Saturday, October 29, 2022

Onto the Canary Islands!

It's been a couple of weeks since our last update, and we have done and seen so much!  Lots more time in Morocco, and then a passage to the Canary Islands.

We had a wonderful time in Tangiers, Morocco and spent a week getting acquainted with all that city had to offer.  The Medina (old town) was amazing and there was a huge variety of local crafts people that were available to help us make/fix things that we needed for the boat.  The sites, smells and sounds of the old town were beautiful.

 Micah and Aria had the opportunity to ride camels and horses on the beach (5 minutes from our marina).  They were in heaven.

Oyai was all tucked into the modern marina in Tangiers.  We met many folks from other cruising boats here as well.  We were all waiting for good weather to head south to the Canary Islands.

In our wanderings through the spectacular Medina, we were constantly amazed by the kindness of people and how clean the streets were kept.  The streets would sometimes narrow down to the width of two people walking side-by-side.  Muslim prayers were broadcast on loudspeakers throughout the city 5 times per day, and became part of our daily rhythm.


We indulged in another traditional Moroccan dinner that was so uniquely tasty!  Oranges with cinnamon, pomegranate with lemon and many other different savary flavours.  It was amazing.

This is our restaurant in the Medina - a beautiful view from on top of the ancient city wall!

The Kasbah Museum was also very interesting with a really well-preserved palace and gardens at the highest point in the walled city.

We met a new friend in the Kasbah.  He looked like he had been tending to the gardens there for many years.

While we were in Tangiers, there was an international Triathlon event held a few minutes down the beach from us.  Also, on this waterfront promenade, near our marina, there was a new fountain feature that had been created.  Micah took full advantage of the water because it reminded her of the play fountains in Nice, France.

We had been monitoring the weather for our southern passage to the Canary Islands, and it had shown lots of wind going in the wrong direction for weeks.  So when a relatively calm stretch of weather showed up, we jumped at the opportunity to make our way south using our trusty diesel engine (mostly).  

It was a mellow 4 day trip.  Lana, Stu and Aria took turns doing watches and the hours flew by.  We played lots of games, read lots of books and listened to music and audiobooks.  

We have been asked about pirates off of the African Coast, but this is not an area where pirate attacks happen (luckily!).  Its much more likely that we would have encountered a ramshackle migrant boat full of people trying to escape from Africa to the Canary Islands.  Thankfully we didn't have to rescue anybody. 
We also had an incredible visit from a huge pod of dolphins on our last day at sea.  They hung around for about 15 minutes and were jumping, riding our bow wake and turning their bodies so they could get a good look at us (as we were gawking at them!).

We arrived to the Canaries at dawn on our 4th day at sea.  The weather is quite a bit warmer here, and the winds much more consistent from the north.  The Canary Islands have been described as having a climate of perpetual spring, and we can see why.  Its the perfect temperature.  The landscape is very volcanic and rugged.

We will now be in the Canary Islands for about 3 weeks while we wait for the start of our rally that will take us across the vast Atlantic Ocean.  We have signed up for the ARC 2022, a rally that has 200 boats participating.  We will all cross the Atlantic together and have many social events in Las Palmas (on Grand Canary) prior to the start of the sailing.  The kids are really looking forward to hanging out with other kids.  Stu and Lana are very interested in the instructional seminars offered on all topics sailing.  There is also happy hour, a costume party and many other social events.  It should be awesome!

We are eagerly anticipating the arrival of our crew from Comox as well!  Amelia is Aria & Micah's sailing coach from back home and has been so helpful in arranging logistics and bringing things we need from home.  James is an experienced sailor as well, and just a great all-around guy.  He has been renting our house back home, so is helping us in more ways than one!  We can't wait to see you guys.

Please click on follow at the top right of the blog.  I think you need a Google account.  Also, feel free to comment on anything you see here on the blog.  Stay tuned and follow along in our ongoing adventure!  

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Goodbye Gibraltar. Hello Morocco!

 The 3 weeks we spent in Gibraltar were amazing and we got lots of tasks done on the boat.  Lana worked hard at provisioning the boat for the Atlantic crossing and even joined a gym for a week.  The girls had unparalleled freedom in Gibraltar, and wandered the streets freely as a team, which they loved. 

