Friday, July 29, 2011

Things You Notice In HortaMarina

2011 07 29

Waiting for Wind to Go to Graciosa
Waiting in Horta

Meredith  on the Kilroy Covered Wall at Horta, 
Pico in the Background
Rain today and no wind so plans to sail to Graciosa are in abeyance till the wind improves. With Euro prices for diesel it pays to stay at the marina and wait for wind.

Meredith amidst the Kilroys Holds Up Canada's End
A couple of things we notice about boats in the marina here in Horta, the mid atlantic gateway to Europe.

First is the absence of American boats.  There is one.  Two Hundred and some odd vessels here in Horta and one American.  We have met twenty or more Canadian boats in our time here.

Second is the heavy duty construction of the boats moored here.

Europeans sailing to the Azores to enjoy a bit of vacation must traverse 1,000 miles of open ocean or more, far more for the Germans.  Boats are ruggedly built and use no nonsense design.  Totally absent are the the light weight conveniences so prevalent back home: furling mains, power winches, light weight davits.  If davits cannot be welded to a steel hull they are not installed and even then the steel boats carry their dinghies on deck not on davits.

Ti Gitu is Junk Rigged, junk decked and all manual.
Built and sailed by Paul and Mo a couple in their mid 60s
whom we first met in Bermuda. 
No furling mains are to be found except on very large boats (60 or 70 feet in length) and those boats use in boom furling not in mast.  Reliability and bullet proof construction is a hallmark.

Ti Gitu in Profile - Interesting Boat
Boats are "junky" compared to North America.  Everything is secure but boat decks work harder here.

Sailing  families, some with two or three children, carry everything with them and most decks are fully allocated and well used.
Laundry Day on Waterhobo
Meredith fits right in.

Passat sailed from the Caribbean this year
by Esmond and Joan, in their 70s

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Converting to European Electrical Systems - a Poor Man's Guide

2011 06 26

Horta horta horta horta

While electricity is included in our marina fee until a couple of days ago we were unable to use the hookup. 

In Europe everyone uses 220 volt 50 cycle power.  In North America we use 120 volt 60 cycle.  The differences are huge.  There are inexpensive ways to safely use European power sources on your 110 volt North American boat.

Three solutions are available to the North American sailor presented in declining order of cost.  We use the last solution on Meredith to great effect:

1. Before you leave North American install an isolation transformer like the unit shown here.  These will cost you $1,000 to $2,500 plus installation.  If you choose this route hire an electrician.  With 220 volts the electricity has twice the force; It will kill you twice as fast and you will be twice as dead.

2. Spend less money and buy a "contractor's" isolation transformer like this one. This transformer is used in the UK by contractors on jobsites.  UK law requires that jobsites have only 110 volt power to reduce risk of death and injury and there is a good supply of these transformers about.

Cost is in the $350 to $400 range (MAYS sells one for $400 here in Horta).  The thing weighs just under 100 pounds and to use it you must modify your shore power cord by cutting off the old North American three prong male plug and installing a European 16 amp three prong male plug.  Not a complicated alteration.  Moving and storing the 85 pound transformer might be.

3.  Buy a European 12 volt battery charger and use your battery bank to power the 110 volt AC inverter which almost every North American boat has by now.   The charger powers the batteries and the batteries the inverter.  Total cost for high quality charger, extension cord and adapter so the extension cord could plug into the marina 220 volt supply was about 100 euros.

An off the shelf automotive battery charger is unlikely to be three stage but who cares.  Our solar panels use a controller which brings the batteries up to a good AGM voltage every day so we do not need the robust three stage charging our now generator driven built ibattery charger uses.

This solution cost us 115 euros for charger, extension cord and marina plug adapter but only because we chose a very rugged battery charge (76 euros).

Power to the People.

What is a Schengen and How Do I Deal with It?

2011 07 26  (Debt limit day - 7)

Click the diagram and it will grow
courtesy AXA Insurance Company

Some questions from readers prompted this quick post on the differences between the Schengen Zone and the European Community and of strategies for dealing with the 90 day rule.

First, Schengen  is the name of a town in Luxembourg where a bunch of European countries got together to try to improve trade and settle border issues once and for all.  The Countries to the Schengen Agreement are not the countries in the EU or European Union although almost all the EU is part of Schengen.  Most notably the United Kingdom is not part of all of the Schengen protocols.  The map above shows who joined what.

A list of countries in each group is at the end of this blog.

Strategies for Dealing with the 90 Day Visitation Rule

You cannot cruise all of Europe in ninety days.  The rule needs to be ninety days in each country however it is not.  If we were New Zealanders it would be but as we say the government of Canada screwed that up.

So what is a cruiser to do?

