Saturday, January 28, 2012

Dominica, Caribbean

Hello all from Dominica!

Dominica is the island where Christopher Columbus first made landfall. (on a Sunday, thus the name) The guidebooks say that if Columbus came back today, Dominica is the only island he would recognize. We don't know since this is our first stop, but I will say it is absolutely gorgeous! Thick jungle, vines and trees carpeting the hillsides. Since we're on the 'leeward' (downwind) side, thick clouds come spilling over the peaks all day and it makes for incredible scenery, always changing.

View from the boat, sunrise :)

The morning after we arrived in Dominica from the crossing, Pancho, the guy who owns the moorings we were tied up to brought over a bag of fresh bread and a bunch of grapefruits. Since we ran out of bread and fruit a while back, it really hit the spot until we could get into town. 

It's been great being near land again, a really calm anchorage, and we took a tour inland to stretch our legs after sitting on the crossing. We hooked up with a few other boaters anchored out in the bay and we all went in on a van to do some sightseeing. 

We were able to hike to some waterfalls, and saw some bubbling sulpher hot springs. The highlight was definately swimming up a dark canyon in a chilly fresh water river and climbing up waterfalls. Actually, the best part was jumping back down the waterfalls, and getting swept down river! Levi, Emma and I really enjoyed going up there and the water was so clean we just sat there drinking it!

The little ones didn't go up the river, they were happy to play in a shallow pool at the mouth, and enjoy the hillsides. Dominica is a thick jungle and it reminded us all of Costa Rica,  

We also stopped by a roadside restaurant for lunch and had a great meal of chicken, plantains (hard bananas cooked like potatoes) and rice. There was a few mysterious fruits on the plate as well, which were all great.

So, we're hanging out here for a few days, and starting to make our way north. We have been trying to plan our route and future, a daunting task for sure, but we'll let you know as we know :)

Friday, January 27, 2012

Photo update

Here's some photos from the Crossing. You can see them all at:

Levi and Emma relaxing up deck. 

'Big Daddy' we couldn't believe hedidn't break our line!
Miles excited about halfway!

Emma and Miles hanging out.
Zoe reelin' in some fish :)
Rachel our hero!!

Land HO!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Atlantic overview :)

We made it!!
Psalm 107:30 - Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and HE brought them to their desired port! 

First off, a huge thank you to all the boaters, family and friends who have supported us in this undertaking, As it turns out, crossing the Atlantic ocean on a sailboat with 6 children is an extremely large and epic adventure, who'd of thought? We weren't able to read all the comments people have been leaving on the blog until we'd arrived and were totally blown away by all the people who have been thinking, following, and praying for us! THANK YOU!

We NEVER thought we would tackle a task this size when we first started on the boat almost 3 years ago. The feeling is almost impossible to describe, and it is an enormous sense of accomplishment. I think it's been great for our kids to feel that, and to know that they can handle large dreams and projects. I mean, I don't know too many teenagers who have helped sail their families all night across an ocean, a week of hand-steering, night watches for hours by themselves in the inky black of the cockpit, and Maggie and Levi have done amazingly! I am very proud as a father when I see how our family rose to the adventure and each of us dug down to something in themselves that I think everyone wonders whether it is there or not. Also a test of our ability to trust in our Creator, when we are so out of our element, and are forced to trust in His provision and protection.

Rachel, what can I say? I don't know any woman like her in the world. She's been an amazing rock for us everyday, cooking cleaning, straightening up, helping us all survive. I can't believe she agreed to come with me out here and the fact we're here is a testament to what true love will do. I certainly could not conceive of this adventure without her, and I am truly a man blessed beyond what he deserved. I still can't believe she went for this?!

Emma came to life on this passage, and although she is always helpful, it's a bit different when you're pitching and rolling in the seas. She was such a help with Miles and Lily and Zoe, I can't even tell you, putting them to bed, helping with food, even when we were all feeling sick, you would never believe she's only 11. I think all of us have been walking a little taller since we've arrived in Dominica, and I think rightfully so.