We had some interesting company in the marina and there was a huge super yacht that used to be owned by a Russian Oligarch (not sure which one).  It was seized and auctioned off for half its value (a paltry 30 million!).  Every day we would walk past it and admire the infinity pool on its back deck!

There was also one last round of family 10 pin bowling.  The girls had improved so much in the 4 games we played.  Maybe there is a future professional bowler in our family?

But, it was time to move on and see someplace new.  So we untied from the comfy marina in Gib, and headed 30 nautical miles to Tangiers in Morocco.  The Strait of Gibraltar acts as a wind tunnel and is notoriously windy with a fair bit of current to make the sailing spicy.  So we timed our trip with some good wind (going in the correct direction) and a minimal amount of current.

The wind in the Strait was predictably strong and maxed out at about 30 knots.  It was a bit bumpy, but the sailing was fantastic, and we made it to Tangiers in record time.  Here is a quick video of the crossing shenanigans.

The happy crew upon our arrival into Tangiers.  The port is lovely and very new in Tangiers - it was built just prior to COVID.

Once checked in and tied up snugly in the marina, we ventured out into the old town Medina of Tangiers.  It was beautiful and packed with interesting nooks and crannies.  This photo is taken from a prominence in the Medina and looks back out over the marina where Oyai is moored.  

First stop:  Traditional Moroccan dinner with Cinnamon Chicken Couscous, and Lemon Chicken Tangine.  So delicious!

Wandering around town, we discovered endless street markets and local culture.  You can find everything from school supplies to fresh meat and underwear within the same stalls.  The family has all been very engrossed in absorbing the local sights and sounds that are around every corner.  Everyone here is very helpful and friendly.  We occasionally are approached to come look at Moroccan rugs, but we politely decline and everyone parts as friends :)

Micah has been asking to have a pet chicken on board Oyai for a couple of months now (seriously).  We thought she was kidding at first, but she is very committed to this plan.  Here we came across some live chickens for sale and she got very excited!

Lana took the girls to a Moroccan Spa/Hammam.  Lana enjoyed the vigorous exfoliation and relaxation, but the girls were less than impressed with the scrubbing experience.  Lets just say that they won't be asking to go to the Spa again in Morocco.  Live and learn.

We will stay in Tangiers for about a week while we wait for suitable weather to blow us south towards the Canary Islands.  It's about a 4 day trip and we will likely leave sometime next week.  Stay tuned for more Morocco adventures, and please consider following our blog and leaving any comments you'd like to share!  Until next week...

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Thankfulness during our Gibraltar Time

We have been spending the last 2 weeks enjoying some "downtime" in Gibraltar.  It has given us time to reflect on all the things that are truly important in life.  Family, friends, happiness and good health!  There is so much we are grateful for and being together on this grand adventure reminds us of how lucky we are.  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

We have settled into a routine of home-schooling, fixing things on the boat, and preparing for our upcoming offshore passage to the Canary Islands and beyond.  This is what our typical mornings look like: the kids doing school work, and Lana offering support while making frozen pre-prepared meals for our crossing.

This is the dockside view from the stern of Oyai.  This is looking towards the town, and the Rock of Gibraltar.  There are nice hot showers at the end of this dock that we frequent!  We have met lots of other cruisers in the marina who are mostly heading south like we are planning.  We are looking forward to crossing the Atlantic Ocean in the company of 200 other boats as part of the ARC Rally.  It'll be very social!

We hiked around the east side of the Rock on "The Mediterranean Steps".  It's a beautiful walk up a 300 year old trail that was used as a lookout trail by the English Navy.  The limestone cliffs surrounding the hike and the sheer drop-offs that skirt the trail keep things very exciting.

The monkeys at the top of the Rock never disappoint.  They are so habituated to humans that you can walk right up to them.  We were lucky so see a baby monkey this time.

The monkeys sit and scamper on the thinnest of ledges hundreds of feet above the ground.  They think its no big deal, apparently.

Sometimes they give you a signal that you're getting too close.  Watch this clip to see the round-mouth warning that we were getting up in their space.

We've all had this feeling :)

The limestone of the Rock lends itself well to tunnelling and cave formation.  The St. Michael's Cave is very impressive and huge.  It's lit up in interesting ways to make it more engaging.  This was our second visit and it was just as good this time around.

There is a legendary "angel" formation inside the cave that is about 6 meters tall.