1. Go to a non Schengen country for 90 days of every six months.  Try Gibraltar which despite old descriptions of decrepit dangerous docks has apparently undergone a transformation.  Gibraltar is not a Schengen country so the 90 day clock stops for the time you are there.  Tunisia is another popular destination, not part of Schengen.  Although recent political events have people worried this concern is overblown and the marinas all have stout fences and guards with uzis or something.  (I'm joking.  Tunisia is perfectly safe or as safe as it ever was.  Like downtown Chicago or the docks of Marseilles)

2. Put your boat up at a European marina and go home for three months.  While Schengen only lets people stay for 90 days your boat can stay for 18 months.  A lot of cruisers like El Miramar marina in Spain for its reasonable rates while they return to North America.

3. Apply for a 12 month Visa.  This must be done at a consulate in your native country, for us Canada.  Reports vary on how easy it is to get a visa and Foreign Affairs Canada reports that you must have a reason for the extended stay such as Attending School or Working Legally at a Job.  Cruisers have neither excuse and vacation does not seem too pressing.

4. Overstay the 90 days.  This will put you at the mercy of every two bit undereducated tin pot dictator bureaucrat you ever run into.  Some people do this and live a fearful existence thereafter.  If you overstay you can be fined and deported at any time, possibly to lose their right to ever return to any Schengen zone country.

I don't know about you but we will not submit to such arbitrary measures.  The nice thing about the law is that it is a shield more than it is a sword.  If you are within the rules then no civilized jurisdiction can invoke objective enforcement of rules to force bribes or undertake actions with which you do not agree.

So stay legal and sleep well.

In fact Schengen is not cruiser friendly.  There are far too many Europeans and far too few North Americans cruising for them to care.  North Americans are a non issue.

List of Schengen countries


Czech Republic

List of EU Countries

Czech Republic
United Kingdom

Monday, July 25, 2011

You Don't Have to Believe Me, But....

2011 07 25

People are rightly concerned that Canadian (or Americans) cruisers can only stay in the Schengen Zone countries for ninety days of every six months. Several people have written in the short interval since the post to inform me that I am incorrect and that, for example, a Canadian gets 90 days in every country. 

Not so my friends.  Sadly, wishin' ain't gettin' folks.

A Canadian or an American is only permitted a ninety day stay in the entire Schengen Zone every six months.  It does not matter how many countries you visit.  It does not matter if you exit and re enter the Schengen zone.

From the first date stamp on your passport in any Schengen zone Country the clock is ticking.  Visit as many countries as you wish but for the six months after that date stamp you may only spend ninety days in the Schengen Zone.

Penalties are fines and, worse, denial of entry when you try to return to your boat.

There is no point accusing the messenger of being wrong.  That would be a truly significant event.

Canadians have no basis for arguing with Schengen Zone officials.  Our own government went much further and imposed a unilateral visa requirement on citizens of the Czech Republic, one of the Schengen Zone countries.  That was not well received, nor should it have been. 

It seems the parochial, short sighted and all powerful dark lord and master who runs official Canada with all the foresight and imagination of an economist sees no reason why any Canadian should ever leave the country.  If you want to see something visit the tar sands.  Now we're talking.

Here is some reference material for people who wish to verify that I am sane and comprehending.

1. EU Council Resolution
2. EU Website Discussion of Resolution
3. Foreign Affairs Canada Discussion of Visiting Schengen Zone Countries
4. Rod Heikell's Discussion of Non EU citizens visiting Schengen Zone Countries
5. Noonsite's  Discussion of Non EU citizens visiting Schengen Zone Countries.
6. NoonSite Email Discourse on How You Get Caught Overstaying a Schengen Zone Visa

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Clearing Your Canadian Boat into Europe Via the Azores

2011 07 24

When you leave Canada by boat you are always concerned about the rules for clearing that boat and yourself into another country.   Getting into Europe via the Azores is straightforward.

I say "via the Azores" for I believe the process might be different in different EU countries

What does it Cost?

Like Canada it costs nothing to clear into Europe by boat.  We may be the only two  jurisdictions left where that is the case.  The cost in the USA is slight ($20) but slated to rise dramatically as that government tries desperately to make someone pay for their dreadful and useless Homeland Security program.

What Documents are Required?

You will need the following:

  • Certificate of Registry for your Boat - This has been the first requested document in every country we enter.  Even before passports immigration and customs officials want to see your ORIGINAL Certificate of Registry.  If you have cheaped out and failed to registered your boat with the federal government just stay home. 
  • Passport for every person on board
  • Proof of Insurance - At least Third Party Liability Coverage.  Now I can tell you that in neither Flores nor Horta have been asked for proof of insurance but you must clear into and out of every port in Portugal and we expect fully that when we get to the continent we will be nailed on this.
  • Contract with the Marina - It is almost funny.  In Horta you first sit in the marina office and are issued a contract.  Then you walk across the hall to immigration, literally no more than 6 feet away, and the immigration official makes a photocopy of the contract you were just handed and places it in your file.

