Sophie’s Circumnavigation on Google Earth

After our family returned to Seattle this past summer, Jenna and I put together a tool that maps out the route of our entire circumnavigation on Google Earth. It turns out that this is a great visual aid in presentations we give to local groups. It is very cool.

To build this, we created a project in Google Earth and entered in all of the waypoints from our entire nine-year circumnavigation. Each year of sailing is represented by a different colored line. As you rotate the planet, you can see the route we have sailed for each year of our adventure cruise.

You can literally scroll the globe and “see” where we traveled. For example, the picture above shows our 2015 route, where we sailed from the Raja Ampat region of Indonesia to Phuket, Thailand. This was one of my favorite years of the passage and included stops in Komodo, Bali, and Singapore.

In most locations, you can use the tool to zoom in and see the actual harbors where we stopped. Here is a screenshot of where we stayed in Venice. The red line shows our track in and out of the inner harbor.

Zoom in some more, and you can see the Marina Santelena in Venice and the actual DOCK where we stayed. By the way, this marina was a spectacular location, just a 5 minute walk to the Biennale and the Piazza San Marco.

Anyway, I have no idea if this will work, but here is a link to the Sophie Circumnavigation Google Earth Project. Click here to access the web page. Once you are there, click the Present button and off you go! Please leave me a note in the blog comments if you have any questions or feedback.

Merry Christmas 2021!

2021 was a busy and eventful year for the crew on Sophie. We sailed our longest passage, completed our circumnavigation, returned to Seattle, bought a tugboat and a car, drove back and forth across the United States, and settled into liveaboard city life. 

Let us walk you through our year of transitions …


12 months ago Sophie was on the dock at Shelter Bay Marina in Colon, Panama after completing a non-stop passage from Florida. We spent most of 2020 on the boat and had Sophie up in New England during the summer and early fall. When we learned that Panama had opened up their borders to cruising boats, we decided we would complete our circumnavigation by sailing first to Panama, then to Hawaii, and then on to Seattle, which is the port where Sophie began her adventure cruise back in 2012. So after leaving Connecticut in October of 2020 we made quick stops in Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Florida before making our second nonstop passage through the Bahamas and on to Panama. Some day we will actually visit the Bahamas instead of bypassing the islands.

We arrived in Panama the week before Christmas. On December 23, 2020, my mother Patricia died. It was a difficult time for us on the boat. We celebrated a low-key Christmas and New Year’s at Shelter Bay. Our friends on Dragonfly and Fearless were at the dock with us, but Panama was in lockdown mode and we pretty much stayed on the boat.

We kicked off the New Year by preparing Sophie for the 4,500 mile passage from Panama to Hawaii. We chose this route because we did not want to deal with Covid in multiple Central American countries while also sailing thousands of miles upwind in the “Baja Bash” to San Diego.  To get the boat ready for the passage, we installed a new autopilot and a new cockpit refrigerator that we purchased on Amazon for $200 — I am so done with 12 volt marine refrigerators that cost $1000+ and last 3 years. This new fridge has worked quite well over the last year.

We transited the Panama Canal on January 22 and 23. This was Sophie’s 5th canal passage after the Suez, Corinth, Cape Cod, and Chesapeake & Delaware canals. We shared the Panama locks with some big boats, but things seemed under control. When the last set of doors opened and the Pacific Ocean greeted us, we felt a sense of accomplishment and excitement for what was to come.

After our successful canal transit we spent three weeks in Panama’s Las Perlas Islands moored off the same beach where the Shah of Iran spent his last years in exile. This was a self-imposed quarantine for us, because the last thing we wanted was to discover that one of us had Covid when we were 500 miles offshore. The only time we left Sophie during this time was to dinghy over to the beach to collect groceries from the local merchant. On weekends, this anchorage filled up with pleasure boats that came out from Panama City. Otherwise, we were alone.   

On February 7 we departed Panama for Hawaii. The first part of the trip was fairly uneventful. We caught a big Wahoo early on and filled our freezer with 10 meals of tasty fish fillets. A fitting on our watermaker membrane housing snapped off — this would have been a catastrophic failure for us, but fortunately we had some spares on board and were able to fashion a repair. The mainsail leach clew ripped off of the sail (in light air) due to prolonged UV exposure to the stitching, and this forced us to sail most of the trip with at least one reef in the main. Since we had two weeks of very light air during the first part of the trip, we believe this tear added two days to our overall passage time.

18 days into the passage, at 11:37 in the morning on February 25th during Leo’s watch, we crossed the imaginary line that marked our 2013 passage from San Diego to the Marquesas, making us official circumnavigators! It was a good day.

As we neared Hawaii, the wind picked up to ~30 knots, and we decided to drop the mainsail and sail downwind under reefed jib. While I was at the mast securing the mainsail cover, a block snapped and bounced off my shin, creating a nice gash that was big enough to see some leg bone. I had recently watched the John Wick trilogy and wanted to stitch the leg up myself, but Jenna insisted she do it. She did an excellent job and my wound has healed nicely.

Finally, on March 9th and after 29 days, 9 hours, and 19 minutes at sea, Sophie made landfall in Hilo on the rainy side of the Big Island. Our 4,500 mile offshore passage was complete. We celebrated another big family accomplishment!


After a few days in Hilo, we sailed around the northern coast of the Big Island and were lucky enough to secure a spot on the pier at the Honokohau Small Boat Harbor on the Kona coast. Our berth was adjacent to the spot where the local sport fishermen came in on a daily basis to unload and weigh their catches. Tiger sharks swam under our stern, looking for scraps. It was a great spot, and we spent seven weeks there.

Covid avoidance still dominated our approach to life onboard, even in sunny Hawaii. Once again, the Sophie crew was stuck in a tropical paradise spending our days doing schoolwork and boat projects. One day we were able to rent one of the few available cars on the island and drove up to the snowline on Mauna Loa. We would occasionally take Sophie out for quick sanitation “cruises” and generate waves for the local paddlers while we exited the small boat harbor. Jenna, Leo, and I all got our Covid jabs in Kona, and we were even able to pull together a decent birthday celebration for Jenna.

After six weeks in Kona, we scooted up to Oahu via an overnight stop in Maui and were able to score one of the few available berths at the Ala Wai Boat Harbor in Waikiki. This was our first urban dock experience since we spent a few weeks in Barcelona in 2017. On the one side of Sophie was the Honolulu skyline, and on the other side was the surf break. It was a fabulous spot.

The Sophie crew spent six weeks in Honolulu, with our days still filled with Sophie school and boat projects. Leo volunteered in a homeless shelter. Hazel was able to get two Covid jabs. We certainly enjoyed local takeout city food.

In May I flew from Hawaii back to Massachusetts to spend time with my father, who has had a very difficult year dealing with his grief and loneliness. I love him very much. Right before my visit, he bought a beautiful custom wooden fishing boat with a lobster boat house on a dory hull. We spent several days together in Maine sea trialing Selchie 3. It was nice to celebrate the spirit of Ohana with the extended family during my visit.

After I returned from Boston, we still had one more 2,200 mile passage to make. On to Seattle! Our departure was delayed by insurance/marine survey problems and a short-circuiting autopilot controller (the part I didn’t replace in Panama), and on June 18th we finally left Hawaii heading north and then east. The first ten days of the passage were uneventful; the last five days involved one of the worst stretches of rough weather of our entire circumnavigation. We had to motorsail upwind in 20-30 knots of wind with steep waves and “green water” on the deck. Sea water leaked in from multiple deck hatches and windows, our wind instruments failed, and one of our dinghy davits snapped in half (at 4:00 AM, of course!) Worst of all, the air and water temperature continued to drop as we slowly sailed away from the tropics and towards the Pacific Northwest. We sailed from inside of the cabin with the heater on.

Sophie finally entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca in a morning fog on July 3rd, and in the middle of the day our friends Jeff and Melody on the crab killer Saltbreaker emerged from the mist and greeted us with some champagne and fresh berries from their garden. We were home!

Sophie spent the night on the dock in our old stomping grounds of Port Townsend. It was weird to sail 2,200 miles across an ocean and then make landfall without having to clear customs. Interstate travel for the win! The next day was July 4th, and we celebrated the holiday by motoring down Puget Sound to our home port of Seattle. We cleared the locks and the drawbridges along the ship canal to reach our final destination for the summer, dock 4 at the Seattle Yacht Club.

Our circumnavigation was complete. We were home.


Now What?

Our original plan was to spend the summer in Seattle and then continue our adventure cruise in the fall by heading down the west coast and spending the winter on Sophie in Mexico. That plan quickly dissolved. Why? For starters, Covid was still rampant in the US. Leo was entering his senior year of high school and wanted to tour potential colleges on the east coast, and this could be difficult to do from Mexico during a pandemic. Sophie had taken a beating on the passage from Hawaii and needed some TLC, including new standing rigging and navigation electronics. Hazel wanted to take a break from cruising and live in the same place for more than 3 months at a time. So the family decided to stay in Seattle for a year. But where would we live? We still owned a house in the Seattle suburbs that we rented out, but we did not want to move completely onshore, and if we did, maybe we could live in one of Seattle’s houseboats or in a condo near the water? We just did not know what we would do.

Then Owl happened.

Jenna and I were sorting through all of these questions when one day in July we went out for a kayak paddle in Seattle’s Lake Union and saw a tugboat with a little “For Sale by Owner” sign in the window. We called the number, and three weeks later “Owl” was ours. We bought a tugboat.

Owl is a 1942 wooden boat converted to a pleasure craft in the 1960s and has been lovingly preserved by her former owners. She runs like a champ and has tons of charm. Owl came with rights to a liveaboard dock in a cute little marina on Seattle’s East Lake Union waterfront. The dock even includes an inside parking spot in the marina’s condominium building across the street. We had found our new long-term Seattle home. Sophie will continue to be our cruising platform in warmer climates, and Owl will be our cruising home in the cold waters of the Pacific Northwest. Even though we have returned home, we are still “cruising” and are not yet ready to move into a house on land.

With the Owl purchase, our family’s plans for the rest of the year quickly fell into place. We decided we would buy a car and drive across the US to visit family and colleges on the east coast. We did not want to risk getting Covid from multiple airplane flights, and having our own car would save us money from car rental fees.

So we went ahead and bought this “Mediterranean Blue” compact and prepared for the big cross-country road trip. We were on such a positive karma roll at this point that we were able to find a permanent berth for Sophie on Lake Union less than a mile from Owl’s little marina. (We didn’t realize it at the time, but buying Owl included entree into Seattle’s community of wooden boat owners, and one of them, upon hearing how we were desperately searching for a dock for Sophie, made a quick phone call and presented us with a solution.)

So in September, we pointed the car east (still a new direction for us) and couch-surfed across America, staying with our niece Caroline in Utah, with Ventus in Colorado, and Dragonfly in Chicago. During this trip we were also lucky enough to connect with Serendipity, Summer Kai, Mimzy, Endless Playtime, and Aphrodite. Cruisers together, forever!

It was a great road trip. In Massachusetts, we cooked a pig with my daughter Sara and her family. We visited with my Dad, visited friends and family in Maine, visited my son Max in New York City, and saw Jenna’s family in Pennsylvania. Leo toured ten colleges and developed a good idea of what he wanted to do in the next phase in his life.

Upon return to Seattle, we settled back into the routine of Sophie school and boat projects. The two boats are exactly .9 mile apart, and it is a pleasant walk between them on a tree-lined street. We have a neighborhood grocery store and a neighborhood pub. For Thanksgiving, we took both boats out across Puget Sound to the Seattle Yacht Club outstation in Port Madison. Owl needs to be in salt water every three months, and we do not want Sophie to get too lonely. We are presently living on Owl but visit Sophie every day.

We are not sure what the future will bring for us, but we do know that our cruising life is not over. Continuing to live and sail on a boat(s) is one way to make sure of that. Overall I we are closing out 2021 in a spirit of peace and thankfulness. We have completed the circumnavigation. Everyone is healthy. We have reconnected with family, Seattle friends and continue to connect with our awesome cruising friends around the world.

We are extraordinarily lucky, and wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sophie’s New Ride

20200828_1137095491924300216143357.jpgWell, it has been 30 months and thousands of miles since we crossed the Atlantic on Sophie, and it has also been 30 months and hundreds of false starts since we wrote our last post on this blog.

Today Sophie is moored at the Dolphin Marina and Restaurant in Harpswell, Maine. What on earth would motivate us after all of this time to finally get off our butts and write a new post for all of you to read?

Would it be to regale you with tales of our three seasons cruising the Caribbean, exploring Barbados, Martinique, Dominica, Guadeloupe, Antigua and Barbuda, BVIs, USVIs, St, Vincent and the Grenadines, St, Lucia, and Grenada? Nope.

Would it be to document our May 2018 1,800 mile passage from Antigua to Newport, RI via Bermuda with Jeff and Melody? Nah.

Would it be to share our summer of 2018, where the Sophie crew visited with family and friends while exploring the sailing grounds of my youth, including Newport, Cuttyhunk, Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, Cape Code, and Boston? I do not think so.

Would it be to record Sophie’s first visit to New York City, where we stopped in front of the Statue of Liberty and anchored in the Hudson River for a week? Fuggedaboutit!


Would it be to chronicle our November 2018 sloppy mess of a passage from Virginia to the BVIs with the Salty Dawgs — the passage where Sophie was the first in the fleet to reach our destination, beating all other boats including some brands allegedly “much faster” than Lagoons? Nope, but in hindsight it would have been fun if we had.

Would it be to celebrate of all the life-long friendships we have made with fellow cruisers on boats including Ventus, Saphira Blue, Aphrodite, Solan, Saorise Mor, Party of Five, Serendipity, Saga, Endless Playtime, TouRai, Archer, No Plans Just Options, Summer Kai, Sand Star, Sun Splash, Mimzy, Clarity, Britican, Gray Matter, Life of Reilly, Valhalla, Satori, Abeona, Mrs. Chippy and so many more? No, and I actually feel quite  guilty right now because I really should have written about these friendships and because I am unintentionally leaving boats off of this list.

Would it be to showcase the FIVE 5 PIG ROASTS we participated in, including the one we promised No Plans Just Options and Nikau as an incentive to get them to cross the Atlantic a year after we did, and then when they arrived we actually cooked them a pig,  making them realize that we are the kind of people who cook a pig when we promise a pig? No, but man do we have good pictures.