There is an awesome rec centre about a 5 minute walk from our marina.  It has bowling, climbing, movie theatres, and an arcade.  The whole family has been known to wander down to the arcade for some high-action gaming.

We are keeping busy fixing and upgrading things on Oyai as well.  Sailboats are notoriously high-maintenance, but with a well-made boat these tasks are much easier and more enjoyable.  Our winches and furlers are electric and have been very reliable, but occasionally need attention.  Here is the foresail furler motor out for repairs.

Going up the mast is always exciting.  Stu did a rigging inspection before our upcoming passage, and things up top looked ship-shape.

We have spent lots of time improving the boat as well.  Here is a spanky new mainsail that we had made and shipped to us in Gibraltar.  So pretty!

Aria has taken an interest in photography over the last couple of months.  She is very creative and is getting some great shots already.  Micah is, of course, her favourite subject.  Here is a sample of their work.

We are planning to head across the Straight of Gibraltar and stay in a marina in Tangier, Morocco for a few days.  We will wait there for a good weather window to head directly to the Canary Islands.  Its about a 4 day sail in open water because there aren't many opportunities to moor on the western Moroccan coast.  We will take lots of footage of that crossing so stay tuned!  

Monday, October 3, 2022

Some Mountain Time for Lana!


While Stu, Aria and Micah were exploring Granada I had the opportunity to meet up with my amazingly fun friends Chris and Dawn (from Squamish) in the southern Dolomites. I left the boat in Motril and made my way to the airport in Malaga, Spain to catch a 9am flight. By noon I was in Venice, Italy, met up with Dawn and Chris at the train station and then we were off to Madonna di Campiglio, a ski resort town in northern Italy. It was quite the transition from the hot weather on the coasts of Spain to the snowy mountains of Italy.

We took a gondola up into the mountains where they had had about 10cm of snow a few days before we arrived. Chris had planned our adventures, doing tons of research beforehand. Many thanks go out to him for this! He booked the mountain huts in advance too. Though several were closed as it was the end of the season there were still options that worked for us. Following the via ferratas was fairly straightforward with signs at most junctions and red/white marks with your route number painted on the rocks. 

We had stunning bluebird days to start and hardly saw any other people. The limestone mountains have been explored by several generations of climbers and we could see different options all around us. From hiking paths to via ferratas to serious climbs, the possibilities were endless.

There were lots of smiles. The sun felt amazing and we lingered in spots to take it all in.

Puffy jackets, toques and long johns came out as well as our crampons for some steep snowfields and icy rock and snow sections. 

By our third day in the mountains the clouds were starting to creep in closer. We would start our days in the fog at a mountain hut but could quickly climb our way up above the mist. It was surreal looking down on a sea of white.

The via ferrata routes made the rocky terrain climbable without ropes. Ladders and cables helped us get through the tricky parts.

The picture doesn't reflect how exposed this traverse is! The sheer rock dropped off endlessly beneath my feet.

Here is one of the huts we stayed at. It was always exciting to spot the hut way off in the distance.

The food in the huts was a highlight after a big day. Dinners and breakfasts were included with our hut fees, usually around 50 euros. As well we were assigned a cosy bunkbed with a fluffy duvet. It was chilly up in the rooms but the dining areas were very warm. A couple of the huts had pay showers but water is a precious resource and very limited in supply. 

Each hut is owned by a different family and their meals often reflected their favourite recipes.

One of our favourite huts had a ceramic surround to the fireplace. It was the best, especially since the weather was changing and we had snow on our last night. We adjusted our plans and took a hiking route rather than a via ferrata to our next destination. The snow, ice and especially the thick fog would have made the higher rock routes too dangerous for us to traverse.

Even though the weather forced us onto a hiking route for the last 2 days rather than a via ferrata it was still incredibly beautiful. After snowing the previous evening the weather cleared for our hike out.

We gradually wound our way down through the rocks and alpine into the forests. Hidden from view off the path we found a glacially cold swimming hole fed by waterfall. After 5 days of no showers we felt that a quick dip was required. No photos of the actual plunge but it felt so good (and painful)!

Thank you to Dawn and Chris for helping tick this off my bucket list. Though, it really just made me realize that after our sailing adventures I would love to bring the family to share in the mountains too. 

Goodbye Oyai & Hello New York City!

After leaving Annapolis, we explored the eastern shore of Chesapeake Bay for a couple of weeks.  We sailed to a quaint little town called St...