Figuring some of you might question my statement that proof of insurance is required I quote from the Noonsite summary of the Insurance Rules:

The first tenet is the requirement for vessels to carry insurance. While the overwhelming majority of leisure sailors insure their boats now, and charter boats are already covered by law, there are a significant proportion of long range cruising sailors who don't carry insurance because of the expense. In the future they will be denied entry to any European port.

What is the Process

In Flores here is what you do:

Before you enter Azorean waters fly your Portuguese courtesy flag and below it your yellow quarantine flag.  This is different from other countries where usually you do not fly the courtesy flag until you have been cleared.  Fly the courtesy flag above the q flag.
Enter the marina at Lajes.  It does not matter what time of day or night.
Find a slip, any slip, and tie up
Go about your business.  There is no marina office, no custsoms office, no immigration office.

At some point during your stay one or more of the marina staff (we never saw one), immigration official, customs official or maritime police will visit your boat and take your particulars.  They will want to see your Certificate of Registry and your Passports.

It is very laid back in Flores.

In Horta, whether you have cleared into another port or not you do this:

Enter the port and tie up on the wall in front of the marina office.
Take your papers to the marina office and arrange moorage
Take your marina contract, passports, certificate of registry across the hall to immigration
When you are done with immigration you go to the next office down the hallway to customs and present your Certificate of Registry, passports and marina contract.

Effect of Clearing In

When you have cleared into a port you are cleared for travel throughout Europe without further restriction.  The UK, which has never played well with others, does not join in and you must clear separately into that island nation.

Clearing into Flores is not clearing into the EU.  No one stamps your passport in Flores but you have freedom of movement in a friendly inviting beautiful locale.

How Long Can I Stay?

You can only stay in the Schengen Zone countries for a maximum of 90 days in any six month period.  This is irregardless of exits and entries and IS NOT 90 DAYS IN EACH COUNTRY.  IT IS 90 DAYS FOR THE ENTIRE SCHENGEN ZONE.

Local immigration officials in Horta have suggested to us that the rule may be interpreted as 90 days in each country but we cannot find independent confirmation of this.

The high handed actions of our tyrannical prime minister the dark lord Stephen Harper in imposing visa restrictions on some Schengen Zone countries, like the Czech Republic, has not endeared Canada to Schengen Zone officials.  Other countries like New Zealand have agreements in place assuring them 90 days in each country.  Canada's visionary leadership, in the control of a bloody economists, cannot be bothered.  In Canada we float a ship of fools, at least on the bridge.

So it becomes a bit of a game if you want to cruise Europe for an extended time. 

This fact may decide whether we bother to stay and cruise or just go home.  The whole thing is rubbish.

Why Would I Clear Into Flores At All?

Approaching the Azores from North America Flores is both the northernmost and the westernmost island in the Azorean chain.  After Flores it is 120 nautical miles to the next island, Horta.

If you do not stop at Flores on the way by you will not return to it after you clear into Horta.  This would be a major mistake.

Flores is an early chance for a rest and recuperation.  Food fuel and restoration of the soul are all available here.

The marina is FREE.  It has no services yet but you can tie up to a secure floating dock among friendly boaters.

Do not listen to anyone who will tell you (and there are many many such people) that you cannot clear into Flores.  You can.  You should.  Tell them Bob said they were stupid and uninformed.

Rest up and head off to Horta when you are ready.

The Coward's Guide to Preparing and Outfitting for a Transoceanic Voyage

2011 07 10


Our first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, not really completed yet as we are only in the Azores, was filled with all the uncertainty and trepidation you would expect.  We are not fearless aboard Meredith and as faithful readers know our Family Motto is "Run Away".

As it turns out running away, especially in advance of trouble, is very effective navigation strategy and we highly recommend it.

So here is the coward's guide to how we prepared and planned.

Boat and Equipment

For the year prior to leaving we replaced and renewed equipment that was perfectly acceptable for light weight coastal cruising.  Here are the things we did:

  1. sails were examined thread by thread and repairs effected
  2. all standing rigging was replaced.  It was 25 years old and while showing no signs of failure was too old to trust.
  3. all running rigging was examined and every damaged sheet and halyard replaced.
  4. batteries were replaced - our old 325 AH Surrette battery was 5 years old and showing the signs
  5. mainsheet traveller replaced - the old Schaeffer required a mallete to move the car across the track, not acceptable on the open water
  6. rigid boomvang installed - this was a luxury but we needed the topping lift for a HF antenna rig
  7. Bottom was scoured, sanded, dressed and painted with good American poison.  We should be good for 2 years and will not have to worry about using the wimpy Euro formulations
  8. Our aging but working VHF radio was replaced with an AIS capable radio
Every single one of the above items contributed to a successful voyage.  There is not one major expense we incurred in this regard that we would not do again.

One item not on our list that might be on yours would be a full engine inspection by a qualified mechanic.  Only two years old and maintained strictly in accordance with factory specs the diesel had our full confidence.