Would it be to invite you to party with us at the FOUR Carnivals we attended? Not sure I remember.

Would it be to announce the news of the arrival of our grandson Jacob, a little man who is as cute as a button? Probably should have but didn’t.

Would it be to relive the horror of Leo’s accident in Bermuda, where we thought he died in front of our eyes after being hit by a motorcycle in a way that that left him lying unconscious and coughing up blood in the middle of the road? Thank goodness no! (He only had a concussion and a mouth laceration, but this remains the scariest moment of our lives.)

Would it be to log all of the upgrades and repairs we have made to Sophie during this time, including a new roller furler, mainsail cover, refrigerator, television, stereo, dishwasher, barbecue, spinnaker halyard sheave and guy rigging, windmill bearings, thermostats, and lots more? Nope.

Would it be to bore you with the details of our 3 months of pandemic self-quarantine on a mooring in Christmas Cove, a pretty little bay off of Great St. James Island in the US Virgin Islands? Probably best that we did not, even though we were pretty bored.

Would it be to log our second trip north from the Caribbean to the Northeast United States, this time a straight shot from USVIs through the Bahamas to St, Augustine, with subsequent stops in Charleston, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and New York? No, because we were supposed to be in the southern Caribbean this summer, preparing for our fall passage through the Panama Canal and into the Pacific. But, you know, Covid.

Would it be to celebrate Sophie’s first voyage to Maine, our 2020 summer cruising grounds that make us so thankful we own an excellent diesel heater that we run almost every day? Brrrrr! Too cold!


Would it be to share with all of you the ongoing transformation of Leo and Hazel from the little kids who left Seattle with us almost 8 years ago into the young adults who still bring us happiness and joy every day? My bad.

No to all of these stories that could easily fill a book. So what on earth would cause me to finally pick up a pen to write a blog post?


20200828_1603246297203749049037706.jpgYep, that is why we are finally writing a blog post, and yes, those are lobsters on my shorts. Maine!

This week we took delivery of a Segway Ninebot Max, and I am excited to say it will be a game-changer for us. The Segway has a range of 40 miles and can hit a top speed of 18.6 miles per hour. It weighs in at 41 pounds — the equivalent weight of a 5 gallon jerrycan of gasoline — so it is luggable to- and from- the dinghy. It is much easier to assemble and takes up less space then our folding mountain bikes, which we have not used in over two years. Most importantly, as we like to say in New England, it is wicked cool!

Amazon has these babies in stock in the US for $800.

Why is Sophie and her crew entering the Personal Electronic Vehicle (PEV) era, and why are we doing so now? (As far as we can tell, we are PEV pioneers in the cruising community.)

Well, for starters, with the pandemic we are no longer taking taxis or buses on shore when we run errands, and this practice has resulted in some long walks for us. Examples include 6 miles round trip to a drug store in St, Augustine; 4 miles round trip to a hardware store in Maryland, and 5 miles round trip to a West Marine in Newport. Earlier this month in Southwest Harbor, our freezer was malfunctioning and I had to walk 3 miles round trip to a Napa Auto Parts store TWICE in one afternoon. I know, I know, walking is healthy, but this last double trip in Maine broke me. Did I mention that each trip to the car parts store also included an 8 mile round trip dinghy ride?

On Sophie, we do own a couple of folding bikes, but we have not used them in over two years. I guess they are too awkward to get to shore in a dinghy, set up, use for a bit, break down, and then take back to the boat. Besides, it turns out that many Caribbean Islands are not well-suited for bike riding. We will keep the bikes, but the Segway gives us another option for errands.

If one of us is in the middle of a boat project and needs to go to a store to buy some random part in order to complete the job, our current transportation options simply weren’t cutting it. In theory, the Segway will be much easier to use in this scenario.

Besides, just look at the smile on Jenna’s face (behind the mask, of course) as she tools around on our new baby!

Earlier this week, I took the Segway out on a 9 mile roundtrip trial run to buy beer and soda (you know, the “spare parts” scenario described above.)   Mission accomplished! It took me 40 minutes, and I had so much fun gliding silently along the side of the road at a constant speed 15-16 miles per hour, including going up and down hills.

We even accessorized this baby with a bag hook and a cellphone holder. Spare parts, here we come!


So this is our new blog post. Between Covid and the BLM reckoning take place right now, there are a lot of people hurting in the US. It is clearly affecting us on Sophie. I hope reading this blog post has provided you with as much of a distraction from the news as writing the post has provided me.

I also hope that we all do not have to wait another three years before we write another post. By that time, our circumnavigation will likely be completed. (It has been almost eight years and counting since we departed.) Leo will be finishing up his first year of college. Hazel will be eligible for a learner’s permit (assuming we owned a car and lived in a place that could issue her a permit.)

In the meantime, all that I can say is that we continue to be incredibly lucky with this life that we live. Please stay safe, everyone.


What Broke and What Worked As We Crossed the Atlantic

20180125_132807Here is a recap of how Sophie and her gear fared on our recent Transatlantic passage from the Canary Islands to Barbados. We covered over 2,700 nautical miles in 16 days and 7 hours, averaging slightly above 7 knots for the trip.  We sailed straight downwind on the rhumb line for 2,000 miles using either a genoa, an 1800 square foot Parasailor spinnaker, or a 2100 square foot symmetric spinnaker. We put away our mainsail on the second day of the passage and never used it again. We only used our diesel engines for sail changes and for a brief AIS signal investigation in the middle of the Atlantic. We had a crew of eight including our children Leo and Hazel, who tried to do school every day.

As you know from our previous posts, Jenna and I spent a lot of time and money getting Sophie ready for this passage. Our catamaran is 10 years old, and even though Jenna and I thoroughly reviewed and checked every system on the boat, some of the systems are now 10 years old as well. I was a little worried something was going to break on this trip despite our preparation.

All-in-all Sophie performed quite well. A few things broke, but most systems worked as planned. There are lessons we and everyone else can learn from our recent experience.

What Broke

Genset Compartment Air Vent Plug
This may sound like a minor item, but it wound up causing significant problems for us during our first week offshore.

Sophie has a big genset compartment located between the mast and the anchor windlass. This space is the home for our genset (generator), a locker for our 2 LPG bottles, and for half of our navigation electronics. We also store our four folding bicycles here. There is a lot of space.


This has always been a relatively “wet” compartment because water that collects in the adjacent anchor and rope lockers drains through an opening located directly underneath the marine plywood deck that supports the genset. In rough seas, water can get splashy down there and spray the walls of the compartment, including the aft bulkhead where the electronics are mounted.


To avoid this splashiness, I place towels under each side of the genset deck. This keeps the compartment dry. But on this trip, something new was happening. When Lagoon built Sophie in 2007, they installed a vertical pipe in this compartment.


This pipe serves as an air vent for generators installed in the factory, because EU regulations require any compartment in a boat with a diesel or gasoline engine to have an air vent. Since we installed our generator as an aftermarket option in the US, Lagoon simply sealed the vent with a water-tight cap in the factory. This worked fine until this trip, when I noticed that somehow this cap had shrunk, allowing water from big waves under Sophie to splash up through the pipe and around the cap to hit me in the face and spray the bulkhead electronics with a fine mist of seawater.

I was able to fix this leak with a plastic bag and a lot of duct tape, but before I did so it caused some additional problems that I describe below.

Failed Bosch Relay
We have a single switch at our nav station that we use to turn on our navigation electronics, and this switch powers a 12 volt relay in the genset compartment which powers all of the Raymarine electronics located there, including our GPM400 navigation computer, our wind/speed/depth sensors, and the Raymarine Seatalk networks that tie our navigation systems together.


This relay failed, causing the Raymarine systems to fail. I was able to temporarily bypass the relay (just like in Star Trek) and then replace the failed one with a spare. But this didn’t solve the all of the Raymarine problems were were experiencing

Failed Raymarine SeaTalk Networks
Sophie has 4 SeaTalk networks concatenated together: an original SeaTalk network, 2 Seatalk NG networks, and a Seatalk HD network. Three of these networks began simultaneously failing, causing us to lose our autopilot, our wind and speed instruments, and our nav display (which flashed a “keyboard disconnected from display” error message while blaring a very loud alarm.) This was all happening on just the third day of the trip, and I was privately assuming we were going to have to abandon the passage and hand steer the 400 miles to the Cape Verde Islands where we would have to repair the problem. That would have been bad, because our crew would have had to fly home from Cape Verde and we would have to remain there for an indeterminate amount of time while fixing the system.

There are three power supplies to the SeaTalk and SeaTalk NG networks on Sophie, and each of these is  protected by a 5 amp fuse. One of these fuses is located in the controller for our autopilot (located in the very dry battery compartment in our aft cockpit) and the other two are located on the fuse board in the genset compartment. Every time I tried to isolate the problem and then turn the navigation electronics on, all three fuses would simultaneously blow. I was running out of fuses. It was a problem.

I was finally able to isolate the problem to this SeaTalk NG 5-Way Connector in the genset compartment. There are multiple connectors like this throughout Sophie. This one connects the sensors for our wind, depth sounder, and boat speed with the rest of the network.


Rich and I dried the connector out overnight, cleaned it with electrical spray, pointed a hair dryer at it, and left it out in the sun. Regardless of what we did, if we connected it back to the network, all 3 fuses would blow. If we left it disconnected, we were able to get autopilot and nav display working but not the wind/depth/speed sensors. I assumed we would sail this way for the rest of our passage to Barbados. I knew I didn’t have any spare Raymarine networking hardware on board (although I thought about buying some in Las Palmas but was too busy!!!), I thought I might have a spare SeaTalk cable in the box our AIS antenna came in when we bought that a year ago. So I dug out that box and opened it up. What did I find? A brand new SeaTalk NG 5 Way Connector! Problem solved! I was very happy, and Jenna and I are going to look at replacing our entire set of navigation electronics over the course of the next year. It’s time.

Failed Raymarine Keyboard
The RayMarine Command Center keyboard for our salon nav station is now toast. It shared a SeatalkNG 5-way connector with a power supply coming from the genset compartment, and I assume that after I ran out of 5 amp fuses and switched to 7.5 amp fuses, it got fried during one of the shorts. Fortunately we have a second navigation display and keyboard at the flybridge, and these functioned properly for the remainder of the crossing.


Raymarine doesn’t make these keyboards any more, but I was able to buy a used on eBay for $200. Some friends from the US will bring it with them when they visit us in Martinique next week.

Burned Our Proficient Amplifier
Sophie has a pretty impressive stereo system, with four linked speaker zones each controlled by a separate keypad and integrated together via an amplifier in the genset compartment. This amplifier is located on a shelf directly above the failed plug on the unused genset air vent pipe. One evening during their watch, our crew Jess and Kate smelled something burning. Very few things can be as exciting as discovering a burning smell on a fiberglass boat at night in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, because fiberglass can melt when it burns. So Jenna and I wandered around Sophie sniffing for the source of the burning smell. We tried the bilges, the battery compartment, and the engine rooms. I was worried that in all of the wire pulling Kate and I did when we installed a new VHF radio right before our departure, we created a wire chafe issue in an inaccessible place that was now smoldering. That would have been really bad. But it made sense that given all of our other problems with the genset compartment that the smell was coming from there. I sniffed around and concluded that the smell was coming from the stereo amplifier.


I unplugged the unit and the smell went away. Big relief! This problem has a silver lining for us, because Jenna and I have been looking for an excuse to upgrade Sophie’s stereo system. We now have one.

Burned Out Dishwasher
This turns out to be unrelated to the electrical problems in our genset department. Our trusty Fisher & Paykel dishwasher finally bit the dust after 10 years of service. This two drawer unit has a design where the unit’s AC electrical circuit board is located directly below the lower drawer, and when that drawer occasionally overflows with water, the circuit board gets wet. This has happened to us many times, and I replaced the circuit board in Genoa earlier this year. When this flooding happens, Fisher & Paykel recommends that you dry the circuit board with a hair drier and then let it sit for a few days. The problem usually goes away.

Not this time. Two days before we left, we smelled a slight burning smell in the galley, and we assumed it was from a heated ping pong ball in our sous vide cooker (see below.) We now know that it was coming from the circuit board on the dishwasher.


You can see something resembling a cigarette burn right next to the two boxes on the circuit board pictured above. I was so busy with other departure-related problems that I didn’t have a chance to investigate this problem until we were four days out. The burn mark means that the circuit board is clearly toast, and we are not going to continue buying expensive replacement parts for a ten year-old appliance.  This failure also meant that WE HAD TO HAND WASH ALL OF OUR DISHES FOR THE ENTIRE PASSAGE!  The horror. We will buy a new dishwasher when we get to the US later this spring.

Missing Batten!
On the morning of our first full day of sailing, Rich and I noticed that our brand-new square-topped mainsail that we folded on in Gibraltar was missing a batten! This is one of the weirdest things that has happened to us on Sophie. Our new mainsail requires shorter battens than our old mainsail, so we cut our old battens in Gibraltar with a saw and reused them on the new sail. We then noticed on our sail from Gibraltar to Madeira that one of the battens looked loose in its sleeve, so we tightened the screw in that batten’s holder on the sail’s leech in order to fix the problem. I now assume that on our subsequent sail from Madeira to Lanzarotte (where we had 2 reefs in the main in 25 knots of wind on the beam), the tip of the batten worked its way out of the batten holder, then worked its way out of a slot at the end of the batten sleeve and subsequently fell into the Atlantic Ocean without our noticing it. Weird.

20180129_115656.jpgI considered taking one of the battens that supports our mainsail cover (pictured above) and cutting it to serve as a temporary replacement for the missing sail batten. But at this point in the Barbados passage we were about to turn right and sail straight downwind for 2,000 miles without using the mainsail. So I decided against doing the temporary replacement. I did, however, realize that the mainsail cover batten sleeve has enough extra room to store a spare full-length batten. We plan to do so. More spares are a good  thing.

Mainsail Cover and 3rd Reef Chafe
Our new mainsail design has reef points located farther forward on the sail than our old mainsail’s design, and this created a problem when paired with our existing mainsail cover. Each of the sail’s three reef lines terminates with a loop around the boom for strength. Here is a photo of our third reef line while the new mainsail is in its cover.