We'd heard from others that you eventually settle into a rhythm of your own 'out here' and we all decided that was true. We really got in tune with the boat and it felt like for a little while, nature as well. We got to see billions of stars every night, and got to where as we were tracking the constellations, we could tell what time it was. Timing the moonrise, sunrise, the feel of the sea, and the nights with seemingly endless streams of phosphorescence trailing behind our boat like a glowing roadway. Amazing! We felt very small, especially near the middle of the crossing when we were at least 1000 miles from anywhere, a very isolated and intense feeling.

Getting routines for food, eating, and washing dishes every night on the back deck. Naps, listening to the creaks and sounds of the boat and the sea. It was fun to think what everyone else has been doing these weeks, coming and going, all while we've been sitting in the same 400 square feet the whole time, day and night. Listening to hundreds of hours of music, and I think we've sat around and discussed every imaginable subject under the sun. Twice. We actually ran out of things to say and sat for many hours thinking. and thinking.

So we thought we'd try and break down the crossing by the numbers and have some laughs......

~ Meals made at sea: 55
~ Miles Sailed: 2165
~ Packages of wet wipes for cleaning, diapers, spills, etc: 28 PACKAGES!!
~ Boxes of cereal: 21
~ Pounds of fruit consumed: 19
~ Fish caught: 5
~ Fish needed: 3 :)
~ Chocolate bars consumed: 27
~ Rain Squalls: 8
~ Rolls of toilet paper consumed: 51!
~ Sudoku puzzles solved: 56
~ Books read: unknown
~ Gallons of diesel used: 26
~ Gallons of water for cooking, cleaning AND drinking: 122
~ Hours spent in the cockpit: 512

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Sunday, January 22, 2012


Position: 15*17N 61*22W
Speed: 0 knots
Miles Sailed: 2165
Miles to Go: 0!

WE DID IT!! After 17 days and 6 hours, we're exhausted but really happy to be here.

We are sitting at anchor in Dominica, safe and sound. We arrived at 10:45 pm, and are sitting in the cockpit, drinking coffee, eating chocolate, and enjoying NOT moving! :)

Thank you ALL so much for all your prayers, we'll send another update as soon as we can, for now.....we're sleeping!

~ sevensailors

Friday, January 20, 2012


Position: 15*17N 58*19W
Heading 282*
Speed: 6.6 knots
Miles Sailed: 1978
Miles to go: 177!

Today's update is from Maggie:

WE"RE ALMOST THERE!!! :D We only have like 170 more miles to go!! I can't wait to stop moving!! We've been going pretty fast these past few days and so we think if we can keep this speed (around 6.5 knots) we will be there sometime Saturday night!!

We were trying to think of ways to explain how it feels...the closest we came to explaining it....I think it feels like you are on a hammock for 2 weeks straight and you can't get off! Which is funny cuz I usually never spend like more than 20 minutes on one....Now I might be scared to ever get on another one ever again hahaha xD

So...we're all super excited to finally get there. I think we're planning on making Cinnamon rolls for breakfast the morning after we get there :) We'll finally feel up to eating a big breakfast again.

We caught another fish....a Mahi, it wasn't as big as the Blue Marlin but still we made dad throw it back in after we took a picture....we. just. cant. handle. anymore. FISH!!

We saw a boat today....A tanker ship. The first boat we've seen in over 10 days....that was our most exciting moment, hahaha, we all gathered outside to see it...we almost called them on the VHF just to hear their voices...but that might sound a little desperate, so we didn't.

Some other highlights from the last few days was Levi and Emma had a lemon eating/sour face contest (Emma won) and we figured out a way to shoot clothespins across the cockpit using bungy cords (Emma won that too)

So that's it......the next email will be when we make landfall!

~seven sailors!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Day 14

Position: 15*27N 53*44W
Heading: 283*
Speed: 5.7 knots
Miles Sailed: 1709
Miles to go: 454

Hello again! The wind feels like it's finally settled into a groove, now that we're almost there! We've had around 20 knots the last 3 days straight now, sometimes dipping down to 15 knots, so we're making good time, 135 miles a day or so.

Now we're sailing into the rain squalls, nothing too major, but the wind usually picks up to almost 30 knot gusts, sprinkles a bit of rain, and moves on. It's fun to watch them during the day, overtake us and head off into the horizon. At night, it's not so fun as we try to reef the sails in, so we're not fighting them, and then let them back out, to make the best time we can.