When everything was replaced and renewed we had a survey done.  Not an insurance survey a real survey in which we told the surveyor to pull out all the stops.  If something was amiss we wanted to know.  The survey came back clean except for some simple housekeeping matters but it was good to know.

In spite of all of this and even though we did not travel through storms we suffered failures: the exhaust hose decided to show rot and separate from its thru hull about 12 days out, the battery ground wire arced and developed a fluctuating high resistance which gave us two and a half days of grief and serious worry.

Why No Water Maker?

Watermakers are very expensive, finicky to use and demanding of their owners.  They suck power out of your system like nobody's business. 

Instead we relied on Meredith's one hundred fifty gallon fresh water tankage to carry us across.  It was more than enough.

Meticulous measurement has pegged our consumption at something close to 4 gallons a day.

Rather than a watermaker we used substitution and conservation.  One of the "at sea" projects we undertook was the resurrection of our seawater pump, a hand pump at the galley sink that pulls water right out of the ocean.  Instantly we had all the water we needed for rinsing dirty pots, washing dishes and cooking.

Most vegetables and pasta are cooked with salt in the water anyway.  Seawater is a bit too salty but 50/50 works very well.  Potatoes cut and cooked in half sea are absolutely delectable on their own.


Our choice was to make for Bermuda first and only if that voyage was a success carry on.  We would not do this again.  By the time you are seven days out you have already decided the trip is a success. Otherwise you would have turned about and gone home.

Bermuda is not a great stop.  It is clean but very expensive.  Food and drink is ridiculously dear and dock space in short supply and of poor quality.  It cost $35 per person to enter the country and current legislation, not in force yet, is raising this to $250 per person.  Ridiculous.  Bermuda does not offer enough to justify even $35 each for admission.

In future we would leave from a higher latitude than Norfolk, or make our way north far more quickly, up to at least 36 degrees North latitude and 38 degrees would be better. Crossing the Mid Atlantic requires that you maintain a high latitude even though there is increased risk of storm.

The Atlantic is dominated by the mid Atlantic High, a high pressure cell that centres on the Azores.  Because wind flows clockwise around a high you want to be on the North side of any high pressure cell or ridge of cells.  That way the wind is at your back.  This is why you want the high latitude.

The closer you get to a high pressure cell the lighter the winds get.  You want to be two isobars away from the centre of a high as a general rule.  This ensures reasonable wind.

Our trip was near windless until we inched our way North to 40 degrees North latitude.

Weather and Forecasts

Anticipating the need we purchased a weather routing service from Chris Parker of Caribbean weather fame.  We never used it.  Available information was more than adequate.  It was reassuring to have the ability to call Chris and speak with him if there was ever a question in our minds.

There never was.

If you have a SSB or Ham Radio or even a short wave receiver you can pick up the surface condition weather faxes along with 500 mb charts  and 24 and 48 hour forecast charts from Boston, station NMF on frequency 12950.  You really do not need any more information than that.

Good forecasts and a record of barometric pressure will see you across the Atlantic out of storm's way.

A truly great weather reference book is "Weather at Sea" published by Fernhurst.  This book enabled me to undertake hours of projects to improve my weather forecasting.

Herb Hilgenberg suffered a serious injury to his back just before we left Norfolk and we understand he will be retiring at the end of this year.  Listening to Herb was not only informative but entertaining and each day found us huddled around the radio to see what progress the boats around us were making.


Simply enough there is little communication amongst boats at sea.  VHF has too short a range and SSB or Ham takes a lot of power.  Scheduled contact is possible but this summer the sun spot activity was (is) the worst in 25 years and propogation, a measure of the ability of atmosphere to carry the signal, was similarly degraded.

Satellite phone, at least the Inmarsat Isatphone Pro, was totally inadequate, contininuing a performance profile that began the day we purchased the unit.  Our experience was not unusual and we arrived in Horta to find a band of bitterly disappointed Isatphone Pro users, or, more correctly, wannabee users.

In fairness Chris Parker warned us that North of 30 degrees North Latitude the Isatphone Pro would need an expensive permanent antenna installation and that North of 40 we could expect questionable performance.  He was right.  The problem is that the Isatphone Pro uses a geostationary satellite for communications. Any geostationary satellite must be located over the equator and so the further from the equator you are the further from the satellite you are.  Add to this problem with distance the fact that as you move north the satellite lowers itself on your horizon so you must point the phone ever lower on the horizon until finally you just can't "see" the satellite any longer.

Weather Software

At the very least you should take with you a SSB with Pactor or other HF modem or shortwave receiver with a sound jack so you can  run the output into your laptop sound card.

Airmail is excellent free software that will convert the output from an HF modem or a laptop soundcard into weather faxes, 24 hour forecasts, Navtex text broadcasts on your laptop.  It is fool proof and bulletproof, two very good qualities in software.  Airmail will tune the weather fax station for you if you have a controllable HF radio (like the Icom 802).

Jim Corenman and a group of sailor/computer geeks has made a major contribution to safety at sea with his Airmail software.