When reefed, the line is supposed to go straight up through slots in the mainsail cover, turn at a 90 degree angle at the reef point, then run directly parallel to the boom until it meets a sheave at the end of the boom that then enables the reef line to turn 180 degrees and run inside the boom towards the mast. On our first night at sea, we dropped down to three reefs in the main for safety, and soon realized that the third reef point on the new mainsail was located about a meter forward of the reef line slot in the sail cover. So instead of forming a 90 degree angle, the reef line was pulled forward, looking like a sling shot about to fire. This caused chafe on the reef line. On the luff side of the mainsail, the third reef point is a snaphook attached to the sail with a length of nylon webbing. In trying to address the problem with the slingshot angle on the leach, I tightened the halyard to the extent that it caused the nylon webbing to snap.


At the time I was able to address this problem with the snaphook by using a length of rope to secure the third reef to the boom. We will have alterations made to our sail cover to fix this problem in Martinique. We also snapped the mainsail cover zipper tape where it is attached to the end of the mainsail cover. Chafe is a beast on passages.

Parasailor Processes and Chafe
Jenna and I bought a second-hand Parasailor spinnaker this past summer in preparation for our Atlantic passage.


Parasailors are cruising spinnakers with a big airfoil in the middle of them. The idea behind this sail’s design is that the foil provides stability in light air and serves as a pressure relief valve in gusts, requiring less overall care and feeding than a traditional spinnaker during long offshore passages. Jenna and I wanted a sailing solution for passages where we head straight downwind in winds from 15-25 knots, a speed that is too much for our existing spinnaker to safely handle due to its large size. So we bought a Parasailor that is 169 square meters (1800 square feet), a size designed for boats smaller than Sophie. We flew this sail for over 1,000 miles on the passage in winds ranging up to 34 knots and the Parasailor largely delivered exactly what we wanted it to deliver.

However, in hindsight it is quite clear to Jenna and I that we should have invested more time up front in training our crew on how to handle this sail, especially in winds above 20 knots. Rich suffered severe rope burns on his hands on the first night we took the sail down in winds gusting to 25 knots. (Thankfully these rope burns mostly healed during the passage.) We are horrified that someone got injured on Sophie; it’s our first major sail-handling injury in 10 years and 40,000 miles. This experience rattled the crew for the next few days and made us a little gun-shy with regards to this sail. We spent a great deal of time talking about it and even wrote down procedures for raising and lowering the Parasailor. I include these written procedures as an appendix to this blog post.

At the end of the passage we flew the Parasailor for 30 straight hours, averaging over 9 knots during this run.  It was either a glorious or extremely uncomfortable experience, depending on your point of view. During this run, we chafed through the cover of our spinnaker halyard, as shown below.


We have chafed through halyard covers multiple times before and know that this could have been avoided if we had simply adjusted the length of the halyard on a regular basis during the run. I thought about it at the time but didn’t. My bad. Jenna and I will simply cut the chafed part off  the halyard and reverse it on the mast in order to fix this problem.

Also, we suffered some spinnaker sheet chafe when the Parasailor guys were rigged too short because the sheets would rub against the threads on the outer shroud fittings.


Rich was able to create a temporary fix for this with some extra hose and duct tape. We’ve used chafe protection before in various configurations on previous passages. It is important to constantly check all contact points and assume chafe will happen on a long passage.

Starboard Engine Shifter Linkage
As Jenna mentioned in her blog post earlier this week, in the middle of the Atlantic we dropped the sails and turned on the motors in order to track down a mysterious weak AIS signal that popped up on our navigation systems. It turned out that the signal came from two Frenchmen in a rowboat who were crossing the Atlantic in order to raise awareness for Parkinson’s disease. Right as we were idling Sophie near the rowboat, our starboard engine shut off and a loud alarm beeped at us from the ZF electronic engine controls on our flybridge. What unfortunate timing!  It took us 20 minutes to isolate the problem, which was a bent shifting cable that ran from the ZF controller to the shifting lever on the starboard engine saildrive. We had experienced the same problem in Madeira when our engine mounts broke, and it was an easy repair.

Starboard Saildrive Frothy Milkshake
While I was down in the engine room trying to diagnose the shifter problem, I checked the oil in the starboard saildrive and saw that it looked like a frothy green milkshake. This is a clear sign that sea water is leaking into the saildrive’s gearcase. This is not an uncommon problem for Yanmar SD50 saildrives, but it is the first time this has happened to Sophie. I serviced the engines before departure in Las Palmas, including changing all filters and fluids. We haven’t changed the seals in our saildrives in almost 6 years though, and we are clearly due to do so. There is an excellent shipyard in Martinique, and we will haul the boat there later this month to make a repair. It’s been 26 months since we last hauled Sophie (in Phuket!), so we will get her bottom painted as well.

Raymarine VHF Antenna
During our encounter with the French rowers, they told us that they had hailed us on the VHF radio, but we never responded. This seemed odd to me since we had just installed a new VHF radio before departing Las Palmas. I opened up the electronics area in the salon to find that our VHF antenna cable had popped out of the antenna socket on the new radio.


Here is a photo of our brand-new Ray260E VHF radio with the tight antenna cable. As you can see, the plug for the VHF antenna is on the upper left side of this unit. On our older Ray240 radio, the antenna plug was located on the lower right side of the unit. I love it when manufacturers design upgrades like this! Unfortunately, there was absolutely no slack in Sophie’s VHF antenna cable in this compartment, and I mistakenly thought the cable would work with the tight stretch shown above. It clearly didn’t. Since arriving in Barbados, I have rearranged the location of the electronics boxes in this compartment to shorten the VHF antenna cable run. I also resoldered the antenna cable plug to the antenna cable. This shouldn’t be a problem any more.

Broken Weld on Bow Pulpit
Sophie’s bow pulpits have little stainless steel attachment points welded to them for securing lifelines. These have been bent for many years, and one of them finally snapped during this passage, likely due to pressure from the spinnaker guys.


We will get this fixed in Martinique.

Well, that summarizes my list of the major things that broke during the passage.  Now let’s move on to the boring-yet-happy part of the post.

What Worked

Let’s start with the most important one:

Sophie’s Power Plant and Watermaker
Sophie’s electricity generating systems — genset, charger/inverter, alternators, wind mills, and solar panels — worked flawlessly for the entire passage.


This is the first time this has happened to us on a passage, and we are quite grateful. Our watermaker worked flawlessly as well, producing 40 gallons per hour every day when we ran it. In terms of the electronics, we installed new batteries in Sicily a year ago, and in the process we permanently removed the cover to the battery box along with the little storage shelf Lagoon installed above the battery box cover. I think this makes it much easier for this compartment to stay cool, reducing  the risk of temperature-related electrical faults. This change also makes access to Sophie’s electronics nervous system much, much easier. I wish we had cleaned this area up 5 years ago.

We achieved this performance excellence in electronics while drawing an average load of 40 amps/hour from our 12 volt house battery bank. Why such a heavy electrical load? For starters, our Raymarine G series electronics system is an energy pig, requiring cooling fans in the main GPM400 processor unit and in the two big display screens. We also adjusted the sensitivity rating of our Autopilot from “5” to “9” while also using Wind Vane mode for the first time. These changes enabled us to maintain an excellent straight course while sailing downwind with swells coming from an angle. This approach uses much more electricity than running with the autopilot set at “5”, but I will gladly trade electricity (in terms of diesel fuel burned by the generator) for course accuracy and comfort over a long passage.

Another factor in our heavy electricity consumption: 8 souls on board for 17 days,  frequently opening refrigerators and charging mobile phones and computers multiple times a day. Don’t underestimate the heavy load personal electronics can place on a boat’s electrical system! Right after our crew of four plus Jenna departed the boat last Saturday, I noticed that our hourly draw on the house bank dropped by 10 amps! I am not complaining, because we have a heavy-duty electrical system on Sophie for this very reason.

Toilets! Toilets! Toilets!
This one might even be better. If you add in pre- and post-passage time, the 8 souls lived on Sophie for 21 days. If you assume 4 toilet flushes per person per day (peeing overboard is against the rules on our boat), then Sophie’s sanitation systems successfully executed 672 flushes without a single problem. GIVEN OUR PAST HISTORY WITH TOILET ISSUES, THIS IS NOTHING SHORT OF A MIRACLE. No clogs. No burned-out macerators. No Barbie shoes or glitter dust or other items that should never go into a marine toilet. Nothing. A miracle. I’ll leave it at that.

Zoom Sails Genoa
We only used our new mainsail for a day or so, but our new genoa from Zoom Sails worked like a champ throughout the passage.


We rigged the genoa using the spinnaker sheets to  achieve a better angle for running straight downwind and were quite happy to use this sail in forecasted winds above 22 knots. We also used it at night for half of the passage. Our speed with the genoa dropped 1.5 to 2 knots compared to our speed with either spinnaker, but the crew’s comfort level tripled when we had this baby up. We even averaged 6.7 knots of speed over the course of an entire night with this sail up.

Port Townsend Sails Spinnaker
Sophie has a 2100 square foot symmetric spinnaker that was made for us by Carol Hasse and crew at Port Townsend Sails ten years ago.


We love this sail and flew it for three and a half straight days at the end of the passage, covering well over 600 miles in the process. It was awesome and relaxing and safe and fast during this time.  It is a great downwind solution for light air.

Sous Vide Pre-Cooked Meals
Jenna and I bought an Anova sous vide cooker to pre-cook meat for the passage. It worked superbly and will change how we prepare meals for passages from now on.


Sous vide cooking involves immersing sealed bags of food (in our case, meat) in a temperature controlled water bath so the entire contents of the bag cook at a precise temperature. This is the approach most US steak restaurants use to cook steak: they precook the beef in a water bath and then sear it at a very high temperature right before serving to the customer. In Sophie’s case, we pre-cooked bags of beef tenderloin, pork tenderloin, turkey, and chicken, and then popped them all into the freezer. The ping pong balls help reduce water evaporation during the water bath cooking process.


During the passage, we simply pulled packages of precooked meat from the freezer and then heated them up with sauces and spices to easily create hearty meals for a hungry crew. It was a great way to feed a crowd with minimal effort while at sea.

Jamón ibérico
You may have heard that Spain produces the best cured ham in the world. Jenna and I decided that we would provide a full leg of this for our crew on the passage. When else in our lives will we be departing Spain on a transoceanic passage?


Fortunately for us there was a jamón store one block away from our marina in Las Palmas.  I went top-shelf and bought a 7 year aged, 10 kg specimen. And we didn’t just buy a leg, we also bought a jamónero (ham holder) and a cuchillo de jamón (ham knife.)


This entire setup brought great joy to the crew. We had ham for breakfast, ham for lunch, and ham for snacks. And this doesn’t include the 10 kg of prosciutto, smoked ham, and Speck that Jenna and Jess were buying while I was out getting the jamón.

20180108_102112The result was great fun with pork. There was no shortage of protein on this passage.

Guest Teachers
Normally Jenna, in addition to all of her other responsibilities as a co-captain of Sophie, is responsible for conducting Sophie School during passages. But halfway through this trip, Kate and Jessica volunteered to take over the operation of Sophie School for Hazel.


What an unexpected gift of extra free time for Jenna! The guest teachers even implemented “Deutcher Donnerstag” (German Thursday) where Hazel had to conduct Sophie School as if she was a student in Germany. This involved running school on a precise schedule and assigning any remaining work from a lesson as after-school homework.  They scheduled a 20 minute outdoor time after the first 2 lessons, and they added a new class called “Uncle Richy’s Sailing School” where my brother would quiz Hazel on the name and function of different pieces of Sophie’s sailing gear and rigging. Once the novelty of all this wore off, Hazel began treating her new teachers with the exact same levels of attention and respect that she shows her mother during regular sessions of Sophie School. Hazel loved the effort and attention that Kate and Jess put into the school and hopes they rejoin Sophie soon as regular guest teachers!

Well, that wraps up our discussion of what we learned during our passage. We love our life, we love our boat, and we love the fact that we can rely upon friends and family to join us as great crew wherever we are in the world. We are indeed very lucky.



Appendix 1
Parasailor Initial Sophie Setup
Version 1.0


Our goal is to safely raise the Parasailor in one fluid, coordinated motion. We do this by rigging the sail beforehand in a way that eliminates all potential tangles and snags, enabling the sail to quickly open with a “pop” as the sock is raised. Throughout the entire process no lines trail in the water in a manner that endangers Sophie’s propellers.


1-2 people on foredeck
1 person on port winch
1 person on starboard winches
1 person at the wheel

Pre-Start checklist:

  1. Engines on
  2. Sheets and halyard on winches
  3. Boat positioned with wind directly downwind
  4. Clear understanding of roles and responsibilities

Setup Process

  1. Rig port and starboard guys so they run from the bow cleat then directly under the pulpit seat then through the snatch block then to a length one meter past the forestay. Secure one end of the guy to the cleat and the other end to the crossbeam stay.
  2. Rig port and starboard sheets so they run from the crossbeam stay then above and outside the lifelines and shrouds then under the last stretch of lifeline then through the sheet block then up to the sheet winches. Secure one end of each sheet to the crossbeam stay and the other end to each of the winches. Make sure there is no slack in either sheet.
  3. Remove Parasailor from the sail locker and lay out on the starboard deck from the crossbeam to the shrouds, ring foreward.
  4. Arrange sock so there are no twists, meaning that the green and red ribbons on either side of the sock run true from the ring to the head.
  5. Arrange foot of the sail so that the white ribbon runs true from the starboard to port clue.
  6. Ensure that the green and red sock harness is behind the sail and the sock ring.
  7. Flake the white sock rope along the starboard side of the sock while on deck from the ring to the head, ensuring the rope runs true and that the blue line attached to the top of the sock rope is not twisted around the head of the sail. The entire length of sock rope is clearly visible on deck from harness to head.
  8. Attach starboard guy and sheet to the starboard parasailor clue ensuring that the guy is attached BELOW the sheet and that both lines run true.
  9. Attach port guy and sheet to the port parasailor clue ensuring that the guy is attached BELOW the sheet and that both lines run true.
  10. Attach the halyard to parasailor clue, ensuring that the halyard is outside the genoa sheets and runs true to the masthead.
  11. Assess the entire rig and ensure that all rigging lines are clear from potential snags and all lines run true.
  12. Raise the Parasailor halyard to within 1 meter of the masthead, relying on guidance from the deckhand while the deckhand holds the sock rope
  13. Position sock rope in the center of the foredeck and raise the sock ring all the way up, maintaining loose tension on the sock ring rope slack.
  14. Trim sheets as required.
  15. Secure sock rope to starboard coach roof handrail.



