in all, it struck me as a pretty funny sight. These guys did not look at all natural in their suits and ties trying to climb over scruffy boaters, all waiting on their decks and just wanting to leave. 

The whole process took about 3 hours and we were off, at around 4:00 in the afternoon, and although the swell had “died down” from an off-shore storm a few days earlier, there was still a pretty large roll waiting for us as soon as we headed through the entrance. I could understand why the marina was cautious about letting people leave, as we plowed over some big waves and having to time it just right so they wouldn’t crash on our decks. Once we were past, by several hundred yards, the sea calmed down a bit and although the swell was still 3+ meters, it was a more gentle roll and not breaking.
So………we were off for our longest passage yet, just over 500 miles, and our first real introduction to the Atlantic Ocean. We’d heard from a lot of other boaters,

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Lost and Found in Fez



Despite our better judgement, Maggie, Levi, Emma and I made a venture into Fez for a long day-trip, taking the earliest train (7:20) and planning on coming back on the last train, whenver that was. Fez is closer to Rabat, where the boat is, and is only a 3 hour train ride. We were “experienced” (HA!) travelers now, so no problem.  We got to Fez, and headed out of the train station, and saw a huge line of Taxis. One quickly offered to take us to the 'medina' (downtown) for only 70 Dirhams. We knew that was wrong...... and after walking down the street 100 feet, we found one for less than half, 30 Dirhams. That’s more like it.


First off, Fez has a much different vibe than Marrakesh. It’s more of a music, hippie, earthy place. As we arrived in the medina, our taxi driver was so excited to be speaking English and using hand gestures, he HIT a pedestrian walking across the street who wasn’t watching where he was going either. No harm done, a lot of Arabic yelling back and forth, and we were there…..almost. As we got out, Emma spotted some puppies on a blanket near the wall, and as she approached, the mom of the litter, not pleased at all, ran after Emma, biting at her ankles. OK, two for two. We went into the medina, parked at a café, and had some breakfast. Cheese omelettes, chocolate crepes, mint tea and coffee for 4 people for $12. Not bad.

Fez is known for a lot of handicrafts and leather goods. There are also huge family owned tanneries in part of the city and we were able to tour those, even though the free tour came with a high pressure pitch to buy leather goods. The workmanship was absolutely beautiful, and I was very tempted with a large leather duffel bag, made of camel. But, the boat and the sea is no place for leather goods and I didn’t dwell on it too long. Maybe in another life.

All the guide books say Fez is a circular city and sloped to the middle. Going downhill takes you toward the center, walking uphill supposedly takes you out. Well, we managed to get fairly lost and wound up going down streets that were progressively darker and narrower. All of the sudden, no one we met could speak English. Most Morrocoans speak some English, but now we couldn’t find anyone speaking English, French, Spanish, Italian, Greek, nothing but Arabic. Rut ro. We finally found a school boy who took us back into the main part of town, and started the process of getting out. He didn´t speak English either, but with enough hand gestures, he got the idea we were pretty lost!

We were fairly famished by this point, and made a pit stop for some dinner before heading back to the train station. We had ‘tagines’, a Moroccan dish which are clay plates with clay cones that are baked with meat, potatoes, veggies, and rice, olives, and spices inside. All four of us had a fantastic dinner and Cokes for $22. From there, it was a taxi ride back to the train station and wait in the rain for our train.


We made it on the last train, and after riding back for 3 hours, we were trying to figure out which stop was ours. We thought we’d arrived, and all got off. After looking around, we didn’t realized it was NOT the right stop and were climbing back on the train, when it lurched into motion, heading away. Maggie, Levi and I jumped into the open doorway, while Emma was trying to catch up. Levi saw she wasn’t catching up, jumped off to get Emma on and then as the train was speeding up, Levi was running to catch the train car behind us. He jumped on, trying to find a handle, and FELL off the train, sprawling out on the platform! We were going too fast now, and Maggie was hysterically looking for the red handle to stop the train!! We were all in shock, trying to figure out what we do now as Levi was already far in the distance, with no money, no Arabic, in pain, and at 11:30 at night. As we calmed down, we realized as we crossed over the river, that he WAS at the right stop and we were off to the wrong one. No problem. That was the least of our worries. I knew Levi would figure it out and probably walk the ½ mile back to the boat, while we figured out where we were and took a city tram that would take us backwards towards the boat.