We took with us seventy gallons of diesel and ten gallons of gasoline.  We did not use half of either of it.

Our diesel tank holds 50 gallons and we carried twenty in deck jugs.  The twenty gallons was a reserve not to be touched until we were within 150 miles of Azores.  The high pressure area which centres on those islands all summer long almost guarantees you will have no wind for the final one hundred to one hundred fifty miles of your voyage.  Twenty gallons of diesel is just what the doctor ordered to make landfall with no worries.

The gasoline powered our Honda generator to keep batteries topped up and we used 5 gallons from Norfolk to Horta.

Our diesel was run on two separate occasions totalling nearly 30 hours as we tried unsuccessfully to move our boat north to a latitude with wind.   When the weather was too rough for the Honda to sit on deck and run we used the diesel to top up batteries.

In the end we used about 25 gallons of fuel.


The Budget Committee speaks on this one.

Here was our big mistake:  Anticipating food would be more expensive in Europe we stocked up before leaving North America.  Boy were we wrong.

Food in Bermuda was hideously dear and we purchased almost nothing there.  Food in Azores is so inexpensive as to be unbelievable.  And it is all fresh.

The rule we used for provisioning was this:

  • Calculate the food needed for a 22 day voyage (2200 nm at 100 nm per day).
  • Add 50% for contingencies
  • Double the result

Had all gone well our voyage, Norfolk to Azores should have taken twenty seven days including five days in Bermuda.  It took thirty four so we were eight days overdue which is thirty percent longer than planned.

In the end we purchased the same food and quantities of food as if we were setting off on a three month tour of the Caribbean.  In the Caribbean of course there are innumerable places to pull in and resupply.  Not so the midAtlantic.  You must carry it all with you from the get go.

Planning food stores is further complicated by the problem of temperature.  Cold rough seas require soups, stews and hot meals;  tropical humidity suggests salads, cold meat and smaller meals.

For our part we anticipated cold temperatures and were totally incorrect.  Hot humid and windless were all that we sailed in.

For such circumstances potatoes and pasta are excellent.  Boil a potato and you have a hot meal.  Let it cool, dice it up with onion, egg and mayo and you have a potato salad.  Same with pasta.  Add pesto and it is a tasty filler of stomachs  served cold in hot weather or hot in cold.  If conditions are rough add tuna or chicken for a full meal that can be served in a single bowl in any conditions.

Spices are basic aboard Meredith.  Buy in small quantities because the moisture will destroy them all by the end of the trip.

When the boat is lurching, and the BOAT IS ALWAYS LURCHING, spicy dishes will obtain nothing but digestive distress.  Plain food in modest quantities are the rule.  Even my bolognese sauce, standard fare on land, caused the Rolaids to appear.   Salt need be added to nothing to enhance flavour.  Every comes with salt already added.  Curmudgeon commented last night that even his cigars, kept safe in a sealed humidor, were coated with salt.  That did not stop him from smoking them.

Fancy is not appreciated at sea, Simple and timely are.  You are feeding guys here, guys on a great testosterone fueled adventure.  Leave the crusts on the sandwiches.  Today's lunch was Supreme de Cinquo de Julio.  I took everything cooked and uneaten (left over) from July 5 til last night (the 9th), threw it in a pot, added handful of olives and a handful of mozzarella.  Mashed pototoes (instant), pasta with pesto, red sauce with meat all went into the pot.

Reaction from the crew: "Are there seconds?"

Learn to make bread.  It is easy, appreciated and how else will you fill your day?

Meals are best served on a very regular timetable and likely earlier than you do on land.   You may not be hungry but that may have more to do with gyrations than lack of calories.  Be late with dinner and the crew will feed itself.  It can get ugly.

It is important also that crew be fed in time to permit an hour or so of quiet cockpit time for digestion, circumstances permitting.  Remember eight o'clock is boater's midnight.

When you are selecting foods use the modern convenience of "instant" whenever it is offered.  We use instant mashed potatoes, premixed pancake mix, canned sauces.  Flavours are not as good as fresh but guess what?  No one cares at least not very much.  And the amount of time spent lurching around your galley is greatly reduced.

Cooking in any galley is a challenge.  As the seaway builds the chef's job becomes hazardous and then some.  Pots should never be more than half full, less if you can do it.  Use your pressure cooker in heavy seas, even for simple heating of foods.  Pressure cookers have lids so when the pot does a jumper it will not cover you in scalding beef broth.

We use "Creepy Skin" our name for that rubbery fabric out of which they make placemats.  This stuff is great for keeping things in their place - like knives and cutting boards.  Put a placemat of this wonder material under the cutting board and you can set your knife down on the mat and grab another potato or onion or move a pot off the heat without worry that your knife and cutting board will run away.  When dirty the placemat just goes in with the dishes for a washup.