Appendix 2
Parasailor Takedown on Sophie Drill
Version 1.3


Our goal is to safely lower the Parasailor and stow it in the starboard sail locker in one fluid, coordinated motion. We do this by releasing all pressure on the port spinnaker sheet and guy, essentially turning the sail into a “flag.” Once this happens, the foredeck lowers the spinnaker sock over the sail without the need for excessive force or drama, depowering the sail for easy lowering and stowage. Throughout the entire process no lines trail in the water in a manner that endangers Sophie’s propellers.


1-2 people on foredeck
1 person on port winch
1 person on starboard winches
1 person at the wheel

Pre-Start checklist:

  1. Engines on.
  2. Sheets and halyard on winches
  3. Boat positioned with wind@ 120°-160° from port
  4. Clear understanding of roles and responsibilities

Takedown Process

  1. Loosen port spinnaker guy 5 meters and then secure to cleat.
  2. Untie sockline and organize for lowering.
  3. Loosen the port sheet until sail collapses and then secure the last 2 meters of sheet to the winch.
  4. Winch starboard sheet in 3-6 meters so that the starboard clew is 1-2m above the lifeline, doing so in a way that avoids creating tension with the starboard guy while also keeping the sheet secured to the winch.
  5. Pull down the sock as the sail collapses in a manner that doesn’t require body weight or excessive force. Please note that the sock ring can encounter difficulty as it passes over the parasailor foil. Do not try to “fight” the rope. If there is too much tension, let go of the line, reset, and begin again.
  6. Loosen the sheets as needed as the sock lowers.
  7. Once the sock is fully lowered, lower the halyard just enough so that the sock ring lies on deck.
  8. Open the starboard sail locker hatch.
  9. Lower the halyard with guidance from the foredeck as the sail is stowed in the locker while insuring that the sock rope remains on deck.
  10. Unclip halyard and attach to lifeline.
  11. Untie and secure the sheets and guys to lifelines.
  12. Complete stowage of the sail in locker and secure hatch.
  13. Cleanup foredeck of any stray lines.
  14. Attach halyard shackle to base of mast.
  15. Secure flybridge sheet ends to rails.

Appendix 3
Photo of Katie Helping Take the Trash to Shore


I think my dad will enjoy this photo of his granddaughter.


