June/July 2008 Letter

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We spent one week in Horta waiting for it to stop raining.  It was quite a storm that blew over, bringing 35 knots winds.  Our primary goal for visiting Horta was to get the step-down transformer that we need in order to use European power in the marinas we will be visiting these next few years.  So we were happy to get that accomplished.  Then, when the sun finally came out, we threw off the lines and enjoyed a beautiful sail to Sao Jorge.  We got a slip in the cute little town of Porto das Velas.  Walked around the cobblestone streets and found a great cafe for dinner.  Delicious food.  Ray ordered something that had a mushroom gravy that he talked about for weeks.


The following evening we set sail for an overnight to Terceira.  Got a slip near our friends on s/v Severance in the marina at Angra do Heroismo.  A festival was starting in a couple of days, so we decided to stay around for awhile.  Ended up spending 9 days here.  We walked to the castle, got a tour of the military fortress and saw many historic buildings in the city.  

We rented a car to drive to the U.S. Air Base on the other side of the island.  Ray thought he and Mike might be able to get into the commissary with their Retired Fed Creds.  After a lot of waiting, paperwork, red tape and hassle, we got onto the base.  But even with the assistance of an officer there, we were unable to make a purchase at the commissary.  All those wonderful American products just inches from us!!  Oh well, we took advantage of having the car and toured the island, stopping for lunch in Vitoria.

We enjoyed many late evenings of eating, drinking and enjoying the festival.  The festival had colorful parades, food, crafts, live bands and entertainment all over town.  Large outdoor stages and sound systems were set up at the marina, so the music played late into the night.  We saw the bulls released down by the waterfront one day and again in the streets on another day.  It is apparently a tradition where the men tease the bulls and run in front of them to show how brave they are.  The ambulances were standing by.  I saw them carry away two bloody fellows.  Mike decided not to try it.


On June 25, we left Terceira and sailed overnight to Sao Miguel.  The beautiful new marina was not yet open, so we had to raft up, 3rd boat out, in the boatyard.  Not the best situation, but it was certainly a beautiful island.  The most beautiful of the islands we visited.  We rented a car for 2 days and toured the island with our new friends Magne and Wendy from s/v Tropic Bird.  We saw incredible views, waterfalls, lakes, volcanoes, hot springs, flowers, winding roads through green rolling hills and countryside.  It was breathtaking.  I loved it.


I baked a cake and we set sail for Leg 3 of our Atlantic Ocean crossing.  It would take us 7 days to reach Portugal.  We did not anticipate any foul weather, but I still wanted to check in with Herb daily for an up-to-date forecast.  Unfortunately, the propagation was awful and I never did reach him the entire week.  So we just followed a straight line to our destination.  We had several days with a large swell on the beam which caused us to rock quite a bit.  We can't sleep well or cook easily in those conditions, so once again it was very tiring.

The worst thing that happened was that our generator quit working.  We didn't realize it at the time, but the problem was that we had run out of fuel.  How is that possible?  We had full tanks and only ran the generator for a few hours.  Turns out we had the switches set wrong.   While the gen was running we had pumped all of the fuel in our aft tank into our mid tank, which was already full, so it overflowed the entire amount into the Atlantic ocean.  Expensive mistake.  Unfortunately, it did something to the generator that we couldn't resolve by bleeding the air out of the lines.  The guys tried everything to no avail.  We'll probably have to wait until we get to Gibraltar to find a Fischer-Panda technician.

Mike and Ray saw a large whale about 30 feet from the boat.  I was down below and couldn't grab the camera and get up in time to see it.  Darn, darn, darn!  I really wanted a good close up of a whale!

As we got closer to Portugal, we encountered many freighters going in all directions.  Our last night underway was very dark with lots of fog.  It was incredibly stressful to have 8 freighters on the radar screen at one time.  Especially when you can't see them with your eyes.  We were constantly altering our course to stay out of their way.