Foods and food products we have found to be very useful and surprisingly successful:

  • Good quality instant mashed potatoes.   This trip we used Idahoan brand purchased in Norfolk VA.  No they don't taste like real mashed but they are fast and easy and the taste is pretty good. When you are making shepherd's pie you will be surprised at how well they are received.
  • Krusteaz Pancake Mix: bought at Sam's Club in Norfolk we have a 5 pound resealable bag of Krusteaz pancake mix.  This product makes unbelievably tasty pancakes, better than Capt Curmudgeon would make from scratch for Sunday brunch.  Five stars for this item from both of us.  This product has to be Krusteaz.  They really are special.
  • Soda Stream Home Soda maker.  We have enjoyed reasonably flavoured carbonated beverages daily for a month and we could continue to do so for three or four more if necessary.  For $99 this machine is terrific.
  • Tortillas: These thin flour rounds are versatile and hardy.  They will make up a wrap in no time, lend class to any egg scramble you want to make (spoon the mix into the tortilla, add cheese, salsa, sour cream, green sauce, whatever, return to the pan and heat) and you cannot kill them.  Best before date on the packages we have is after August of this year.

Quantities of a few stock items with which we left Norfolk and in brackets how much was left over on our arrival at Flores.  There was a complication here in that initially I provisioned for 3 crew in all but the third crew (son in law) was unable to join us.  These stores were to meet the tastes of the people I was feeding.  Your tastes will vary but the quantities may help you plan:

20 pounds of fresh meat: 10 pounds frozen, 10 pounds sausage (5 chicken sausage, 5 chorizo) (half left over)
6 pounds of prepared meat: pulled pork, brisket (2 pounds pulled pork left, brisket is all gone)
20 pounds of firm cheese (8 pounds left over)
60 oz of shredded Parmesan (30 oz left over)
3 dozen eggs (all used and could have used more)

20 pounds of rice (13 pounds left over rice)
8 pounds pasta (3 left over)
30 pounds of flour (20 pounds left over)
40 flour tortillas (10 left over)
5 pounds instant mashed potatoes
5 pounds Krusteaz pancake mix

10 pounds of potatoes (used them all and could have used more)
5 pounds carrots (used them all and could have used more)
10 pounds onions (3 pounds left over)

4 pounds butter (2 left over)
60 oz canola oil (30 left over)
4 litres olive oil (2 litres left over)
1.2 litres Soy Sauce (half gone)
.5 litre Worcestershire (half gone)


1 pound dry milk (1/2 lb left)
2 pound sugar (mostly gone)
1 pound brown sugar (less than half left)
1 pound cocoa (untouched)
1 gallon vinegar (half left)
2 pounds yeast (half left)

Sauces and Spreads

44 oz mayo (22 oz left)
160  oz salsa (60 oz left)
35 oz Tomatillo or Green Sauce (8 oz left)
20 oz Sriracha sauce (all used)
4 x 18 oz spicy brown mustard (1 left)
12 oz catsup (most left)
12 oz Frank's Red Hot Sauce
15 oz A-1 sauce
1.5 litres Cheez Whiz (all gone and much lamented by Curmudgeon)


10 cans tuna
10 cans chicken breast
14 cans mushrooms
7 cans baked beans
4 cans black beans
4 cans refried beans
3 cans kidney beans
2 jars stuffed olives
15 cans tomato paste
12 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans whole tomatoes
12 cans tomato sauce
2 cans spaghetti sauce
1 can roti
1 can chipotle peppers
3 jars pepperoncini
2 jars pesto
1 jar patak curry sauce
2 jars of bovril, chicken and beef
12 cans corn
6 cream of chicken soup
1 can cheddar cheese soup
4 cans tomato soup
6 packages dried soup mix

5 pounds peanut butter
2 litres raspberry jam
35 individual serve instant oatmeal

Goodies Bag

5 pounds peanuts in shell
3 pounds dry roasted peanuts
5 pounds individually wrapped dark chocolate pieces
5 pounds trail mix bars
2 pounds red licorice
10 sleeves Lay's Stax potatoe chips (8 untouched)

Back to Black

2011 07 23

Amy Winehouse, age 27

Friday, July 22, 2011

Meetiing Pete and Being Boarded by the French

2011 07 22


We have only been here six days but it feels like a month.  A very very good month.

Peter and Sharon pictured here  sail Meridian, British registered for good reason.

We met these two a couple of days out of Bermuda when they were calling on VHF 16 looking for a radio check.

Their transmission had seized, they were out of fuel, their batteries were dead save for the starting battery which was being kept  alive by a daily solar panel charge.  It was silent running for these two the whole way from Martinique to Horta.  NO radio, no lights, no electronics, nothing.  They refused our offer of fuel or to lend them our generator with that typical British stiffness.

Like that fellow in the Austin Powers movie who fell off the cliff yelling "No, that's all right.  Everything is fine.  Don't worry about me.  Seem to have broken my leg.  Bit of bother that's all."

Looking them up in Horta Pete and I drank a litre of brandy and Connie and Sharon a litre of wine.