All in all, everyone was back safe, just after midnight, with a few bruises, and we were really glad to be together on our little boat, having a late coffee, and telling Rachel about the day’s adventures and mis-adventures!

Thanks Morocco, for an amazing, unforgettable, experience!    
  

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Berber Village and Family

While we were in Marrakesh and the Atlas mountains, we went to a Berber house to have breakfast (which was actually bread and tea). The Berber people are the native people of Morocco. There was a little girl there, and as soon as we got there, my dad picked her up for a picture and then put her down and then she was reaching for me! 

So I picked her up and when I tried to put her down she wouldn't let go of me. So we went upstairs and she sat down with me and as I was drinking my tea she was reaching for the bread and tea so I gave her some of mine. 
We walked around her house and she showed me where she plays and we played there for a little while. When I had to leave, she wanted me to stay. She grabbed my hand and was pulling me but I had to go so I waved goodbye and she let me go and waved goodbye too. She was SO cute!!

~Emma

Monday, October 24, 2011

Marrakesh pt.2


Marrakesh pt.2



Moroccan Shoes.....Shops like this were everywhere!
So we wandered into the downtown, right at late afternoon, which is when the main square and streets come to life. As we walked in, we were hit right between the eyes with a huge plaza bustling with street vendors, selling everything from fresh squeezed orange juice to silver tea pots, Morrocan drum bands, people carrying monkeys, motorcycles weaving around, basically chaos.
It was quite a bit to take in and right as we came in, a man wanting to show us his snakes, threw one around Levi’s shoulders and then put it on Miles’ lap in his stroller where Miles naturally grabbed the snake’s head. Rachel screamed right as a bicycle rode by with about 25-30 dead chickens hanging off the sides, and while Emma was trying to get me to look at that bizarre sight, a woman was starting to paint Henna tattoos on Lily and Zoe, assuming we’d pay as soon as she was done. It was full immersion!

We huddled together to re-group and make a plan to pick a direction and see about a youth hostel in the old city we’d found online before we’d come. We decided to make our way there, drop off our bags and find some dinner. Easy enough, right? After asking 6 people for directions and getting 8 different answers, we found someone who offered to walk us “directly” there. Without him, we would probably still be looking for the place, as it was located in a narrow street, off of another narrow street, off of another narrow street…..…you get the idea. Is there something wrong with a street sign or two?



This is the door to our Hostel....Pretty small opening
from the street view...but great place!
The youth hostel was an oasis. The owner Mustafa, had a big pot of mint tea on for us as we arrived and was extrememly proud to show us around the rooms he’d arranged for us up through the 2 floors and roof terrace of the hostel. It was very quaint and felt like we were sealed off from the chaos outside. 

Our dinner: Chicken Kebaps and Lemon Olives
plus other yummy stuff
We rested a bit and then headed of again into the madness, and found a great street café, set up for serious volume with bench seating, and stacks of skewers of chicken, beef and lamb. We had plates of cous-cous, lots of grilled meat and veg, loads of fresh round Moroccan bread and were pretty spent after dinner. We did OK the second time finding our way back, and drug the extremely tired kids back to the hostel, had some hot showers, and crashed into our bunks, while the lobby in the courtyard below was filled with conversations and music. We had a tour planned early the next morning, so we didn't stay up late, the kids were asleep in about 2 seconds, and we weren't far behind………..:)   

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marrakesh Express pt.1


Once we got settled into the marina, we wanted to make a trip inland and see some Moroccan sights. First stop was Marrakesh! We buddied along with another family boat we met in the marina, a family of four from Chicago on a boat called Begonia. The father Sebastian, is originally from Argentina, and the mom, Carla and their kids, Sophia (8) and Benji (5) are living for a year aboard. They had sailed from the Caribbean earlier this summer and have spent their time in Portugal and Spain / Gibraltar. They are on the same path we are on, though Morocco, the Canary Islands and hopefully, Senegal/Gambia and crossing the Atlantic in December also. It is always great to hook up with other families and we planned the trip to Marrakesh together.