Last night on my watch, Emma was staying up with me and a rouge wave splashed into the cockpit and we were both soaked to the bone! So today was drying out cushions, straightening up, and putting it back together. Fun fun!

Everyone else is great, very excited to get there, and if the wind holds, it looks like a late Saturday arrival, if not, Sunday morning. We'll ALL be making a beeline for the showers and some celebration pizza!

Thanks again for all the prayers!

~seven 'soggy' sailors :)

Monday, January 16, 2012

Day 12

Position: 15*33N 49*27W
Heading: 270*
Speed: 5.6 knots
Miles sailed: 1458
Miles to go: 690

Getting closer! The weather has calmed a bit today after 3 pretty strong days. The most we saw was over 30 knots on a night watch! We were able to make good time with the winds, and it looks like they pick up again tomorrow. It's kind of a mix, we like calmer seas with light winds, but we want to get there as well, so I guess today is a little break.

We have still been eating the marlin we caught a few days ago, and the crew is about to mutiny if we eat it much more. I guess we'll leave the last steaks in the freezer a few more days :) Try some chicken. Tonight is black bean tacos, & mexican rice.

Thanks everyone for the emails of encouragement, it gives us something to do every other day when we check email, and feels great to keep in touch.

I guess that's it for now, tomorrow is 3/4 of the way, and we're still hoping for a Saturday night arrival in Dominica, weather permitting of course. We'll send another note on Wednesday.

Thanks for the prayers!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Day 10

Position: 15*14N 45*00W
Heading: 280*
Speed: 6.2 knots
Miles sailed: 1197
Miles to go: 942!
The wind showed up!
After a few light days, by daylight yesterday (Friday) the wind was up to 25+ knots and the seas were stirred up as well.
So much for a calm day for the halfway party! Oh well, we managed to grill burgers on the back deck, harnessed in, and had a feast anyway. We also dug out the M&M's and candies we stashed for the kids. We were all happy even though it has been pretty rolly out here. The wind stays this way until Monday and should calm down to 'normal'....... whatever that is!
Other than that, we're doing good, just chipping away at the miles, trying not to stare at the odometer. Finishing the last of our fruit, and it looks like some bananas will wind up in banana bread.
Water and fuel are good, we've only used 80 liters of diesel (20 gallons) and with the watermaker, have plenty of drinking water, with the ability to make more out of the sea as we need.
Thanks everyone!
Stacy - thanks for the cookie recipe :)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Day 8

Position: 15*34N 40*29W
Heading: 280
Speed: 5.5 knots
Miles Sailed: 930
Miles to go: 1196

Hey again! Almost halfway, and seems like the days seem to fill themselves. We thought we would be bored, but there is always something to do, clean, or fix. The girls, Emma, Lily and Zoe, are always busy playing something,

Levi went up the mast a couple days ago, (with a harness, mom) trying to change the bulb in our navigation light. The cover slipped out of his hand, and shattered on the deck. So, we're using our anchor light instead and keeping a sharp watch for other boats. We've only seen 2 in a week.

Good news......we seemed to have the autopilot working again (knock on fiberglass) after a lot of work getting a third motor installed. It's been going for 24 hours now and so far, it's keeping a straight course, and not overheating.

The big event today was catching a Blue Marlin! 80 pounds & 5 1/2' It was a tough fight for Levi, and we all spent almost 3 hours cleaning and grilling it up. We've still got 6 huge steaks in the freezer and we won't be fishing for a while! Rachel turned some of it into a fish chowder for supper tonight with fresh baked french bread. Smells pretty fantastic :)

Still waiting for steady wind, its been up and down around 8-12 knots.......but for sure will be here by tomorrow. No complaints, still making decent time, and thinking we might make landfall next weekend.

Keep us in your prayers!


Jean - We don't have a AIS transponder, only receiver, so we'll keep emailing our position.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Day 6

Position: 16*06N 37*00W
Heading 270*
Speed 4.8 knots
Miles sailed: 720
Miles to go: 1396

Hello everyone! Pretty uneventful the past few days, the wind has died down to under 10 knots for the past 24 hours, so sailing has been a bit slow going, so we motored a bit and got the batteries topped off. It looks like it supposed to pick up sometime during the night, so that'll be good.