Canary Islands to Barbados

Here are the daily updates Jenna wrote during our recent Atlantic crossing from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to Port Saint Charles in Barbados. I will be following up with a post discussing what worked and what broke during the trip.
We sailed over 2700 miles in 16 days, 7 hours. We averaged 7 knots. We only used our motors for spinnaker changes and to investigate a weak AIS signal we received in the middle of the Atlantic. We sailed straight downwind for over for 2,000 miles with no mainsail, relying on either the jib, parasailor, or spinnaker the entire time for downwind running. We caught 5 fish and had a wonderful time.
Day 1 – 6 Jan – noon position
26°14’.158N 16°51’.474
143 nm since departure 
2550 nm remain 
IMG_0296Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 26°14’.158N 16°51’.474, having motorsailed through a wind shadow at the south end of Gran Canaria and sailed 143 nm in just over 20 hours.
We are currently on a beam reach with three reefs in the main and a reefed jib in 20-30 knot winds in 2.5m beam seas, going 7-10 knots. This is not our favorite sea state, so we’ve adjusted course south of the rhumb line to stay a little more comfortable until the wind shifts around and we can avoid bashing into the waves. Sophie feels very solid.
Richy cooked a fabulous spaghetti dinner last night and all except the kids did night watches under an almost full moon and beautiful stars. Today the guys spotted a sea turtle and a bird. We’re all catching up on sleep and adjusting to our sea legs.
The weather forecast calls for the wind to shift more northeast over the next day, making our ride more comfortable and giving us a better angle for Barbados.
Wishing you a wonderful weekend!
Day 2 – 7 Jan – noon position
 24°34’.548 N, 19°12’.796 W
163nm in 24 hours 
Less than 2500 nm remaining
VMG 7-9 knots
Our position at UTC +0:00 is 24°34’.548 N, 19°12’.796 W. Current VMG 7-9 knots. We made 163 nm in 24 hours and have less than 2400 remaining to Barbados.
Sophie is now west of Africa! We have passed another continent. Almost two years ago was our last day east of Africa, where celebrated Hazel’s 8th birthday offshore between Somalia and Yemen as we entered the Gulf of Aden on our way to Egypt, over 4,000 nm east of our current position.
The past 24 hours have brought higher seas, but as predicted the wind slowly shifted direction overnight, giving us a better angle. We just switched to our parasailor, which makes our ride much more comfortable and is perfect for going directly downwind.
Last night Jamie cooked a fabulous dinner of ratatouille with sous vide chicken and rice. Richy served up bacon and vegetable scrambled eggs with toast for breakfast.
Later in the morning, a superpod of dolphins joined us and put on a spectacular hourlong show in the sunshine. And we finally put two fishing lines in the water. Life is good.
Day 3 – 8 Jan – noon UTC +0:00
23°25’.637 N, 21°32’.085 W
145 nm 
Our position at +0:00 UTC is 23°25’.637 N, 21°32’.085 W. We traveled 145 nm in 24 hours. Current VMG is ~7 knots.
We’ve had an eventful day. A few hours after raising the parasailor, an AIS position alarm went off, followed by a keyboard disconnected system failure. When we tried to reset we had further Raymarine issues, so Jamie proceeded to troubleshoot while I hand steered without instruments for a couple hours. (We have backup Navionics on phones and iPad.) We hand steered until just before sunset, as Jamie discovered at least four faults and we kept blowing fuses as soon as he replaced them. He succeeded getting the autopilot, chart plotter, AIS, keyboard, and radar running in the flybridge, so we dropped the parasailor and unfurled the jib for the night. This slowed us down, but we felt this was the safest option without wind speed instruments. Sophie sailed relatively fast through the night, and I ended up reefing the jib around 10pm when a small squall blew through that pushed boat speed up to 10 knots. Sophie ranged from 5-7 knots for the rest of the night.
This morning Jamie isolated the main problem to a faulty SeaTalk ng 5-Way Connector. Luckily we carry a spare so after replacing it, everything is working again except for the keyboard for the downstairs nav station (which we can easily live without). We assume all of these issues were caused by the first couple days of rough seas we encountered since all systems functioned normally for the first 48 hours of our voyage.
The parasailor is back up for the day, and we are cruising along at 7-8 knots in bright sunshine. Kids are back to Sophie School, and we’re all having fun. Our biggest news of the morning is that Richy carved off the first slices of the Iberian ham leg so we are now taking bets on how long this 10kg will take us to eat.
No one expects it to last until Barbados. Sous vide pork tenderloin is planned for tonight’s dinner menu. We’re still figuring out side vegetables.
Day 4 – 9 January 
Position 22°31’.905 N, 24°18’.939 W
166 Nm
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 22°31’.905 N, 24°18’.939 W. We traveled 166nm in 24 hours. VMG ~7.5 knots. We’re averaging more than 7 knots during the day, and slower at night.
The wind has settled into more consistent ENE over the last day so we have been able to make progress on the rhumb line to Barbados. We flew the parasailor into the night, but took it down around 10pm after the wind picked up and a few squalls blew through. Richy ended up with some rope burn during the sail change so we ran some drills to practice taking the chute down and hone this process to under 3 minutes in 20+ knot winds so now everyone feels more comfortable with it.
Today is another beautiful sunny day that started with rainbows and raising the parasailor again. The waves are under 3m and mostly following seas now, with rollers coming from the north so our ride is more comfortable with each passing day.
Hazel and Kate cooked magnificent apple pancakes with maple syrup and weißwurst for breakfast. The kids continue working hard at Sophie school. And we’re looking forward to Mexican night for dinner. We’re also two days into the Iberico ham and loving every bite. We feel so fortunate to have such a fabulous crew together for this crossing.
Hope you all have a wonderful day!
Day 5 – 10 January 
Position 22°03.826’ N, 27°10.957’ W
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 22°03.826’ N, 27°10.957’ W. That’s 161nm in the past 24 uneventful hours.
We had a quiet night with full jib and put the parasailor up again just after dawn. A large pod of dolphins visited us before our breakfast of Spanish tortilla – one with onion and potatoes, one with spinach and potatoes. Jessica also taught Hazel how to play Skull King this morning, and it is quickly becoming an essential Sophie game.
Hazel wants to bake raspberry muffins after school and Katie is planning Thai fish curry for dinner using some of the mahi mahi we caught in the Med. We still have two lines in the water, but no new fish yet.
Thanks for all the love notes! We love hearing from you.
Day 6 – 11 January 
Position 21°44.390’ N, 30°12.478’ W
7.08 knots
Our noon UTC+0:00 position is 21°44.390’ N, 30°12.478’ W. Sophie covered 170nm in 24 hours, averaging just over 7 knots.
We ran with a full jib overnight and raised the parasailor just before breakfast again. The team is really working well together and our process continues to improve with each sail change. Sea conditions are also better than our first few days. Everyone is comfortable and has their sea legs now. Confused seas continue to slow down our progress a little, but we notice a significant speed increase whenever we pass through a stretch of calmer water or waves come from only one direction.
Katie’s Thai fish curry was an outstanding dinner last night. She is spoiling us with so many wonderful recipes this trip.
Hazel organized an early morning muffin baking party and convinced (tricked?) Jessica to wake up at 6:20am to get started on raspberry, apple, chocolate, and chocolate-raspberry muffins. They were delicious! Kate also cooked up fried eggs with tomatoes, cheese and avocado on toast for our hungry crew.
Less than 1,800 miles to go! Life is good.
Day 7 – 12 January
20°56’.086 N, 33°03’.771 W
167 nm
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 20°56’.086 N, 33°03’.771 W, another 167nm in 24 hours.
Richy’s fingers continue to improve. There is no sign of infection, no oozing of any kind. His skin has sealed nicely. He’s airing out his hands for a few hours each day, and while bandaged he is able to do almost everything, although we’re keeping him off sail wrangling, rope handling duties and cleaning dishes, etc. so he stays protected and dry. This morning, Richy cooked us omelettes for breakfast, and he’s spending most of the day driving the boat while playing dj and entertaining us from the flybridge.
Last night was another uneventful starry night. We ate bacon, leek and cheese quiche for dinner after swapping from the parasailor to full jib for the night. With wind and waves behind us, we’re just following the rhumb line.
This morning Jasmin, Kate, Jessica and Leo helped Jamie raise the parasailor at sunrise. The wind and waves have picked up a little more today, and we are zooming right along.
Life is good.
Day 8 – January 13
Position 20°01’.913 N, 36°57’.694 W
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 20°01’.913 N, 36°57’.694 W. We traveled 172 nm in 24 hours with an average speed of 7.166 knots.
The wind has picked up to 20-25 knots with stronger gusts so this morning we opted to leave the jib up for the day. Jessica introduced us to the wind angle setting on our autopilot so we are steering to a wind angle of 179° to port today. How have we not tried this before!? It’s a very smooth ride and we look forward to using it with the parasailer tomorrow.
Jasmin cooked spaghetti aglio olio for dinner last night, and everyone is enjoying a later start this morning since we didn’t have a sail change at sunrise. With the jib up we can also have more fishing lines in the water.
We are closing in on the halfway mark for our crossing, with plans to celebrate tonight with sous vide tenderloin steaks, mashed potatoes and stir fried leeks.
Richy’s fingers continue to improve. He’s keeping bandages off more during the day and even collected a flying fish that landed on the trampoline this morning with bare hands 😉 We have two poles and two hand lines in the water so hopefully more fish will follow.
Wishing you all a fantastic weekend!
Day 9 – January 14
19°03’.740 N, 38°40’.853 W
164 nm 
We’re halfway there! Barbados is now closer than Gran Canaria. Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 19°03’.740 N, 38°40’.853 W. That’s another 164 nm in 24 hours.
To celebrate, we feasted on steak, mashed potatoes, stir fried leeks, and lemon soda, with homemade apple pie for dessert. And the Patriots won! Hazel was up bright and early this morning to prepare French toast for breakfast with help from Katie and Uncle Richy.
We sailed with the jib all day yesterday and overnight. It felt like taking a vacation day without any sail changes and with the autopilot steering by the wind. We raised the parasailor again early this morning. It’s a bit squirrelly right now with occasional +25 knot gusts in 2-3m swells, but the wind forecast calls for more moderate 15-20 knot easterlies this afternoon which should smooth out our ride.
Richy is planning to make a veggie lasagna for dinner. Overall, our fresh vegetable provisions have done well on this crossing. We have a few remaining eggplants and squash that need to be eaten soon and will go into tonight’s lasagna. We still have fresh green beans, cabbage, red peppers, carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and onions, plus bananas, melon, pineapple, oranges and apples for this week. We also have a few bags of green veggies and a variety of berries in the freezer.
Jessica is guest teaching Sophie School today for Hazel, who of course is on her best behavior. Leo is also making progress on his offshore assignments for his new school.
We had a couple hits on the fishing poles last night. One of them was huge fish that ran off a ton of line before snapping it. Hopefully today will be the day…
Hope you have a wonderful day!
Day 10 – January 15, 2018
Position 18°16’.859 N, 41°30’.065 W
NM 167
We had some excitement in the middle of the night. Just before 1am, a 35-knot rain squall blew through, completely drenching Kate and Jessica near the end of their watch. Right afterwards, they smelled something that resembled burned plastic, so they woke up Jamie and began hunting for the source. I joined the search, and Richy and Jasmin were also up getting ready to begin their night watch. After we narrowed down the location to the genset compartment, Jamie ultimately discovered that our 10-year old Proficient Audio amp had burned out. Over the course of the trip, it had been splashed by water coming up through an air vent. Jamie also removed an old outlet that we never use that showed signs of corrosion. There is some more cleanup to do today to rewire outlets under the nav station and inside the computer cabinet that Jamie disconnected as part of the triage. Aside from this, all systems are working.
This morning marks another milestone. We’ve traveled the same distance and days traveled from Gran Canaria as our crossing from Thailand to the Maldives with Richy and Katie a couple years ago. We’ve gotten into a good offshore rhythm on this passage now for day and night watches, meals, school, and music.
The Sophie offshore feast continues. Richy cooked “vegetable” lasagna with more bacon and bechamel than veggies last night. This morning, Hazel made everyone coffee and mixed waffle batter for our waffle and weißwurst breakfast extravaganza. Katie has dubbed me the Waffle Angel since I manned the waffle iron today and served up hot, crispy deliciousness. We are debating which of our other sausages to cook later today and also whether to repeat Quiche Lorraine or make crepes next. Decisions, decisions.
The sun feels hotter each morning and we have bright blue skies with puffy clouds in the distance. We can feel a shift towards the tropics even though we still have a ways to go. Life is good.
Day 11 – January 16
Position 17°35’.691 N, 44°26’.979 W
NM 173
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 17°35’.691 N, 44°26’.979 W. We traveled 173 NM, our fastest day of the crossing so far. The weather cooperated so we flew the parasailor nonstop for the past 24 hours and may leave it up for a few days straight now given the weather forecast. Less than 1,000 miles to go!
Fish!Fish!Fish! By far the most important event of yesterday is the 5 kg mahi mahi we caught. Jamie had rigged an alarm for the hand line using an empty can and it worked perfectly. Leo, Kate and Jessica worked together to pull in the line and Jamie gaffed the fish. We are looking forward to grilled mahi mahi for lunch today.
We’re feeling the tropics approaching as the temperature and humidity increase each day. Sunblock and hats are out and we’re starting to hide from the sun during the heat of midday. Air temperature 23°C. Water temperature 26°C. Wow, have we missed this!
We ate a spectacular German dinner of Nuernbergerwurst, potato salad and sauerkraut, and we’ll make roasted pepper, bacon and goat cheese quiche for tonight’s dinner as a follow on to our fish feast midday. We’re starting to feel the pressure of only a handful of days remaining on the crossing. There are so many more dishes we want to prepare before we arrive. Maybe we’ll need to move to four meals a day so everyone can cook their favorites this week.
Last night on watch Kate and Jessica had some excitement. A flying fish landed on the roof of the main cabin that sounded like “whispering elves wings,” according to Jessica, as it bounced around on the deck. Kate saved flying fish Pete, as he has been affectionately named, just in time. He gave her a little wink in thanks before swimming off.
We hope you are enjoying your week as much as we are.
Day 12 – January 17
Position 17°08’.591 N, 46°47’.217 W
NM 145
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 17°08’.591 N, 46°47’.217 W. In 24 hours we moved 145 NM. Yesterday and overnight we flew the parasailor, but given the light winds forecasted, this morning we switched to to spinnaker. We assume we will go about a knot faster in light air with the full spinnaker. The next couple days offer an opportunity for us to do some head to head comparisons of our downwind sails.
We had an exciting adventure yesterday afternoon. Richy, Kate and I were in the flybridge when we picked up a weak AIS signal about 3.5 NM from Sophie. We couldn’t see a boat with the naked eye or through binoculars, which we thought was odd given the close range. The AIS screen showed the signal moving at .9 knots with the wind, but then the AIS signal dropped out after a few seconds. Jamie came up and we tried hailing on VHF with no answer, so he quickly decided we should drop the sail and motor towards the location just in case the signal was coming from a boat in distress, liferaft or someone in the water. We motored into 20 knot winds in the approximate direction of where we thought it would drift and eventually spotted a tiny boat that flashed us with a mirror as we got closer.
We were quite relieved to discover a French offshore rowboat with two gentlemen on board, Philippe and Gilles, who are rowing across the Atlantic. We talked via VHF and learned that they are 58 and 60, and one of them has Parkinson’s Disease. They are rowing across the Atlantic to raise awareness that is possible to do almost anything with Parkinson’s when you keep your body strong. Their website is They departed the Canary Islands on December 15 and expect it will take another 20 days for them to reach Martinique. We feel very fast by comparison and quite fortunate to have met up with them 900 miles from Barbados. They are the first boat we’ve seen in more than 10 days.
Unfortunately, when we were within hailing distance of the rowboat, we experienced an error on our engine shifter. This is a problem we first encountered in Madeira when the engine mounts failed. The cable between the ZF controller and the sail drive is still a little bent causing too much resistance and a subsequent error message. It’s an easy adjustment and 20 minutes later we were sailing again with the parasailor past the rowboat, snapping many pictures of each other. We can’t wait to swap pictures with them after they arrive to Martinique.
We had a fabulous grilled lemon mahi mahi feast with rice and ginger stir fried vegetables for lunch yesterday, followed by roasted pepper, bacon and goat cheese quiche for dinner. Jasmin has spoiled us again this morning with superb homemade kaiserschmarrn and apple mousse.
Hazel took her first night watch with Uncle Richy last night, and continues to grow more interested in learning to drive Sophie. She has also enlisted Jessica and Kate as guest teachers for most of her school subjects. They are doing a fabulous job teaching and I’m not really sure what to do with all of my new free time.
Life is good in the Atlantic.
Day 13 – January 18
Position 16°19’.272 N, 49°44’.808 W
NM 169 
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 16°19’.272 N, 49°44’.808 W. We traveled 169 NM in 24 hours flying the full spinnaker. 600 miles left to Barbados.
Leo and Hazel have a new cousin!!! Olivia Rogers, 7 lbs. 4 oz. was born at 2:31 EST January 18, 2018. Please join us in congratulating my sister Julie and her husband Silas on their beautiful girl. Welcome, Olivia! We love you so much and can’t wait to meet you in person.
Yesterday was a good day for fish. We caught a 3.6 kg wahoo on the fishing pole. Richy, Kate, Jessica and I doused the spinnaker and lowered it to slow the boat so Jamie could reel in the wahoo. Grilled wahoo and artichoke risotto are next on the menu. Unfortunately we lost a big mahi mahi that was on one of the hand-lines at the same time the wahoo hit.
Later in the afternoon, Leo and Hazel spotted another fish on the line while I was sleeping. For the first time ever, Leo reeled in, cleaned, seasoned and baked the fish all by himself as a surprise appetizer for dinner. We don’t know exactly what type of fish it was. Maybe a type of trevaly? Regardless, Leo is very proud of his accomplishment and the fish was tender and delicious.
Richy and Kate made stromboli roulades for dinner – stuffed rolled pizzas with a mix of salami, ham, cheese, tomato, roasted peppers and olives. To celebrate crossing the 2,000 mile mark of the passage, we watched the movie Battleship (because Rihanna) on the big screen. Who doesn’t love Rihanna?
Hazel and Leo did their evening watch with Uncle Richy, which includes quizzes on the electronics, and then we enjoyed a starry and calm night.
We hope you all have a wonderful day.
Day 14 – January 19
Position 15°35’.688 N, 52°19’.492 W
155 NM
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 15°35’.688 N, 52°19’.492 W. We traveled 155 NM in 24 hours, continuing to fly the full spinnaker day and night for 48 hours straight. We are 450 miles from Barbados.
Happy birthday, Stephen! We love you and hope you had a wonderful day.
Double take down! Leo and Kate executed a cousin double mahi mahi takedown on the hand lines. Each fish weighed 4 kg.
Leo cleaned and fileted the mahi mahi under Jamie’s supervision. We vacuum sealed and froze all of it since we currently have a fresh fish backlog here on Sophie.
For lunch we ate pineapple fried rice and grilled marinated wahoo. This is our first wahoo since Southeast Asia and we had forgotten just how much we love wahoo. For dinner we cleared out our containers and did a leftover smorgasbord of fish, quiche, pizza rolls, cheese, prosciutto and more. Things are getting pretty serious now that we only have a few days of passage cooking left and so many dishes we still want to make. Risotto, carbonara, pork tenderloin with apples and onions, homemade baguettes, chicken tikka masala… we will run out of time.
Kate and Jessica treated Hazel to a special day of German style Sophie School, including a strict schedule, homework and sailing class with Uncle Richy. She had a blast.
It’s a calm and relaxing ride as we tick off the miles and watch the waves. The boat systems are all working well. There is a lot of laughter on Sophie. Life is good.
Day 15 – January 20
Position 14°46’.685 N, 55°02’.761 W
165 NM
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 14°46’.685 N, 55°02’.761 W. We traveled 165 NM in 24 hours, continuing to fly the full spinnaker day and night for 72 hours straight. We are under 300 miles from Barbados.
We’re in the home stretch now and counting down the miles as we calculate our average speed and factor in a weather forecast that calls for 15-22 knot winds and slightly higher waves over the next 24 hours. We will change sails at some point as the wind increases, but we aren’t sure yet when that will be and are thoroughly enjoying this spinnaker run for as long as it lasts.
Yesterday Hazel renamed Friday Family Movie Night to Friday Family Film Festival. We kicked off with a girls night viewing of Mama Mia and even did face masks. Spa treatments may continue with pedicures before we arrive.
We made artichoke risotto for dinner and had barbecued sous vide chicken with leftover rice for lunch. Fish tacos are planned for tonight.
We’ve noticed that we’re running the generator more frequently on this passage than previous trips. There could be several reasons for this. Our autopilot could be drawing a lot more with the sensitivity set on high. Another possibility is that our refrigerators and freezer are working harder in the tropical heat. We are also charging more electronics than usual with 8 people on board.
There is a significant amount of seaweed floating in the water here. This started a couple days ago and has grown denser during the last day. We believe patches of it extend for hundreds of miles and we can see it from horizon to horizon. We wonder whether it’s normal in this region, a remnant of hurricane season, or an impact of global warming. We ended up reeling in the fishing lines after repeatedly snagging plants all day yesterday and again this morning so we are on a fish break for now.
Sunshine, blue skies and warm wind. We couldn’t ask for more.
Day 16 – January 21
Position 13°42’.969 N, 58°12’.302 W
NM 194
Our position at noon UTC +0:00 is 13°42’.969 N, 58°12’.302 W. We traveled 194 NM in 24 hours.
It’s been a rocket sleigh ride overnight. We finally swapped sails yesterday evening after 81 hours flying the full spinnaker, our longest stretch ever, and put the parasailor back up. We’ve averaged 20+ knot winds overnight with gusts into the 30s and boat speed of 8-12 knots with multiple rain squalls. We are now just 91 miles from our anchorage in Barbados and expect to arrive this evening, give or take a few hours.
Sophie is surfing down waves as short gusty rain squalls pass through the area today. It’s speedy, but not particularly comfortable. Nobody slept much in the rolly seas overnight.
Hazel will complete her final day with Kate and Jessica as guest Sophie School teachers. She has loved every minute with them.
We will cook pasta carbonara – comfort food – for our final passage meal, and we are all looking forward to rounding the northern point of Barbados, completing the passage, dropping the anchor and getting a full night’s sleep.
Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend!
Day 16 part 2 – January 21
Position 13°15’.666 N, 59°38’.766 W
NM 95
Hello Barbados! Sophie has arrived. We just dropped anchor at 7:21pm local time at 13°15’.666 N, 59°38’.766 W after 95 miles since 8am local today. Overall, the passage took 16 days and 7 hours, and we averaged just over 7 knots.
After a stormy morning, we had a beautiful warm sunny afternoon as we caught sight of land and approached over several hours. We flew the parasailor all day until we turned the corner at the north end of the island.
A pod of dolphins welcomed us to Barbados with a spectacular jumping and flipping show — one of the best we have ever seen.
After the dolphins left, we motored the final two miles as the last glimmer of twilight disappeared. It turns out we anchored right next to our friends on Ventus who just arrived earlier today.
We’re so happy to be here, safe and sound. Now for some celebration and sleep.
Thanks for following along with our journey.
Jenna, Jamie, Leo, Hazel, Richy, Kate, Jasmin and Jessica
PS … Have we mentioned lately how lucky we are?
PPS … Have we mentioned what a great  crew  we had for this passage? We are extraordinarily thankful for their help and company.

“Merry ChrisTRImas”

A year ago I wrote a post called “Putting the Cat in Licata“, describing all of the catamarans that were wintering with us in Licata, Sicily. This year we are spending a few weeks in Las Palmas in the Canary Islands preparing for our Atlantic crossing, and we are suddenly surrounded by some cool trimarans that would make GREAT last minute Cristmas gifts for that special someone in your life.

Our next door neighbour is a Rapido 60, a cruising trimaran that can go 30 knots on a broad reach. 

It’s the only sailboat I’ve ever seen with wingtips on its rudder.

It’s a very fast-looking yet comfortable design, with a bimini over the steering station, a nice cruising cockpit, an airy salon, and two staterooms. According to Yachtworld, you can take this baby home for just US$1.5 million.

Unfortunately, it looks like this boat had its mast come down, breaking a solar panel and a handrail in the process. Too bad, because this looks like a very fun boat to sail. It would make a nice fixer-upper.

Right up the dock from the Rapido is a Neel 45, a cruising trimaran that won some boat of the year awards when it was introduced 5 years ago. I’ve read about these boats but have never seen one in person. Unlike the Rapido, the Neel extends the salon across all 3 hulls, combining the room of a cat with the speed of a tri (in theory). The company claims the boat will average 10 knots on extended offshore passages. That means going from here to Barbados in 10 days, a length of time that fits inside the window between the New England Patriots last regular season football game and their first playoff game (assuming they secure the bye.)

Talk about having it all!

I like the way they designed the dinghy davits between the ama and the main hull on the Neel. I also like the big swimstep. This very boat is for sale for just US$500K. Just the ticket for that someone special in your life.

Merry ChrisTRImas, everybody, from all of us here on Sophie!

Sophie is One Knot Faster With Her New Sails

Greetings from our anchorage at Isla Graciosa in the Canary Islands!

We have sailed 1,000 miles since our last update from Ibiza, with stops along the Spanish coast, Gibraltar, and Madeira on our way here. Sophie and her crew are very excited to be doing ocean passages again, and we think we will be ready for our big Atlantic crossing next month.

Here is what’s going on with Sophie as we continue to get ready.

New Sails!