So, after an early morning stroll to the train station, we were all aboard the early train (well, early for people travelling with 8 kids!) and took the 3 hour train ride South to Marrakesh. For starters, the train was an experience all in its own! It was clean enough (except for the bathrooms, more later) and it is basically a hallway with little cabins on one side, each seating about 6-8 people. You kind of just cram in wherever you can and with all of us we wound up spread over 3 cabins, mixed in with Moroccans off to someplace or another. The Moroccan people are just beautiful and extremely friendly. Rachel and I were in one cabin with the little girls and Miles, who of course, is just a magnet. There were 3 ladies in our cabin and they instantly had him on their laps and were feeding him something or another, doting on him. Miles just soaked it up like a sponge and was doing his little devilish grin, looking much smarter than only one year old. We were soon all passing around snacks we’d brought and one of the 3 spoke English, so we soon learned about them, and had 2 invites to come to their houses for a meal. It was a lot of fun. The bathrooms on the train, however, left something to be desired in the way of cleanliness. The bathrooms we’d seen so far, had usually been a porcelain hole in the floor, with raised places to stand over the hole, and no toilet paper, just a faucet near the hole and a bucket. I guess you need to be a little creative to make the components provided get the job done. Well, the train had a hole also, right down over the track, and let’s just say the people earlier had not been careful in the bathroom at all. It was a bit stressful for poor Lily and Zoe, but they managed, and it certainly makes you appreciate some things we usually overlook.
Arriving in Marrakesh, we were a bit disoriented as we got off the train, not knowing where the main downtown was or how to get there, and I’m sure easy prey for a tour guide. Naturally, one spotted us looking clueless and offered his services, basically a glorified taxi ride into town, stopping at some sights on the way. It was reasonable and not worth hasseling to find our own way and he called up a van “he knew” that could fit all 12 of us and we were off. Driving around the outskirts of Marrakesh was very impressive. It had a lot of upscale development and in the desert surroundings, reminded us a lot of Arizona, particularly Scottsdale! Even with a couple of golf courses, and not what we’d expected at all. Closing in on the old city, however, was a quick trip back several centuries and we could see the old city walls, with Moroccan sweeping arched entries and as the streets got increasingly crowded and chaotic, we knew we were heading into the heart of the city. Our new friend the tour guide, offered to pick us up the following morning, and take us on a trip up into the Atlas mountains, stopping at a Berber village, having tea with a Berber family, and hiking to some waterfalls. We knew we didn’t want to spend our whole time in Marrakesh just shopping and wandering, so we agreed to the trip the next day, arranging a time and place. Then we were off to wander the downtown, and headed into a truly unique experience……..pt 2: 

Friday, October 21, 2011

Rabat, Morocco

We are in Morocco, after a pause for repairs, and have arrived in Rabat, about 125 nm from the Gibralter Straight. The trip down was pretty uneventful, not a lot of wind, and a pretty relaxing 36 hours.

The only place to lay up in Rabat is in a marina, up a narrow river from the ocean. The entrance is important to enter when the tide is high, because of the chance of grounding on the sand bar. We knew we weren't probably going make the high tide in late afternoon, so that meant we were going to have to enter in the middle of the night, around 0200. I had been calling as we approached, to notify someone we were coming, but couldn't get an answer until we were almost in the river!

Finally a dinghy came out and escorted us into the marina, and even though it was the middle of the night, we had to go through the whole customs and and immigration deal. They also normally bring a dog on board and look for illegal substances, but with our life-nets, couldn't get the dog on and instead two guys came on with flashlights and looked in all the cabins, counting the kids (probably not a bad idea with our crew - Rachel and I might start doing that :) 

We got situated into a slip and very quickly went to sleep, looking forward to exploring once we'd slept!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Two propellers again!!

We're in Morocco........kind of. We're in an area call Cueta, which is on the African coast, but is actually owned and controlled by Spain. So, it's technically still Europe. But, they have a travel life here, and looks like as good a spot as any to get the ongoing propeller saga dealt with.
 Between losing the propeller, finding it again in the bay, ordering the 'missing link' spacer, and finally getting the right tools everything together to get the boat hauled out and repaired, we think we're ready!


We tried to think of everything to have on hand to avoid delays in the sling of the boat lift. Drill charged, new sharp stainless drill bits (for the piece broken off in the shaft) a tap and die set in a "worst case" of having to drill the whole thing out and re-thread the hole, everything. Knowing full we couldn't guess it all, but I guess that's the adventure :) we were as ready as we could be.