The new motor in the autopilot we thought we had fixed sounds like it's on the verge of.........doesn't sound good. So, we've taken to hand steering 24 hours a day, not much fun during the night watches, but it keeps us awake :) We have one more motor Levi and I are going to try to make work, but it's taking some 'creative' engineering.

We have been catching fish!! Three in the past two days, all Mahi Mahi and on the grill, they are fantastic! Tomorrow is fish tacos, so we're excited for that!

The girls are starting to get bored and they are getting more creative with playing, now they are designing wallets for their dolls :)

I think that's it for now, looking forward to the halfway party Friday night. On the menu is mac 'n cheese and hamburgers!

See you soon!


Sunday, January 8, 2012

Day 4

Position: 15*53N 33*18W
Miles sailed: 489
Miles to go: 1610

Hello from Mehari Crew! We're sailing along. We've had good wind, and some swell from a leftover storm way north that is still pushing waves down to us. So, not the smoothest ride, but making good time. Today was 130 miles. Our last weather report shows the waves changing in our favor on Tue, so we're hoping for that :)

The highlight for today is we'll be halfway to halfway in a few hours, and we're already excited for the halfway party we have planned later this week!

The kids are doing great, the girls are working through their crafts, and the highlight of their day is when we run the engines after dinner to charge the batteries and they get to watch a movie. Emma has been an amazing help putting Lily and Zoe to bed and helping with the kitchen and Miles.

Maggie and Levi and I are keeping each other awake for night watches, and we're switching shifts after tomorrow night, so we all get a "chance" for the graveyard shift!

Rachel's doing amazing things in the kitchen every night, keeping us fed and last night was a Mexican noodle thing with fresh cilantro. Tomorrow's chili with fresh cornbread, so needless to say, another reason to count the hours :)

Love you all! Thanks for the continued prayers.


-Will, we'll need an update for what's happening after Wednesday if you get a chance.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Day 3 at Sea

Hi Everyone!

16.11.46 N 29. 02.10. W
248 miles traveled. 1856 miles to go. we are! We're all trying to get our sea legs. We're all feeling a little seasick but we're ok. Miles is the only one who has gotten sick so far.

Our autopilot went out the first night.Luckily, we had another motor to replace it....however we have been hand-steering most of the day trying to give it a rest and only use it at nights.

The girls have been busy doing puzzles and reading magazines. Mom managed to cook one mean so far other wise we've been eating fruit, bread and cereal.

We'll update again in a few days...
-The Hems

This e-mail was delivered via satellite phone.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bon Voyage!

After a year of planning, praying, provisioning, & getting outfitted, today we are setting sail for the Caribbean!

We have been watching weather, and putting it off a few days until the conditions seem just right and today is the day! We are expecting it to take 18 days, but would be OK if it took a few less :) We have our boat FULL of fuel, water, jerry cans lining the decks with more fuel and water, and have run out of things on our to do list.

The pantry is full of food, and yesterday, Rachel and Maggie did last minute shopping, and Levi and I did last minute boat projects.

This adventure is beyond anything we originally planned when we bought the boat, but many people have encouraged us that we can make this trip, THANK YOU for all of the support!

So, we’d love to continue to have all of your prayers as we cross and we will be sending updates at least every other day from a satellite phone giving our position, progress, and what 8 people do on a small boat in the middle of the Atlantic ocean! We have crafts, games, movies, school :( and each other! 

I think that will be enough.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Last Day on Land!

Yesterday, we took a trip to the south part of the island, with a group of friends, to spend the day at the beach and take a hike to a lighthouse, and stretch our legs for the last time in a long while.
Lily and Maggie in the truck ride :) 
We planned to take a bus, but as we were waiting for the bus, a pickup truck with benches in the back offered to drive us all straight there for 1000 “Escudos” (12$). Cheaper, and a bit more adventure, so naturally, we all jumped in. :) 

This was the pick-up we squeezed 20 people in!
The beach was absolutely gorgeous, and there was NO-ONE there! It was clean sand with a little surf, and a rock wall the kids played on, and we had a great day. The town we’ve been at for the last week and a half, Mindelo, always seems to be covered with clouds, but on the south side, it was sunny and not quite as windy as Mindelo.