While we were in Gibraltar, we upgraded Sophie’s mainsail and genoa. We think the new sails have added a knot of boat speed to Sophie, which is a big big deal for us.

Our old main and genoa came with the boat when we bought her almost 10 years ago. They’ve served us well during this time, propelling us 3/4 of the way around the globe without any major tears.

But over the years, these two babies became tired, baggy, and a little threadbare. Jenna and I were worried we would suffer a major blowout during our Atlantic crossing in January, so we decided earlier this year to replace them. After 10 years of service, these two sails had given us all they could give.

Taking them off one last time was a family affair. Sophie’s sails are big suckers. The main alone is almost 1,000 square feet.

For our new sails, we worked with Phil Auger from Zoom Sails in Malaysia. We met Phil when we were in Langkawi a couple of years ago, and we are extremely happy with his work. He designed a new square-topped mainsail for us as a replacement for our big roach original main, and he did so in a way that enabled us to use our existing battcars and 5 of our 6 original battens.

The new main weighed 80 kilos and arrived in a box bigger than Hazel!

Phil used the same approach Lagoon uses for the top of the square-topped mainsails, with a length of Dyneema rope running through two ring bolts on the top battcar. This enables the sail to lie flat while in the bag and snug to the mast when raised, regardless of the reef. The result is a great shape with more power.

The new main has three reef points, just like the old one. We replaced the reef blocks and reef lines, and on our 270 mile run from Madeira to the Canaries we reefed multiple times with ease. There is much less friction than before.

The new genoa is the same basic size and shape as the original one. We opted to forgo the window this time because the old one kept tearing. We also went with a blue Sunbrella UV strip that matches the blue of the mainsail bag and bimini.

All in all we are very happy with this work. Both sails are made from high UV resistant dacron. They feel stiffer and stronger. Phil was able to do all of the design work remotely, and he was very responsive throughout the entire process. We are happy customers.

So why do we think we are a knot faster? It’s mostly a gut feeling based on multiple moments on our Madeira-Canaries run this week. When we departed the Quinto Do Lorde Marina 3 days ago, we were immediately hit with 25-30 knot winds directly on the beam along with steep 2 meter seas. With 2 reefs in the main and 1/3 of the jib rolled in, we sailed at 9-10 knots. Later on that day with 15 knots of apparent wind on the beam with 1 reef in the main and a full jib, we sailed at 8 knots. A day later with 10 knots apparent wind @ 70° with full main and jib, we sailed at 7 knots. This all felt faster to me and Jenna and reminded us of how Sophie sailed when we first bought her. The sagginess of Sophie’s old sails clearly affected her performance. 

Sophie’s sailplan is based on a very large mainsail and a smallish foretriangle for the genoa. Newer Lagoons use a more balanced design where the mast is located farther aft, reducing the relative size of the main compared to the foresails. I think the square-topped main adds more power to Sophie, especially when reefed. Since Jenna and I reef much more frequently than we did when we bought the boat, this added power actually translates to more speed with greater stability and safety in winds greater than 15 knots because that is when we start reefing.

Like I said, we are very happy with these sails

Newish Spinnaker

In addition to our new main and genoa, we also bought a second-hand, barely-used Parasailor spinnaker from some friends earlier this year. This sail is sized for a Lagoon 450, so it is small for Sophie. That’s perfect for us. For the last 5 years, Jenna and I have been looking for a solution for straight downwind sailing in 15-30 knot winds. Our existing spinnaker is too big for winds at this speed, and our other three sails are suboptimal for wind at this angle. The Parasailor has a foil cut into the middle of the sail, giving it lift in lighter air and resilience during heavy gusts (because the wind blows through the hole in the middle of the sail.) Friends who own Parasailors love them, so we decided to buy one. The price was right, and the previous owner even threw in some extra sheets and blocks as part of the deal. 🤣

Our exit from Gibraltar provided us with the perfect opportunity to test the new chute, and again Jenna and I were very happy with the results. The wind blew 20-30 knots in the Strait as Sophie sailed dead downwind into the Atlantic at 8-9 knots. With our big chute, these winds would give us white knuckles and heart palpitations while we constantly worry about when we should take it down. The new chute felt stable and controlled in this situation. It didn’t jerk around in gusts, and the foil provided lift to Sophie’s bows, giving us a bit of a surfing feel. 

The wind died down  after the first 50 miles, and we decided to leave the new spinnaker up overnight. This is the first time we’ve done this without additional crew on board. This sail is a great new option for us and will hopefully cut a day or two off our Atlantic crossing time next month.

Other Preparations in Gibraltar

By the time we reached Gibraltar, it had been 18 months since Sophie had sailed in the open ocean. Jenna and I wanted to make sure that the boat was once-again passage-ready, so we went through our usual series of pre-crossing checks.

For starters, we had local riggers Sean and James inspect our mast and rigging. They believed that our rig was tuned too tightly, resulting in some extra bend in the mast. They also discovered that some of the bolts that hold the mast to its supporting compression post in the cabin had come loose. Yikes!

There were no signs of cracks, water leaks, or structural damage in the area. We also contacted Lagoon, and they did not indicate it was a problem. So we tightened the bolts and re-tuned the rig with less mast bend.

Sean and James also discovered that one of our diamond stays – the steel cables that hold the mast in column – was showing signs of deterioration so they replaced it. They also machined some new bearings for the gooseneck on the boom. It now wiggles a lot less.

We replaced all of our running rigging – the ropes that we use as sheets, halyards, reef lines, guys, and traveller controls. We had some of these custom-made in England.

Finally – and one could argue most importantly – we had our liferaft inspected and recertified. It still looks brand new. Hope we never use it!

While we were in Gibraltar, we were able to carve out the time to for a 2-day visit to Cordoba and Seville. Other than that, we worked 10 hour-days getting Sophie ready for the Atlantic. Just getting the new sails off and on took 3 days! We were so busy we didn’t even have time to climb The Rock, tour the tunnels, or see the monkeys. That’s really sad, so we will have to come back.

Thunk Thunk Thunk in Madeira

We enjoyed an uneventful 600 mile/4 day run in the Atlantic Ocean from Gibraltar to Madeira. Other than the downwind sleigh ride in the Strait of Gibraltar, the highlight of this passage was a “double takedown” of two mahi mahi at the same time.

It was a funny catch. Leo was at the wheel when a fish hit our lighter pole. He stopped the boat, yelled FISH FISH FISH, and started reeling her in. I was below taking a nap and  came up to reel in the line on our other pole. We do this so the lines don’t become tangled. I soon realized that I had a fish on my line as well. Leo’s fish was 4 pounds, and mine weighed 22 pounds. Ha!

They both tasted delicious. Leo is certainly getting big, isn’t he?

We chose Madeira because my daughter Sara and her wife Julie had planned a big reunion there for November. Julie’s father grew up in Madeira, and we had 8 people from the US fly in to join 20 cousins, aunts, and uncles who live in Madeira for two weeks of family meals and celebrations. We had an absolutely wonderful visit which we will hope to cover in another blog post.

So why the thunk thunk thunk?

Well, as part of the two week reunion we invited 25 souls to come join us for an outing on Sophie. It was a calm and sunny day, and we thought we’d go out for a bit of a sail, throw a couple of lines in the water, and maybe catch us some fish.

So once we had everyone on board, I fired up the engines and heard a loud, crumbly Thunk Thunk Thunk noise from the starboard side. It didn’t sound right at all, so I killed the engines and went outside to see if a neighbour on a powerboat had started his loud, poorly-tuned diesel at the exact moment as I did. Nope. So I tried one more time and heard the exact same noise. I quickly killed the engine, went to examine it and found it was askew by 5 degrees. I knew immediately that it had jumped it’s mounts, the steel and rubber “feet” that connect a diesel engine to the hull of a boat.

Brand new engine mounts look like this.

Sophie’s starboard engine mounts on the afternoon of the party looked like this.

Believe it or not, it was a relatively easy repair. Jenna was heading to the States for a few days to attend her sister Julie’s baby shower, and we made sure she returned with four new engine mounts. The local Yanmar dealer sent a couple of guys over – one of them was a big fella – and they simply used a lever to lift the engine up a few inches to get enough space to swap out the mounts. There was no damage to the sail drives or hulls.

All four of the old mounts looked like this.

Needless to say, we were ridiculously lucky that this happened to us while on a dock. The mounts had slowly rusted during the last 10 years, and at our dock in Madeira there was a strong, sharp sideways surge that, over the course of a week, slowly nudged that engine off it’s mount. The mounts on the port engine were also completely shot, but that engine hadn’t moved. If this failure had occurred at sea in rough weather, we could have experienced some significant damage.

The good news is that our afternoon outing on Sophie was still a complete success! I took everyone out for dinghy rides; people enjoyed the marina’s salt water swimming pool; and we even had a bit of a dance party.

We had a wonderful visit to Madeira and made some lifelong friends. Jenna, Leo, Hazel, and I cannot begin to adequately express our gratitude for the wonderful hospitality this big beautiful family showed us. We’ll be back. Many, many times.

Now we are on the northeast corner of the Canaries anchored by a beach in a marine reserve. There are ten other boats here, and I assume they will all be crossing the Atlantic in the next 6 weeks.

We also met here the rarest of rare commodities on our extended adventure: an American family with kids out cruising on a catamaran. The boat’ s name is Ventus, the family is from the Midwest, and we all look forward to playing with them for the next few months. We even threw an impromptu dinner party last night with them and a French family boat. It was great to see packs of kids running around Sophie again.

So  that’s about all for now. We definitely feel like we are back in Adventure Cruise mode, and we definitely still feel lucky.

ps … here is a gratuitous photo of a pilot whale playing on our bow.



It’s Time to Get Serious, People

Greetings from Ibiza!

We have spent the last 9 months away from the blog, lazing around various sunsoaked beaches in Mediterenean Italy, France, and Spain. But all of that is about to change as we begin to prepare for an Atlantic crossing starting next month.

It’s time to get serious, people!

But before I walk you through the plans for our next big ocean crossing, let me give you a quick recap of what we’ve been up to since January. A lot can happen in 9 months.

We wound up staying at the marina in Licata, Sicily until April. We had a nice little community of live aboard boaters there. Cousins Alex, Susi, Jonesy, Andi, Caroline, and Alex visited. My parents (combined age of 177!) joined us for 2 weeks as well. It was their first trip to Sophie in 7 years.

It was much colder in Licata than we had anticipated. I am not sure if we will spend another winter in the Med.

We spent months exploring Sicily by rental car, conducting daily Sophie school, taking Italian lessons in town, eating way too much arancini, and sitting around waiting for some warmer weather to finally come.

We left Licata in late April and made our way around the southeast corner of Sicily to Siracusa and then up the Strait of Messina.

We spent a week in the Aeolian Islands before making the long run up to the Amalfi Coast. It was so nice to anchor out and swim again.

We hung out there for 2 weeks. Jenna’s parents joined us in Napoli and we made the overnight sail with them to Olbia in Sardinia.

We spent the next two months cruising Sardinia and Corsica, circumnavigating both islands while grooving to the Mediterranean beach life.

In July we headed back to the Italian coast at Cinque Terra via Elba. Jenna and Hazel left the boat for 3 weeks to attend a Miller family girls reunion in the US, and we carted Leo off to a summer camp in Germany for 2 weeks.

I took the boat back down to Sardinia with some friends and then picked up my son Max in Olbia. The two of us took Sophie up Corsica’s west coast for a week before making the jump back to Genoa. I dropped Max off there and then made the solo run from Genoa to Pisa.

The family reunited in Pisa, and we then left the boat in Livorno for a week in order to explore Florence and Rome.

After that, we all took Sophie back to Bastia in Corsica (via Elba, this whole summer was very Napoleonic) where we met my brother Rich and his wife Sigi.

They spent 16 days with us, exploring southern Corsica some more before making an overnight run to Menorca and then Mallorca.

Once Rich and Sigi left, the four of us took Sophie on another overnight run, this time to Barcelona, where we docked for a week in Forum Marina. Jenna’s sister Julie and her husband Silas joined us there. We enjoyed the fireworks of the La Mercè festival a week before the vote for Catalan independence.

From there we headed down to Ibiza, which is very, very quiet this time of year.

Whew! Now you can understand why we stopped blogging. We were too busy! 18 guests this year. Multiple overnight crossings. Hanging out with friends on Charm, Nikau, No Plans Just Options and other boats. We also made multiple side trips to the USA, Germany, and England.

But I also like to blog about Sophie Adventure Cruises, and this last year feels more like it was an extended vacation. Sophie Vacation Cruises.

But all of that is about to end.

The Plan

We are currently planning to sail 2,600 miles from Las Palmas in the Canary Islands to Barbados in the Caribbean, departing early January 2018. From a trade wind perspective, January is the best time of year to do this passage.

To get to the Canaries, we will return to the Spanish coast, make stops in Malaga and Gibralter (The Territory) and then sail a short way up the Portuguese coast to Lagos.

From Lagos we will sail 450 miles to Madeira. My daughter-in-law Julie’s family is from there, and they have planned a 2 week extended family reunion in Madeira in November. We had better get there on time!

From Madeira it’s a single overnight sail to the Canaries.

So that’s our plan. We think the boat will be ready for the passage. We’ve ordered a new genoa and a new square-topped mainsail from Phil Auger at Zoom Sails, and we plan to pick them up in Gibraltar.

We also bought a small, barely-used parasailor spinnaker from a friend in Licata, so we are setup for tradewind downwind sailing in winds up to 25 knots.

We plan to replace our running rigging before we go. The engines, genset and watermarker have all been pretty happy this summer. It’s amazing how the heat and humidity of the tropics can take it’s toll on machines. The Med was much more gentle on Sophie’s systems.

Rich and his daughter Kate are crewing on the passage to Barbados, meaning they have signed up AND have purchased plane tickets. Two others have signed up but haven’t bought their tickets yet. (You know who you are, so please get cracking!)

Once we are in the Caribbean, we will have work to do. Jenna has signed us up to assist the International Rescue Group by using Sophie to ferry supplies to communities that were destroyed by hurricanes last month. We are very much looking forward to doing this.

We are now in the sixth year of our adventure. Leo is a teenager. Hazel has spent over half of her life on the boat. Our family is extraordinarily lucky to be doing this.