While we were waiting, we were able to replace our batteries in the 'house bank'. We have two battery systems on the boat, starting batteries, for the engines, and a bank of batteries to run things whenever the engines aren't running, which is most of the time. Things like refrigerator, lights, instruments, everything electrical, all run off these batteries. The ones on the boat now are almost 4 years old and just not holding a charge anymore. So, it was a two-birds-with-one-stone and all that sort of thing at the boatyard, and another huge check-mark for the never ending To-Do List. :)

There was another big boat ahead of us and it took them most of the day to get it on blocks and get the hoist freed up for us, so we ended up staying the night in the slot, waiting until first thing in the morning. We took a trip into town and hung out at the park, and the kids made some friends, they had a decent little shower room for guests, and us and the night guard were the only people there after 6 pm.
Next morning, they came down with the lift, and got the slings underneath, and began the hoist up. Thankfully, everything went really smoothly. Levi and I did end up having to drill out the entire broken bolt and re-tap the hole for a new bolt, but after that, it all 'smooth sailing' pardon the pun. We did put it all back together with very liberal amounts of LocTite thread sealant, just to be sure we don't do this again.

A big thanks to Peter, an English bloke who was a marine engineer in the boatyard, for advice, help, the LocTite, stories, and some chuckles. I hope you like land life, although the sea is always bekoning..... :) 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Crossing "The Straight"

Last week we'd finished our time in Spain and it was time to move on. We had a couple of boat projects to wrap up, one of which was fuel filters. Not very glamorous, I know, but these babies were filthy! We must have run low on fuel a while back (I think somewhere near Rome) and sucked in some really fine dirt from the bottom of the fuel tank. Well, like most engines, diesels don't like dirt in the fuel.....at all, and I was really glad we got things sorted. We have 4 filters all together, and we changed or cleaned them all, bled the system, and were ready to leave the marina, and head out to anchor.

The advice we'd gotten was to leave Gibralter 2-3 hours after high tide to make the best of the water rushing in and out of the Mediterannean. If you think about it, the entire Med either goes one of two ways: through the Straight of Gibralter, or trickles down the Suez canal in Egypt to the Red Sea. So, there's a lot of water moving through here, and the straight is only 8 miles across!

The high tide was at 0300 (am) and so we planned to leave at 0600, which is still about two and a half hours before sunrise. It's a sketchy enough proposition during the daylight, as there is an unbelievable amount of tankers and container ships coming in and going out of the bay, and dozens more sitting at anchor. We were leaving in the dark, and wouldn't you know it? a thick layer of fog had settled in right as we were leaving the mouth of the bay. While the Straight is pretty narrow, 8 miles, it means the ships are funneled into a small area, and with fog and the early dawn, the visibility was down to almost nothing.

We are using AIS for collision avoidance, and I can tell you, we were staring at that little screen until our eyes were watering! It has a tiny circle on the screen, and you can set it for 2 mile radius, 5 miles, etc. We had it set on 5 miles and never saw less than 10 ships in our circle the whole crossing. All we could hear was fog horns announcing that they were getting close and our 'mini radar' to confirm. All of the sudden, they would appear out of the mist, and like huge metal ghosts, silently glide by and dissapear again. 

"Tense" is I guess the right word, not panicked, but certainly alert. The good news was it was very calm seas and we had a school of about 40-50 dolphins with us most of the way. It was like they were looking out for us, and that seemed to make it better. There were so many clustered in front of the boat, swimming and jumping, we could hear them squeeking to each other and it was really cool. Even though it was chilly and wet on deck from the fog, everyone was outside at dawn to see them all. 

Of course, as we neared the other side, at around 1000, the fog was gone, and we slipped right into the bay where the boat is going to be hauled out for us to fix the propeller. 

The whole day felt like the old video game of 'Frogger' and we were really glad to be tied up to the slip, waiting for the lift! 

~Hems

Friday, October 14, 2011

Corrida de Toros (The Bullfight!)

Last Sunday, Levi and I had a uniquely Spanish adventure:

We'd been trying to find a local bullfight event for Levi's birthday and we found one about an hour and half back up the coast from here. It was in a seaside town/city (300,000) called Fuengirola. So, we rented a car and headed up there, hoping to find tickets. They wouldn't let us order or purchase before hand, you had to be at the bullring, so we headed out in hopes for the best. 