They left this morning.  Their transmission is still stuck in forward.  As they say "it's only 1500 miles, Bob.  Piece of piss"

Fair winds guys.  We hope to be able to look you up when we get to Scotland.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Cost of Living: Shopping in the Azores

2011 07 21

Horta, Azores

We begin with the Ronald "Trust But Verify" Regan memorial offer of proof of the contents hereof.  Valid for residents of Missouri and other locations where the citizenry is less than likely to be totally honest.  (How do you suppose Missourians became so suspicious?  Not because they all told the truth now was it, Joe?)

English discussion is below the offer of proof.


The rate sheet for our marina with full electric and water calls for a price of $13 a day plus 20% tax make it $16 Canadian.


The daily espresso is 0.67 a shot.

Diesel is $1.67 a litre (beer and wine are both much cheaper). 

My haircut was $6.75, Connie's about $27.

Laundry was $10.50 wash and dry for a large load.  Machines are Miele and take a while so you need to add a few bucks for wine at the adjacent bar while waiting for the machines to finish.

Bar and Restaurant

In the marina bar a big glass of cerveza is 1; a small glass of Coke is 1.20.   
Make that $1.35 for the beer, $1.60 for the Coke.  
At the same bar a large glass of vinho is €2 or $2.70 CDN.

A plate of sardines, not recommended by the Curmudgeon who spent one entire evening trying to purge his system of these greasy bony little devils is $6.75.  It turns out beer is a wonderful aid to purging sardines.  Lucky it is so cheap.

An enormous tuna steak caught that day and then overcooked just the way the Curmudgeon likes it is $14.50. The Budget Committee's near raw tuna was the same price.

A Great Burger and Fries are $6.50


Prices in the Azores are very reasonable and often lower than in North America.  For example (for the metrically challenged 1 kilo is about 2.2 lbs., all  dollars are Canadian which are about $1.05 US):

Big juicy oranges: $1.07 a kilo

Very lean hamburger (the Budget Committee needed to use oil to fry it): $6.75 a kilo

Boneless skinless chicken: $6.75 a kilo

Eggs: $2.27 a doz

Fabulous local sausage: $15.37 a kilo
Pepperoni: $13.50 a kilo.

pork cutlets: $8.75 a kilo

Fresh crusty bread: $2  a loaf; 

Portuguese buns, fresh daily: $2.40 a dozen but you only buy three or four cause you buy them every day.

Decent wine red, white or verde: 

Sangria: $1.60 a litre
Blanco: $0.93 a litre
Verde: $2.66 a litre

Beer sold in 25 centilitre bottles (about 8n oz) is $0.67 if you buy at the grocery.

Laughing all the way to the bank.  

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

A Travelogue Moment

2011 07 20

Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal

Lest anyone think we are  not enjoying ourselves almost beyond measure check it out:

1. Pico or Peako?

This volcanic island is surprisingly shy for something so proud.  Most days she is hidden behind clouded veil.  Last night she showed herself for a few hours.

Pico Peaking Out of a Cloud Seen from our Cockpit on the Wall at Horta - Tomorrow we may Climb the Beast
2. Daunting or Dante ing?

Flores is an island of views.  A great view however is only acquired with risk and effort; purchased with threat to life and limb.  

Here the Budget Committee takes the first step on a rock stairway leading 1600 metres down to the ocean.

You will notice there are no handrails.  Seems innocuous enough?

This second shot, below, was taken three steps later. There are still no handholds of any sort.

Getting this photo was the last step I took on this express elevator to Dante's First Level of Hell

Apparently university students hike along the sides of the mountains that make up this island.

Go figure.

3. The Flores of Flores

This time of year the fields and roadsides are jam packed with the most prolific display of blue and red flora.

Other than buttercup like things the flowers have one of two main constructions, both vibrant.

4 The North of Superior Problem

Anyone who has driven the TransCanada Highway across the top of Lake Superior will understand the overwhelming sense of ennui that develops in the face of endless beautiful vistas.  Flores is beauty foreign to my senses but beauty none the less.  It is easy to overdose.  Here are a couple more and then no more travelogue.  But why haven't the rest of you driven the Trans Canada?  Pansies.
Blurry but a great Caldera with Lake.  We gained altitude for another a thousand metres after this stop.
The blue seen through the valley is the ocean.  We are only halfway up this particular rise.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

An Oxbow Incident: The Geopolitics of Docking a Boat

Today the Bottom Half of Pico, Tomorrow, maybe the rest
Meredith Moored at MarinaHorta
2011 07 18

Horta, Faial, Azores, Portugal

From Flores to Horta on Faial was was a typical upwind slog: "Bang Bang Slam" from get go to finish.  In the stiff breeze every Tilley Hat had dork strings fixed like bayonets.  By the end of the trip the seven sailors on three boats, two Canuck, one Brit, had been tolled.