Putting the “Cat” in “Licata”


To celebrate the new year, I thought I would post a little photo essay about the 23 catamarans moored here at the marina in Licata, Sicily. This is boat porn at its finest. Enjoy!

Let’s start with this Aventura 33. I love the design of this boat, with an inverse curve to its sheerline and a big open cockpit with twin tillers. It seems to pack a lot of space into 33  feet and would make a great weekender back in Puget Sound. This model uses a hybrid diesel electric system for propulsion, and I don’t really know if it actually works. But the boat looks great.


Another boat with a similar approach to sheerline is this Dean 44, designed and built in South Africa. This boat is owned by a New Zealand family who allegedly have multiple girls Hazel’s age and will return to Licata in late January. Hazel doesn’t know this, and please don’t tell her!


I couldn’t find much online about this Nomad 1350, but I do know that early catamaran designers were quite concerned about their boats accelerating quickly down waves, burying their bows underwater, and then capsizing by flipping forward. The owner of this boat addressed this concern by installing a large air foil on the stern in order to keep the bows up at high speeds. Please also note the hydraulic passarelle on the port transom. I assume this can also function as a crane for loading crates of wine from quay.


Another unique cat is this M&M (Mono & Multihull, not Morelli and Melvin) built in Drachten, the Netherlands. It has well over 4 feet of bridge deck clearance, which is more than I’ve seen on Gunboats and Atlantics. She also has a single daggerboard on her port side. She looks very light and wicked fast.


Here is a newish Outremer 45, another fast cruising cat with dagger boards. I always pronounced these as “out-REAM-ers” until Pete McGonagle at Swiftsure Yachts in Seattle helped me see the light. The correct pronunciation is “oot-reh-MARE.” I love these boats, especially the bigger ones, but I am not a fan of the aft cockpit covering on this one. It has a fiberglass roof directly under the boom, and then a canvas bimini on either side. If you look closely, you can see someone has propped a boathook under the starboard canvas bimini to keep it from sagging. But I am nitpicking here, it is a beautiful boat. Note the tiller post behind the starboard driving seat. Very cool. I would love to steer a big cat at high speeds using a tiller. In the Pacific, Jenna and I met a guy on a fast French cat. I think his name was Martin, and I think the boat was Wild Thing. He asked me I’ve ever regretted ordering a steering wheel for Sophie, because we always use autopilot at sea and the engine controls in the harbor. He had tiller steering and was thinking of getting rid of his steering  wheel.


Rounding out our review of the unique cats here in Licata is this Broadblue owned by our friends, the Casleys. They love the boat: it’s a seaworthy, fast cruiser that serves as a great home for five. It also has the biggest galley I’ve ever seen on a cruising sailboat. You could  film cooking seminars in that thing. I also like how their dinghy has a center console seat like a jet ski. I wanted one of those for our new dinghy…


Now let’s switch to the big mass production catamaran builders, starting with Fontaine Pajot. This 48 foot Salina is Sophie’s neighbor and has a fiberglass cover over the dinghy between the two transoms. It appears to be integrated with the dinghy davits. I’ve never seen a cover like this before and want to discuss it with the owner when he returns from France next year. It’s a clean and beautiful boat.

The remaining Fontaine Pajots here are all older and include a Tobago (35′), an Athena (38′), a Lavezzi (40′), and a Belize (43′). My brother David and family have a Fontaine Pajot in Baltimore. I think it is a Belize but I’m not certain.


The other big production catamaran builder is Lagoon, and there are 11 Lagoons (!) wintering here in Licata. The biggest Lagoon in town is this 52, the model that replaced the Lagoon 500. It features the “new” Lagoon design with higher topsides and a proportionally smaller mainsail. Note the track for the self-tacking jib right in front of the mast. I was told by a Lagoon dealer in Thailand that the 52 is faster than the 500. I love the look of this boat and will try to figure out a way to take one out for a spin.

There are two Lagoon 500s in Licata, including our beloved Sophie. The one on the right is a 3 cabin version with the captain’s cabin occupying the entire starboard hull. This boat is for sale, but I think I like our boat more. But it would be fun to set up a bowling alley in that starboard stateroom. Or perhaps a game of Mölkky, the Finnish lawn game we play after our Sunday barbecues at the marina. (Here is a link to Martha Stewart explaining how to play Mölkky.) So much space.

Next up in Lagoon land is this 450 on the left and the 440 on the right. The 440 is called Takamaka and is owned by our Lithuanian friends Deimante and Saulius. They are young and full of life and host an excellent New Year’s Eve party, as Jenna and Rebekah can attest.


Lagoons tend to be happy boats.

Our marina has one Lagoon 421 and two 400s, including “No Plans Just Options” which is home to the Eilbecks, a family from Australia. Lagoon packs a lot of space into a 40 foot waterline, and No Plans is a very nice boat. Now you Eilbecks need to come back from Oz! You’re missing a lot of fun here.

Rounding out our fleet of Lagoons are three 380s. The Lagoon 380 is the most successful cruising catamaran ever, with over 700 hulls shipped during its production lifetime. There are even 60 of them listed in Yachtworld right now. You see these boats everywhere.

So that wraps up my little photo essay of the catamaran fleet wintering here in Licata. From my perspective, nothing beats a cat in terms of living space, cruising comfort, and fast passage speed. But some of you still love your monohulls, so I’ve thrown in a couple of photos in the spirit of balance and equity. If you are a “mi piace grandi mozziconi e non posso mentire“kind of person, then check out the backside of this Hanse 575. It’s enormous. Merry Christmas, Kenny Wickman!


Oh. mio. Dio.

But if catamarans were never invented, and I needed to pick the best boat for circumnavigating in terms of living space, cruising comfort, and fast passage speed, then this Amel 64 would do the trick.


I can think of $2.2 million reasons why I love this boat, including the ketch rig, sheltered-yet-large cockpit, aft deck dance floor, and the incredibly functional interior. It’s a beautiful boat.

But I am a cat man, and Jenna and I are very happy with our little Sophie. Licata is a wonderful place to spend the winter. We are very lucky. Happy New Year, everybody!

From Montenegro to Sicily in 23 Steps

It has been four months since Jenna and I last posted on this blog, and boy have we been busy. Please accept our profound apologies for our absence.

Since July, we spent six more weeks in Montenegro visiting with family, then moved the boat up to Venice, then visited the US to celebrate my daughter Sara’s wedding, then returned back to Venice for a few days, then traveled up to Munich for a week of Oktoberfest fun, then returned back to Venice and the surrounding countryside, and then proceeded to sail down the Italian Adriatic coast to our winter berth here in Sicily. At various points during our stay in Venice and during the first half of our Italian cruise southward, we hosted our friends Ian and Becky, our cousins Jasmin and Leone, Jenna’s parents Sarah and Terry, and our friends Jeff and Melody.


Sophie is currently docked in the Marina di Cala del Sole in Licata, Sicily, where we plan to stay for the next four or five months. We are surrounded by a cruising community who winter their boats here, including several boats with children, and we have already started to make new friends.

For this blog, I will walk you through the twenty-three steps we took to get from Montenegro to Sicily. I cover a lot of ground for one post, and I’ll leave it to  Jenna to follow up and dazzle you with her wonderful photography posts in the coming months. Let’s go.

1. Kotor, Montenegro

We spent most of July and August anchored in front of my brother David and his wife Goga’s house in Kotorski Zaliv (Kotor Bay) at 42°27′.920N, 018°45′.729E. Most cruising boats that visit Kotor either dock or anchor at the southern part of the bay by the old town or up in the northeast part of the bay by the mussel farms. David and Goga’s house is on the water midway between these two points, and we could easily tie our dinghy right to their little stone pier when we went to shore. The anchor location didn’t have the best protection when a storm came through, but we would always stay on the boat during the couple of times when it started to blow. Our Rocna anchor took good care of us.

The cruising boats that anchored in town had better shelter during southerly winds, but the boom-boom music from Kotor’s nightlife could get pretty loud for cruisers trying to sleep at anchor there. We loved our anchor location and its easy access to family and the nearby community.

It will take a 10 page blog post just to cover everything we did in Montenegro. We rafted rivers, climbed mountains, swam every day and ate ćevapi at night. We celebrated David and Goga’s 20th wedding anniversary with friends at the little floating church where they were married. We headed into town (usually around 11:00 PM) to listen to music, experience the local art scene, and meet some of Goga’s endless supply of friends. We played cards and did pushups. The kiddies sailed Optimists at the local sailing school three times a week. When we left town to go on overnight road trips, we would dock the boat in the little Marina Mala Luka a couple of miles away at 42°26′.635N, 018°45′.218E. It’s a quiet marina on the west side of the bay that is run by a nice family. There is no diesel for sale in any of the marinas in Kotor Bay, so we once had to head around to Tivat, about 10 miles away, to fuel up. We also went on a little excursion to Budva and wound up grabbing a mooring in town there for one night.

Overall, our visit to Montenegro was one of the true highlights of our adventure cruise.

2. Ancona

But all good things must come to an end, and soon it became time for us to make the 240 mile overnight passage from Montenegro to Ancona, Italy. We actually left Montenegro a day earlier than planned due to a forecast for imminent bad weather with strong northerlies in the Adriatic. Our overnight passage was uneventful, although we felt bummed as we cruised up the Croatian coast knowing that we weren’t going to stop there in 2016. That’s what happens when you become slaves to a schedule. In Ancona, we stayed at Marina Dorica at 43°36′.618N, 013°28′.931E, a 1,000-boat, modern marina separated from the old town by an industrial park and the commercial harbor. At the marina, we side-tied to a floating finger dock (I am surprised by the number of floating docks we have encountered in Italy). The marina had 5 bars and restaurants plus a couple of small stores but no real grocery store. On our first night there, a thunderstorm with 40 knot winds came through and caused our gennaker to partially unfurl and ultimately tear along the leach. Jenna and I wrangled it down with the help of a neighbor in the pouring rain and high winds at 2am. On the plus side, we were so glad we had decided to leave Montenegro a day early, because we avoided encountering that storm at sea. The marina in Ancona is a 35 minute walk from town. Clearing customs and immigration in town was easy and professional, and we were their first US boat to clear there in a long time. We stayed in Ancona for several nights through the remaining bad weather and came to enjoy the Italian custom of passagio after riposo, where people parade their dogs in the main walking area downtown after they have completed their mid-day nap. We had no idea how much Italians loved their dogs!

3. Venice

The distance from Ancona to Venice is 120 miles, and given our narrow weather windows we decided to sail directly there on an overnight trip. I actually had to slow the boat down in order to enter Venice’s lagoon in daylight. We parked Sophie for over a month at the Marina di Lio Grando at 45°27′.266N, 012°26′.021E. It’s on the northeast side of the lagoon next to the Punta Sabbioni ferry terminal, a little over 3.5 miles across the water from the center of Venice. What a great and quiet little spot! It’s a small, family-run marina with a population of wild bunny rabbits roaming around. The staff tied us between two piers so that we didn’t rub against pilings when the occasional strong surge came through. Supermarkets, wine stores, bike shops, bars, and restaurants were all an easy bike ride a way. It took 10 minutes to walk to the ferry terminal for a vaporetto (local ferry boat) into Venice. The marina gave us a very good monthly rate. We even bought the kids new folding bikes after we discovered some end-of-summer specials at the local bike store. Happy Birthday Leo, and Merry Christmas Hazel!

4. United States

We left Venice to travel back to the United States and participate in my daughter Sara’s wedding with the love of her life, Julie. It was a perfect wedding on a farm in New York’s Hudson River valley. We visited with friends and family all along the East Coast, including Jenna’s sisters in Pennsylvania. We caught a Boston Red Sox game and even made a side trip to Connecticut to meet the crew of Totem after becoming their friends on the Internet after they left Seattle 8 years ago. It was a great visit home.

5. Back in Venice
After the US, we returned to Venice for a couple of days. Our main focus was restarting Sophie School. We also deployed our vinyl aft cockpit enclosure for the first time since we left San Diego four years ago. On the eve of Leo’s birthday, we decorated his new bike for him in the aft cockpit, turned its flashing lights on, and then sent him out three times to fetch something. He walked right past the bike without noticing it until we finally burst out singing “Happy Birthday” and pointed it out to  him. We haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.

6. Bayern

After a few post-wedding days in Venice, we packed up and took the train to Munich to celebrate Oktoberfest and Leo’s birthday with various Sophie Adventure Cruises alumni from Seattle including the Fells, the Batterberrys, the Campbell-Hoppers, the Rieblings, and the Barretts. We also had the chance to meet with many of our wonderful Utzschneider and Stephan relatives from across southern Germany. As a change of pace from Munich, we all traveled up to Rödental to spend a weekend with my brother Rich (veteran of Sophie’s Pacific crossing and the Maldives leg) and his wife Sigi. We attended a local music festival there, and had ridiculously good fun.

7. Back in Venice Again

After Munich, we took the train back to Venice accompanied by Ian and Becky (who were making their fourth visit to Sophie.) We moved the boat from Marina di Lio Grando to Marina Sant’Elena (45°25′.537N, 012°22′.020E.) The marina is located directly in Venice and has the best free streaming wifi we have encountered on our entire trip. Sant’Elena was more expensive than Lio Grando, but we now had the opportunity to walk directly into town. The marina is in a quiet residential neighborhood by the naval college, with a park and multiple neighborhood bars and stores nearby. After a few days we were joined by my cousin Jasmin and her daughter Leonie and then by Jenna’s parents Sarah and Terry, who were making their first visit to us since we left the US. At one point we had ten people sleeping on the boat. It was fun and crowded, and our guests all had a great time exploring Venice. It also just so happened that Sara and Julie showed up in Venice for their honeymoon, so we had the opportunity to bask in the glow of the happy newlyweds.

8. Austria and Slovenia

After Jasmin, Leonie, Ian, and Becky left, Jenna’s parents organized a road trip for all of us to explore northern Italy, Austria, and Slovenia for a few days. Terry served in the US Air Force, and was stationed in Italy for three years in the 1970s. When Jenna was a toddler, they lived in a small town called Sedrano, about 90 minutes north of Venice. Unfortunately, I had to drop out and remain behind on Sophie, nursing a nasty chest cold, after pushing myself too far over the previous few weeks. Jenna, her parents, and the kiddies had a fabulous road trip visiting their old neighborhood, exploring the Alps, and visiting long time friends Werner and Heidi in Austria.