It was a pretty incredible experience! We made it up to the town and hunted around for awhile to find the bullring. It is in an older section of downtown and not a lot of signs to get us there, so it was good practice using our Spanish and trying to narrow down where it was. 

Once we'd found it, thankfully, there was no trouble getting tickets. The ticket booth was open, although of course, the cheapest tickets (30Euro) were already 'sold out', so we only had to pay another 5 Euros each for ours. You can buy either 'Sol' (Sun) or 'Sombrero' (Shade) tickets and the price doubles to sit on the side not facing the sun, but we figured the sun would set halfway through the event and we'd have at least some shade. 

We had a great authentic meal at a bar/restaurant next to the bullring, completely lined with posters and framed photos of bullfighters over the years. It was really a cool spot, hanging out on the terrace with the locals and tourists eating and drinking, waiting for the event. A few locals were hanging out at the bar, sipping their beers and trading lies. 

It was a leisurely meal and we wandered to our 'seats' (our spot on the concrete steps) and waited for the start. 

The whole affair uses a lot of tradition and there is a full brass band playing along with the event and the different phases of the event. Without going through the gory details, and culminating with the killing of the bull, it as at the very least a pretty amazing peek into the Spanish culture and history. 

Of course, none of the bulls left the arena alive, and we were both a little shocked at the bluntness of it all. We were a little quieter on the ride home and glad we were NOT bulls in Spain. 

Certainly not a day either of us will ever forget!

~Hems

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Provisioning Phase I

Lily with a few boxes of cereal bars
We started the daunting task of provisioning for the Atlantic crossing coming up and have had a lot of great advice from cruisers who have crossed other oceans. That is one of the great things about cruising, it feels like a family who is 'all in it together' and you see people from all walks of life helping each other out.

There is a great store here, not far from the marina. It's a French chain called Carre-four and it's similar to a Super WalMart. Basically, obscenely large. If you purchase more than 150.00 Euro, they offer free delivery, boat-side. I wish they offered an unpacking service :)

Maggie displaying the receipts
We easily crossed the E150 line on two separate trips and now have been squirreling away food and drinks in all corners of the boat. Literally, ALL corners, and cabinets, and beds. We have granola bars and cereal boxes in all our cabins, the bathtub is over-filled with 2 liter soda bottles, UHT milk by the cases, and canned fruit, sauces, rice, flour, tuna, 20 packages of tortillas, etc, etc, etc!! We anticipate one more shopping like this in the Canary Islands at the beginning of November and we should be ready, at least food-wise for the next few months afterward.

We thought, at the worst case, we won't need to shop for some things for a while in the Caribbean. Maybe wishful thinking, but it helped us justify a third cart on our trip to the store. 

Now Mehari is sitting a little lower in the water, and once we top up with fuel and water, we'll need some strong wind to get us moving! Just kidding, the 'station wagon of the seas', is ready for the next adventure!

With glossy-eyes, and a lot lighter in the wallet, 

~Hems

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Gibralter wanderings


Emma and 'friend'

We made a few trips across the border into Gibralter from the marina in Spain, and really had a great time on this little corner province of the UK.

We took a trip up to the top of the mountain, and saw the infamous apes, saw some caves converted into a concert hall, the Great Siege Tunnels from 1779, and the quaint downtown with it's endless shops of duty-free booze and watches. I mean, does the world really need this much booze and this many watches? I can't believe all the shops survive.
There are other plenty of other shops such as toy stores and music stores that are fun and it's a cool place to wander around. It feels a bit like a miniature London without the fog. The most important thing is they have Cornish meat pies, and our ancestry from Cornwall, England instilled in us (or me at least) a deep love of 'pasties' Very tasty!

Miles wishing he was just a little older ;)
We also found a bowling alley and went bowling with the family from s/v Imagine. It has been several years since any of us bowled and we had a lot of fun sliding around, trying not to throw too many gutter balls! Lily and Zoe had never seen a bowling alley and were NOT excited, up until they got their shoes on and saw what was going on. Now they can't wait until the next time, whenever that may be and they were talking about it for days afterward. 



From the Rock, 

~Hems

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Rock!