As the sun set after twelve hours of headlong rush across the ocean Meredith hove to.  This gave the Budget Committee a chance to cobble together a meal without having most of her pottage relocate itself from pot to floor.  Also it permitted her to wield knife without fear of errant wave bringing an unwanted slicing motion to its blade. After this brief respite we continued refreshed but not really ready for another twelve hours of this - in the dark.

In Azores one must clear into and out of every port.  We arrived Horta tired, all three boats, to find strong surge and echo along the wall to which all boats must tie to clear in.  The wall was perpendicular to the wind and as the wind drove the waves into that wall the waves bounced back.  Where the bounced waves met incoming waves the wave height was nearly doubled and an odd and unpredictable pattern of dancing and crossed waves set up.  Along the wall there was little spacefor a boat to tie up.

Meredith, first in of the three boats, took the smaller of two spots, two or three feet longer than our boat.  Bringing our trusted waterhorse alongside the opening we stopped all forward motion and let the wind blow us straight in to the wall.  OK.  It was supposed to be this easy but the surge turned boat control into a significant aerobic excerise.  In the end we were happy with our approach.   We were grateful for our big "Spit and Sputter" fender salvaged by the BC from the ocean.

Half an hour's pleasant paperwork later had me out of the office to find the other Canadian boat moored and the Brit coming in to occupy the sole remaining spot on the wall. 

This is where the story begins.

The British boat came in nicely enough.  We watched as the skipper sloughed through a turn finding and then countering a strong push from the east wind.  The water looked far more agitated than I remembered from my own docking, testament to the concentration which was applied at the helm.

The members of the other Canadian boat leapt to the job of catching lines and helping tie up the Brit:  Canadian skipper at the stern and a crewmember at the bow.

On the British boat stood a feisty and fearless woman (with a solo crossing of the Atantic under her belt), waiting to toss a line ashore.  Catching was female crew from the Canadian boat, a charming and capable young woman who joined her boat in Bermuda and had been adopted by her boat and the entire aging cruising community as unofficial "niece".  In Flores I advised that "you have eight uncles".

As bowline was tossed ashore Canadian crew bent to the task of tieing up to a bollard right at her feet.  The bollard was also adjacent to the bow of the British boat and provided no springing effect to prevent the boat from moving aft.  This fact did not strike any of the participants or indeed any of us in the audience.

To all appearances the operation seemed a complete success. 

As the bow line was being tied a French sailor, fiftyish, stringbean thin and sunbaked, rushed up yelling "move it up.  move it up!!!".  Crew ignored him and continued to tie up. 

"No No!" exhorted the Frenchman.  "Move it up!!  At once!!".  The behaviour was unusual to say the least but the Frenchman seemed genuinely agitated about something.  The Canadian crewwoman again muttered a response and continued. 

All at once the Frenchman pushed the Canadian woman aside and grabbed the rope.  He started to untie her work moving the line to a bollard forward of the bow of the British boat. "IDIOT!" he yelled "Look Up.  Move it up!" 

The Canadian crew did not look nor did anyone else I think.  No one but me.

The wind had pushed the British boat back towards the Canadian.  The surge had both boats hobby horsing vigorously.  Up and down in massive oscillations the welded stern of the British boat was about to bounce over and onto the pushpit from the Canadian boat.  Expensive damage was the only outcome.

The French sailor was trying to tell the crewmember that she needed to tie her line to a bollard forward of the bow so she could arrest the backwards movement of the boat.  

The British woman lit into the Frenchman.  She was unabashed in giving him a firm tongue lashing.  The Canadian crewmember flushed with embarassment which quickly turned to anger.  The Canadian skipper, having adopted his crew almost as a ward applied all the vigour of a parent protecting child in his verbal haranguing of the French interloper.

The Frenchman, who had in my humble opinion, prevented two boats from expensive disfigurement, shouted a loud "Bah", threw his hands down and walked away, at every step loudly vilified by the crew of the two boats he had helped.

Now if the story ended there most people would see the point.

As they will do things on shore intensified.  I think a bit of English French animosity sparked the next bit, evident on both sides.

Our clear sighted French sailor, no doubt stung by unwarranted criticism and appalled at the inability of those involved to even recognize what had happened, decided to criticize the captain of the British boat for his entry.  Big mistake.  Not only was the Frenchman wrong in his assessment but the British captain, a barrel chested man with oak staves for forearms, was not a man to permit himself to be called "Idiot" by someone of such suspect lineage. 

An international incident was averted only by the captain of the boat on which the French sailor was crewing.  He loudly and firmly dressed down his crewmember in full view of the audience ordering the man back to the boat.  This had the desired salutory effect.

Violence was averted.

In a formal inquiry any barrister of even modest accomplishment could apply cross examination to adduce a pattern of truth  from the testimony of the participants that might leave the errant French sailor more of a hero than has been appreciated to date. 

When that inquiry finished everyone would hate how the lawyer had twisted and distorted the facts.  Just as they will when they read this.