At 6 a.m. on Saturday, July 5, Mike woke us up to prepare fenders and dock lines.  We had arrived at Cascais, Portugal!  We left Florida almost 2 months ago.  We had traveled 3,978 nautical miles and spent 32 days underway.   Cascais is a beautiful modern marina with slips but it costs $88 per night vs. $22 per night in the Azores.  Then we did 4 loads of laundry and paid $86!  Ouch!  People weren't kidding when they said it would be expensive over here.  But it is beautiful.


We took a train to Lisbon the next day.  Toured a palace, did some shopping and ate lunch at a lovely sidewalk cafe.  There was a military recruitment exhibition going on in the plaza, so Mike and Ray enjoyed looking at all the tanks and guns and things.  We couldn't see much in one day.  We may have to return to Lisbon another time to appreciate more of this city.

The next day we took the bus to Sintra which was described to us as a magical place.  I couldn't agree more!  It was wonderful.  We toured the palaces and castles, walked the streets, and felt the magic.  Even Ray found his ultimate dessert .. a rich chocolate cake with whipped cream topped with cream puffs and drizzled with chocolate sauce.


Our next trip was an overnight sail to Portimao, Portugal.  We suffered through an uncomfortable swell rocking us mercilessly though the night.  We were grateful to pull into the marina in Portimao to get some rest.  This is a resort town.  Doesn't have the old buildings or romantic feel of the other places we have been.  We took advantage of the dinner special at the marina restaurant and I ate grilled sardines.  Something new for me.  Not bad.  We were able to find a little cafe for breakfast and Ray was able to get his much-desired sausage and eggs.


We set sail at 3 p.m. for an overnight sail to Rota, Spain.  Thank goodness it was an easy sail.  Nice, flat seas.  We stayed in the marina here for 2 nights, enjoying a beautiful dinner out, and an early morning walk on the beach.  Since we are now in Spain, we decided to buy a SIM card for our cell phone.  We walked into town and stood in line for over 2 hours only to find out that I need my passport to buy a SIM card!  My passport was on the boat.  Oh, forget it.


We set sail at midnight and arrived in Gibraltar the next afternoon.  Our friend Mike Mak on s/v Agua, a brand new Lagoon 4200 catamaran, and his guest Marquise greeted us on the dock.  We promptly went over to his boat and enjoyed drinks and snacks.  Then Mike treated us all to dinner at a Chinese restaurant.  We have been communicating with Mike ever since we met in Costa Rica 2 years ago.  We also met Richard and Joan on s/v Challenge, the other American boat in the marina.  All of us hiked the Rock of Gibraltar and saw the monkeys at the top, and the incredible view, of course.

We had a technician take a look at our generator.  The generator starts, but it takes a long time to come up to speed and then it won't take a load.  He thinks our problem is the windings.  He called another guy to come out who could do the work.  We waited a week for the guy to come out.  We don't know what he thought because he didn't speak English, but he didn't agree with the first guy.  We couldn't get the local Fischer-Panda technician at all because he is booked for over 2 months.  Mike decided to call Fischer Panda technical assistance in the U.S. as a shot in the dark before we incurred huge expense here.  He described what happened and what we've been told by the other technicians.  Amazingly, they had a simple suggestion that Mike tried and the generator started purring like a kitten again.  What!!???   We are still wondering why we didn't just call them first.  Thankfully, the other guys didn't charge us anything for their service calls because they had not diagnosed the problem correctly.

Ray felt it was time to return home to California.  He's been cruising with us for 2 months.  It was great to have Ray on board for our voyage.  He was willing to do whatever was needed, he took the midnight watch the entire time, he and Mike never ran out of things to talk about, he is neat and tidy, and he liked my cooking!  You couldn't ask for better friend or crew.  Thank you, thank you for joining us on this trip.

This past week, we have been hanging out with Mike Mak and Marquise.  Hiking the rock and taking the tours, shopping and eating out.  We walked across the border into Spain to go to a carnival one evening, and saw a huge fireworks show the following evening.  And now we are ready to continue on our journey up the coast of Spain in the Mediterranean Sea.  We leave Gibraltar today (July 25).  Until next update, love to all.


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