Hello All-

We are now in Gibraltar now and are glad to be not moving for a while!! We had a problem with our propeller in Ibiza, our propeller actually fell off, (luckily in shallow water) so me and dad snorkeled around the Bay and found it!!! So I swam down, 30ft and got it!!  

We tried to get it fixed in Ibiza town, but couldn’t fix it, so we headed over to the main land.  We made land fall after 140 miles, in Cartagena, Spain and stayed there for a couple of hours, and then headed on to Gibraltar,(250 miles) it was a bit rolly for both days weather was about a force 8 (25 to 30 knots of wind with waves.) but we made to Gibraltar in 2 days, ready to get off the boat.

We will be here for a week or so and then head on to Morocco!!

Levi

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Gibralter sites

Gibralter has been a pretty amazing stop and we're really glad for a week of NOT moving after a few pretty long sails. The most recent sail left us all a little frazzled, we wound up in a Force 8, which means we had 30-35 knots of steady winds and very large seas. Some waves were at least 20' +, a few even crashed over the whole decks sending small waves of seawater through latched hatches. Not fun. We lost about 15 dishes after one wave sent all the plates and cups out of the cupboard and all over the floor at 7:00 am. It doesn't start getting light at this latitiude until around 8:00 so it was a bit of crawling around in the dark, picking glass out of the rugs while we were rolling around.

We ended up had steering the last 16 hours, because with large swells, especially from behind (thanks goodness to on the nose!!) it shoves Mehari's back end around and the autopilot just cannot compensate for that adjustment. 

The good news: it was easily the worst conditions we've sailed in, and the boat performed really well. Also, it wasn't that rough for days and days, but really bad for maybe 6-8 hours before it finally "calmed down" to only 20 knots! It was kind of a relief seeing how Mehari (and the family) did and while no one was having much fun, we managed to make light of it and had quite a few laughs just being drenched, cold, tired, and hungry. 

Needles to say, we were very glad to pull into the Gibralter bay and the sea flattened right out and we motored the last hour up to La Linea (the line) Marina at the border of Spain and Gibralter. so, for a week or so we'll be exploring and shopping as this might be the last place to do some big provisioning before the Atlantic crossing. The trick will be NOT eating the food we stock up on. It might be a real challenge when we can't get to a stoe right away in Morocco or the Canary Islands. 

We'll post some pics soon of the last few weeks. 

~Hems

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

what propeller??!

The weather has gotten noticeably cooler as we're still at a fairly high altitude, New York/Virgina zone and swimming has been less of a priority for the girls. Usually we can hardly keep them out of the water unless it's lunch time :)

Last Saturday, I woke up early and just before sunrise decided to take a swim to help wake up. It's pretty fantastic having a bay all to yourself and a refreshing dip in the sea is a pretty great way to start the day. (Strong Italian coffee doesn't hurt either!) 

Swimming back to the boat, I decided to check a propeller we've been having problems with for some time. It is a brass folding propeller. Which means that while we're sailing without the engines, it's supposed to fold up and not create drag to slow us down (hey....on this beast, every bit helps!) but it's been acting up in that it sometimes won't fold closed or when we do motor, won't fold all the way open. Well, as I swam over to check it, I realized it was GONE!! The whole propeller! It is a very expensive item ($2000-3000) and it was totally missing!

I needed some breakfast to recover, and think about what we could do from here. Thankfully, we have two engines, so we could at least move to a marina, instead of trying to rely solely on sailing, but what then?! I remembered as we entered the bay the night before, I had revved up each engine separately and saw that they were creating wash behind the boat, something a missing propeller would not have done, so I cam e to the conclusion we must have lost it recently, maybe right after we shifter into reverse getting ready to anchor or something. 

After breakfast, Levi and I thought we'd take a trip around the bay snorkeling, hoping we'd be lucky enough to find it, although it as a bit of a needle-in-a-haystack proposition. We started swimming in gradually larger circles, scanning the sand and roughly tracing our way back out of the bay. 

About 400 yards away, lying in 30' of water, I spotted the prop laying on the bottom!! I couldn't believe it! I called for Levi to swim over and he dove down to retrieve it. 30' is a long way down, especially with a heavy propeller coming back up, but he made it on the second try and we were really stoked to have it back in our hands!!