The beach!!
The hike to the lighthouse was really cool, walking along a sheer cliff, and looking out over the ocean. The lighthouse was unused, and had some vandalism, but it was neat to see the building and the views were incredible.

On the hike up to the Lighthouse
By late afternoon, we hiked from the beach about a mile to the ‘town’ nearby and tried to arrange a taxi back to Mindelo. With our group is Juliano, a guy travelling around from Brazil. He’s crewing on Begonia, our friends Sebastian and Carla’s boat, and speaks Portuguese, so he usually gets stuck being everyone’s translator, but seems happy to do it.

Back in Mindelo, with a lot of sandy, hungry, tired, & sunbaked kids, pizza was definitely in order! So, after several trips back to the kitchen to order more pizzas, everyone was full, very tired, and happy. A great day!

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Happy New Year!

We wanted to wish all of our friends and family a happy new year and may your new year be blessed and filled with new challenges and opportunities!

We celebrated New Year’s, Cape Verde style, which we can personally testify is quite a party! The Cape Verdeans take New Year’s seriously and we could hear bands practicing all night on the 30th! By midafternoon on the 31st, streets were closed and stages we set up in several places around town. They had also set up a large fireworks area right next to the waters’ edge, so we were glad we’d waited for a few more days to be able to see how this culture celebrates!

All the kids from all the other boats, on New Years Eve acting silly!
We met for dinner at a small restaurant across from the water, Club Nautico, and they agreed to host us all for dinner. By the time we coordinated our group there was 35 people for dinner! They put together a simple menu for us, fish, chicken, or hamburgers, which the kids quickly claimed. It was good food, and as soon as we were done eating around 10:00 pm, they started collecting the plates and sort of hurrying us along, obviously wanting to get to partying themselves :) 

At 10:30 or so, Rachel offered to bring all of the kids from the other boats back to Mehari, and she made popcorn for them and put on a movie while Maggie, Levi, Emma and I went with the other adults to find a spot to watch the fireworks. Before dinner, the streets were empty, and we wondered if we had the date right or what. Then we found out none of the bands start or even take the stage until after midnight. It was going to be a long night!

Our fireworks show
The fireworks were crazy, because they were quite elaborate, but also because they were right in front of us! They were shooting up over the marina and the bay where we were anchored and Rachel said she couldn’t believe the fire-balls dropping all around the boat in the water! She was formulating a plan weather to grab a fire-extinguisher or a bucket of water if one landed on Mehari! Pretty scary! Thankfully, nothing landed on the boat.

After the fireworks, the bands started and now the streets were packed!! It was shoulder to shoulder people dancing, singing and having a great time! Levi and I danced with Maggie and Emma, and some of the other cruisers we were with. The band was a cool mix of African music, and Brazilian samba, and it was just a fun time. I took Emma back to the boat at 3:00 while Maggie and Levi stayed for the rest of the band. 

The stage downtown where everyone was hanging out til 3 am!

Hanging out with friends!

When I (Erik) was going back to town in the dinghy, the motor quit working, I had neither forward nor reverse, and I was drifting past the other boats, trying to “oar” with a flattened water bottle! What can’t this stuff happen in the middle of the afternoon?!
I was formulating in my mind what I was going to do, if I couldn’t get to another boat, as it was almost 2 miles to the other side of the bay, which would put me there at daylight and then try and find a taxi, bus, etc. etc. Thankfully, I drifted and paddled enough to get to a boat of an English couple Chris and Sue, aboard “Indie Plus” who we’d actually had dinner with earlier. They had just “put a kettle on” and were still awake at 3:30, and he was quick to lend a hand and take me back to get Maggie and Levi and get our dinghy to our boat. I will say boaters are some of the most helpful people in the world! And it’s an instant camaraderie as were all in this lifestyle together.

 So, once Maggie and Levi and I were back, it was now 4:00am and time to call it a night/day :)  Before going to sleep, Rachel and Emma played a few games of ‘Nerts,’ our family’s traditional New Years’ card game. All in all, a fun, unforgettable New Year, and going over the night’s events with Rachel back on the boat, I think we all fell asleep sitting on the couch, and stumbled to bed. The next day, was VERY low key, and a relaxing day watching movies, napping, then napping and watching movies. :)