9. Ravenna

After the crew returned from the Austria trip, we decided to depart Venice for Ravenna with Jenna’s parents still on board. As soon as we had the mainsail up outside of the lagoon, a northerly wind gusted at 45 knots, accompanied by a nasty and sloppy sea. Jenna and I dropped the main and rolled out a scrap of jib, and we made the 60 mile downwind run to Ravenna in reasonable comfort and in good time. Jenna’s parents definitely got a taste for rough-water sailing, and they handled it like pros. We stayed at the Marina di Ravenna (44°29′.341N, 012°17′.450E), which is protected by a big double breakwater and was quite comfortable. The marina is located next to a tourist beach area that was mostly shut down for the winter (the first of many such marinas we would encounter on our trip south.) The actual city of Ravenna is a UNESCO World Heritage site and was located 5 miles away, but there was a convenient bus into town. Jenna and her parents enjoyed touring the local churches and museums. While in Ravenna, our friends Jeff and Melody joined us and we were back to being a completely full and happy boat.

10. Rimini and San Marino

Our next stop was Rimini, just 28 miles south of Ravenna.  It seems that the farther south we headed, the more fish and white wine started to appear on local restaurant menus. That’s a good thing. We stayed at the Marina di Rimini (44°04′.555N, 012°34′.363E), which was located right in town. I really enjoyed this stop, with a pretty town and a nearby park with good bike riding. The main street had a Hadrian’s arch on one end and a 2000 year-old Roman bridge on the other. Most importantly, during our stay here we took a bus to the country of San Marino, a postcard-perfect mountaintop castle city-state that is a separate country from Italy. On the day of our visit, the town was hosting a Prosecco conference and a swing-dance celebration with a live big band in the outdoor courtyard in front of the city hall. It was an awesome and unforgettable experience. We had so much fun together, but Jenna’s parents’ trip quickly came to an end and they left us in Rimini. It was a great visit and we look forward to the next time they join us on Sophie.

11. Ancona
With Jeff and Melody still  on board, we returned to Ancona and berthed at the same dock as our previous visit. What a difference two months can make! All of the stores and restaurants in the marina were shut down for the winter. We would encounter this phenomenon several more times during our southing. We only stayed for one night and then kept on moving.

12. San Benedetto Del Tronto

After Ancona, we made a very civilized 45 mile run down to San Benedetto del Tronto, another tourist town that was shut down for the winter, and stayed in the town marina (42°57′.357N, 013°53′.300E). We connected with Gina, a local who lives onboard her sailboat in the marina and friend of our fellow South Pacific traveler Tom Van Dyke. We enjoyed Gina’s hospitality and she even brought the kids early Halloween treats! There was some nice flat bike riding in town, especially along the mole where they have some very interesting statues. Jeff and Melody brought their bikes along, so we made up quite the peleton of folding bikes exploring the area. One night in the marina there was a marine weather forecasting seminar that was conducted entirely in Italian. I think I understood the entre talk. Isobars are isobars regardless of the language.

13. Termoli

Our subsequent plan was to make another civilized 45 mile run to the port of Ortona, but when we arrived there in mid-afternoon, the marina appeared to be full of boats and empty of people. No one there was answering the phone or the radio. We now know that when cruising this part of the world, you need to make formal marina reservations in advance, even (or especially) in the off-season. Also, there is little to no anchoring on Italy’s east coast, so we called the marina in Termoli, got a commitment from someone there on the phone, and decided to go another 35 miles at a very high speed. We arrived there after dark and stern tied at 42°00′.170N, 015°00′.070E. We stayed two nights. There was a pretty old town with small houses painted in bright pastels, a nice beach front promenade for bike riding, and a main town with a public square and interesting  shops. At the risk of repeating myself, it was another great visit.

14. Vieste

Vieste is located on the spur of Italy’s boot, and it felt weird to be sailing Sophie for 50 miles on a due easterly course of 90° to get there from Termoli. It almost felt like we were sailing back to Seattle. It was worth the trip, because Vieste is a beautiful city with stunning cliffs and a very old-school Italian feel. We docked in the marina at 41°53′.292N, 016°10.073E. Vieste’s old town reminded me of Rhodos in Greece, with narrow crooked cobblestone streets and little shops. It also had some great restaurants serving excellent seafood, and we celebrated Jeff and Melody’s last night at a fabulous Italian restaurant before they took their leave of Sophie. We stayed one more night and befriended a nice family that runs the restaurant in the local yacht club. Their daughter came to the boat and played with Hazel, and afterwards they gave us some fresh seafood and we made delicious fish soup. They have an open invitation to visit us in sunny Sicily whenever they would like.

15. Manfredonia

After Vieste, we sailed 24 miles due west along the southern coast of Italy’s spur to the town of Manfredonia. Once again, we arrived at a small marina, in this case the Marina Cala delle Sirene, to find it full of boats and empty of people. When I had called the marina in advance, the man who answered the phone said “Send Email, Send Email.” We assumed that meant they had room. It didn’t. Also the marina had no sailboats, which was a good indication that it was too shallow for Sophie. We were a little bummed at the idea of driving another 35 miles and docking after dark, but then Jenna noticed on Google Maps that there was something that looked like a huge marina just a few miles away. Sure enough, the Marina Del Gargano (41°37′.016N, 015°54′.775E) was right on the other side of town. It was three years old and had capacity for ~1000 boats. They weren’t listed in either our 2015 Adriatic Pilot or Navionics, but they had plenty of space for us. It was a nice marina, but was mostly shut down for the winter. We rode our bikes into town, toured a downtown park built around some Norman castles, and ate dinner on board.

16. Bisceglie

After one night in Manfredonia, we covered 35 miles and stayed in Bisceglie, a nice little harbor (41°14′.821N, 016°30′.655E) just up the coast from Bari. It provided good shelter from some bad weather. There also seemed to be no tourism here; we felt like we were heading deeper into “real” Italy. The Norman fort that dominated the harbor had been converted to apartment buildings in the last century, and the town plaza was located behind that. It was too hilly for biking, but I was able to get an excellent haircut and triple shave in a small barbershop. We also had lunch one day in the old town in a vaulted restaurant called Antico Granaio. They didn’t appear to have menus, and the waiter came out and said in Italian that he could bring us appetizers, primis, and secondis.  He did so! Again, we feasted on delicious local food and incredible dolci. At this point on our trip, 80% of the menu items in restaurants were seafood. The southing continued.

17. Polignano a Mare

We chose to bypass Bari and stay at either Polignano or Monopoli for our next stop. Our pilot indicated that Polignano looked like another small fishing harbor shut down for the winter, but Jenna found a website showing that there was a new marina there, so we gave it a shot. What a great choice! It was 35 miles from Bisceglie, and Polignano was our favorite stop on the entire Italian Adriatic coast. The Cala Ponte marina was located at 41°00′.372N, 017°12′.334E. Like most of the big marinas here, the stores and restaurant were shut down for the winter, and the harbor was a bit rolly in the heavy winds. But Polignano town was spectacular! It was a mile from the marina, and we could ride our bikes there on a dedicated bike path. The town was perched on cliffs on either side of an old river ravine, and the old town was walled off from cars in a way that reminded us of Kotor. We found a small “foodie” restaurant called Osteria dei Mulini that was written up in the New York Times, and it was really really good. We sat out a storm with 40 knots northerlies here and enjoyed watching the surf crash against the cliffs at the base of the town.

While at the marina, we rented a car for the day and did some local sightseeing. Our first stop was Alberobello to check out the Trulli, traditional stone huts with conical roofs. They look like little hobbit houses!  We then had lunch at Martina Franca, a hilltop city with a lovely cathedral and central courtyard. After that we checked out the Roman ruins at Egnazia, a former port city on the road between Rome and Brindisi. There’s an extension to the Appian Way here, and you can still see the chariot ruts in a section of the preserved stone road. Finally, we swung by Monopoli to check out the harbor, and this made us even happier about our choice to stay in Polignano. The harbor in Monopoli had a big roll and little space for cruising yachts.

18. Brindisi

After Polignano, we made a 42 mile run to Brindisi, the historic naval port on Italy’s southeast coast. We stayed at the Brindisi Marina (40°39′.927N, 018°00′.124E), yet another 1,000 boat marina that was mostly shut down for the winter. The marina is located across from the Aragon castle and was well-protected. It was near dark when we arrived, and we decided to make the 30 minute walk past the naval base to a little residential neighborhood with some cafes and pizzerias. We were hoping to find some Champions League football on a TV somewhere and got lucky to find Braceria La VacaLoca, a restaurant that served either paninis, or grilled meat covered in rocket, cherry tomatoes, and shaved parmesan. They also served fresh, homemade potato chips. I could eat here every day for the rest of my life. During our walk we got a view of the old town on the other side of the harbor, but given the threat of bad weather approaching, we decided to leave the next morning. It would have been nice to stay here longer.

19. Santa Foca di Melendugno

After Brindisi, we headed south for another 34 miles to Santa Foca and stayed at the Porto Turistico di San Foca. (40°39′.927N, 018°00′.124E.) The marina was sheltered, but the summer tourist town was almost deserted. We were able to go for a bike ride on the promenades north and south of town and buy some groceries in a local store, but that was about it.

20. Leuca

From Foca we headed another 34 civilized miles to Santa Maria di Leuca, the southernmost tip of the heel on Italy’s “boot” and the place where the Adriatic meets the Ionian sea. We stayed at the Porto Turistico di Leuca (39°47′.730N, 018°24’341 E). The harbor had a massive breakwater over 20 feet high and was dominated by a lighthouse, a Catholic shrine, and the terminus of a major aqueduct built by Mussolini. We went for a nice bike ride, ate lunch at Café Do Mar, and took some sunset photos from the top of the hill.

21. Riposto

After Leuca, Jenna and I had a bit of a trip planning dilemma. We had to cross the Gulf of Taranto to get to Cambria, the “ball and toe” of Italy’s boot. At a minimum, the trip would  be 80 miles, and the closest harbors on the Cambrian side looked to be of the many boats, few people variety. We also were encountering increasingly stormy weather with limited windows where we could move. So we decided to bypass Cambria, make a 200 mile overnight dash, and head straight for Riposto on Sicily’s east coast. It was a good call. We left Leuca a little before sunrise and enjoyed a calm crossing across the Gulf of Taranto. We sailed for the first half of the day, motorsailed the second half of the day, and motored through the night after the wind shifted around to the southwest. The kiddies did Sophie School and I caught a tuna. Jenna and I split the night shift, and I prepared myself for our winter destination by watching Goodfellas and The Godfather. We averaged a nice and fuel efficient 6.5-7 knots. On our second day, Jenna spotted a small sea turtle tangled up in fishing line and a plastic tarpaulin. Jenna boathooked the plastic with turtle up to our transom and I was able to cut it free with a rigging knife. That was one happy turtle swimming away from us! Riposto is at the foot of Mount Etna, and we were able to tie up at the pier at Porto dell’Etna (37°43′.885N, 015°12′.477E.) The marina was half-full (not half-empty!), and most of the tourist businesses in town were shut down. The main walking area was on the waterfront, where there were five fishmongers in a row along the waterfront park. We had lunch (fish) at Trattoria Marricriu one day and then Jenna indulged me and we all went out for pizza and European  football at a genuine Murphy’s Pub!

22. Marzamemi

Our weather windows in Riposto were becoming increasingly rare, and we thought we had a shot to head south after a couple of days there. We left at sunrise, and after ten miles encountered a strong wind wall coming off the back side of Etna. The wind went from 5 knots to 30 knots in a matter of several hundred meters. It was actually forecast on PredictWind, but we thought it would turn out to be a small patch that we could easily power through. Wrong! After slamming for a while, we turned around and headed back to Riposto. There is no need to pound if you are not on a schedule and the weather forecast is meant to clear up the following day. So we tried again the next day, leaving at 4:00 AM to try to make the 65 miles to Marzamemi on Sicily’s southeastern tip and had an easy trip. The small harbor there is managed by three yacht clubs, and we were able to reserve one of the last remaining berths in town from Marina Sporting (36°44′.032N, 015°07′.354E.) The father and son who ran the marina were very nice, and they had excellent free wifi that we used to watch the US election results and then a LOT of Netflix. The town of Marzamemi was pretty much shut down for the winter, although it looked like a fun place to visit in the summer. I was able to ride my bike a couple of miles up the hill to the town of Pachino to load up on groceries. We stayed here on the boat for four nights in high winds, watching the surf crash outside the breakwater and waiting for the weather to change.

23. Licata

We thought we would be stuck in Marzamemi for a week or potentially longer, but last Friday a short weather window opened up and we left Marzamemi to make the 80 mile run to our winter destination of Licata. We had a 5 to 15 knot headwind the entire way, but the seas calmed down along the way. We ran the engines @ 2900 RPMs because the wind was forecast to pick up to 20 knots by late afternoon and also because the kids were incredibly excited to meet the other boat kids waiting in Licata. It was an uneventful trip, and the kids were able to do schoolwork and clean up their cabins in anticipation of play dates. We arrived at the Marina Di Cala Del Sole, Sophie’s home birth for the next 5 months. Our port engine actually ran out of fuel while we were idling outside the marina, but we were able to easily move fuel over from the starboard tank in less than a minute. (We’ve done this once before when we were much younger.) There is a community of 50 cruising boats wintering here, and the three other families with kids (All Together, No Plans Just Options and Ferdinand) greeted us from the quay and helped us stern tie. It’s a quiet, very sheltered marina, and Sophie is 75 feet from a café/bar and 400 feet from a small mall with the best grocery store we’ve seen since Israel. Since we’ve arrived we’ve already attended two cruiser happy hours (stayed up too late for the first one) and the weekly Sunday pot luck barbecue (ate too much cannoli.) The kiddies LOVE having new friends, and we are already making  plans for our community Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations.

People here are stunned when they realize we started the year in Thailand. Since then we’ve pushed really hard at times as we traveled across the Maldives, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Montenegro, Italy, Germany, The USA, Austria, and then back down Italy to Sicily. It feels really good to finally be home for a while.

Have I told you lately how lucky we are?