I had a strange feeling of peace the whole time that I just 'knew' we were going to find. It was really bizarre, and I can't remember having that much peace about something that should have and normally would have totally stressed me out. I don't know if it was a 'test' or if I was, I passed, but thanks to God! we found it...................now we have the chore of getting it back on!

We'll see how that 'adventure' goes. 

~Hems

Saturday, September 24, 2011

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Headin' for Spain

After a couple weeks in the absolutely gorgeous Balearic Islands of Spain, it’s time already for us to head on to the mainland of Spain. We have a few stops we want to try and see while on the mainland. Levi and Erik want to see an authentic bullfight and we all would like to see some Flamenco dancing (and flamenco guitar for the boys!) So we’ll be aiming to stop in at Categena, Spain and maybe Granada or a bus trip to Seville.  

We have heard that it’s a good idea to be sailing out of the Med by October 1st and heading down toward the Canary Islands and on to the Cape Verde Islands getting ready to cross by December. At first we thought that was kind of early…….isn’t it always warm in the Med?? Last night I finally checked to see where we were compared to the U.S. as far as which latitude we are sitting at. We’re still quite a way north! We are about the same latitude as New York City from where we are sitting in the Island of Mallorca, and as you can imagine, by late September it is getting cool and by October we’ll be in full autumn. So I guess we need to keep keepin’ on as we say, even though these coasts in the Balearics have been some of the most beautiful coast line we’ve seen anywhere in the Med. It’s taken a lot of self-control to not stop in at real estate offices to see if anyone wants to trade for a catamaran ;)

So, as soon as we exit the Med in the next couple of weeks, it’s time to make some major passages heading south towards the Cape Verdes Islands. It’s basically getting to the same latitude as the south part of the Caribbean, which is where we are aiming for as we head across the Atlantic. We are looking forward to stopping in at Morocco and spending a few weeks there, taking an inland trip to Fez and Marrakesh, maybe a trip to sleep in a tent in the Sahara desert………we’ll see.

Anyway, that’s the latest from the sailing Hems! Love you all!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Wandering around the Balerics.

We arrived in Mao, Menorca after a long 4 day sail from Rome. We are now in the Baleric Islands of the eastern coast of Spain. We’re almost out of the Med, and I can’t believe how far we’ve come this year!
The town of Mao was really cool! The landscape here is really green with lots of trees everywhere and on these islands the houses are all built right on the edge of the water so they all have waterfront views. But from the water it all looks really cool.

We sailed onto another bay on the southern side of Menorca Island. We had heard from a friend that there was a Spanish Festival involving horses happening that night at a town we were going to be anchored at. The horse festival turned out to be really cool! Well, of course! We’re in Spain!! That’s epic enough! So we went into town at around 7pm and they had set up like a ring with a floor of sand. A single horse with a rider would enter from one side of the ring. The point of the night was for the crowd to try and spook the horse into rearing up and then all rushed in and hold it up as long as they can manage. Then after about five minutes or so the horse and rider leaves the ring as another comes in and the whole scene happens again. They went on for about five hours like this. I’d say there was probably 20 horses total. The later into the night, (and the more people had to drink) more people would join in the excitement of holding the reared-up horses. They also had a local band playing traditional music which we could hear at anchor til at least midnight.  Levi joined in for a bit as well….helping to try and spook it long enough to get the horse reared-up. He said it was crazy being that close to the horse with 20 other people all trying not to get hurt by the horse or by the other people!
Levi is in the jeans and black shirt
Next we sailed on to the island of Mallorca (Pronounced: may-or-ca) and stayed in two small bays on the eastern side. (One night in each.) Both bays we’re cute and very calm.

We plan to have one more overnight sail to the mainland of Spain, spend time going down the coast then on through the Strait of Gibraltar and out of the Mediterranean. We can’t spend long in Spain because we need to be though the Strait of Gibraltar around the beginning of October, due to weather, which is just about 2 weeks away.  So it seems we will be quite busy seeing as much of Spain as we can in the next two weeks before we head out of the Med and then on to Morocco. 

A mess of new photos.....

Here's some photos of the last few weeks:

https://picasaweb.google.com/113026732101294272024

We've been moving a lot the last weeks in the Spanish Balearic Islands of Menorca, Mallorca and now heading to Ibiza. We'll try to post some blogs soon!

