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.


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.