~ Hems

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Ciao Italia!

It's hard to believe we’ve been in Italy for two months already! (Except for a small detour to Malta for a couple weeks) And while Italy isn’t really a boating or cruising destination per se……as we’ve mentioned in other blogs, our overall impression of Italy is fantastic. Whatever it misses in "cruising grounds" it more than makes up for in sheer epic places like Rome and Florence. The history is out of control. The people are super friendly and helpful and we absolutely loved staying near Rome and taking a road trip north into Pisa and Florence. It was really great staying on the river in Fiumicino and a big thanks to Max and Enrico for all your help and letting us stay, I hope our paths cross again!!

So, after dragging our feet a few days waiting for what looked like the right weather sending us west, we left under the bridges at “0-dark-30” Friday morning. Once we were through the two bridges and into the ocean, we were treated with some big leftover waves right on our nose as we headed out and through most of the first day of the passage. This was to be our longest passage to date with almost 400 miles to go and while we were going through the Bonifacio Straight, the passage between the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, we weren’t planning to stop, just continue on to the island of Menorca, Spain.

The trip was pretty uneventful, with the typical range of weather for the Med, rolly waves the first day, very light winds on days 2 and 3, too light to sail, so mostly motoring and then medium to strong winds the last 24 hours which we were able to sail, but with 20’ waves coming from the side, made it pretty uncomfortable and we all skipped a couple meals and were really glad to pull into a flat anchorage on Menorca at 0600 on day 4. Having an amazing sunrise out at sea didn't hurt one of the mornings!


A big breakfast was had by all followed by some mid-morning naps!

So, we’re in the Balearics and after a day to catch up……we’ll be exploring the islands.

Thanks for your love, support and prayers!

~Hems

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Looking out over St. Peter's Square

Video from inside St. Peter's basilica

videoThis is the biggest church in the world......to give you some perspective, the statue of liberty can fit INSIDE the dome. Pretty awe inspiring in there. Levi and I hiked to the top of the dome, and were able to look all over Rome. Hey....that rhymes!

View From inside the Colesseum

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Florence and Tuscany

Florence and Tuscany
How do you describe something that has been written about, filmed, painted, and made into legend a thousand times?
There’s not much I can add to all that, except that it is every bit as beautiful as we thought and had imagined and were so glad we made the effort to make the road trip. The country had a very relaxing feel just driving though it with the windows down. We made a pit stop at an amazing winery for some wine tasting, a picnic, and found an ice cream/gelato shop that was rumored to be ‘the best’.

I’m not a big foodie, and don’t claim to be an ice cream connoisseur, but she had a dark chocolate gelato there that absolutely changed my life! Thanks Sylvia from “Ostello del Chianti” for the recommendation and the encouragement for our adventure, all the best to you and your son on your journeys.

We stayed in another youth hostel in Tuscany and its location in a small village was epic. It was nice and cool in the mountains and we all slept like rocks. Touring does that, lots and lots of walking and fresh air all day (like we don’t get that on the boat :), but you wind up with big appetites and sleep great! 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Road trip

As we mentioned a few blogs ago.......our first adventure was a road trip north to Pisa and Florence with our sailing friends from Imagine, the Adams'

Our first stop was Pisa, and we found a youth hostel which was a lot less expensive than the other options, and it was a clean place, packed with shoe-string, back-packing youths. With our group, we filled two rooms, so didn’t have to share rooms with strangers.
We set out for the tower of Pisa, and had a wander through some really epic, quaint shopping areas on our way.
Coming near the tower, the kids spotted it first and all started shouting how out of place the tower looked. When you come around the corner and first see it, it is truly amazing. You really have to do a triple look, and it’s crazy to see such an old ornate building looking like it’s about fall over!
The whole area is surrounded by grass and loads of people hanging out and relaxing and of course taking millions of pictures of each other ‘holding’ up the tower and messing around.
We took our share of goofy photos and made a pit stop for some scrumptious pizza, and I was glad to find someone who likes pizza as much as I do. Marc, the dad from Imagine could eat it 3 times a day like me, so it there was going to be a LOT of pizzas over the next few days…..fine by me!

We’re working on some photo albums, and will get them uploaded when we get to some free internet…..

~Hems