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.


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?


From Egypt to Turkey


Sophie is currently anchored in Üçaĝiz harbor in the Kekova Roads on Turkey’s southern coast. Our location is 36.11.64n, 029.50.58e. This is our first anchorage since the Maldives, a very distant 12 weeks and 3,100 miles ago. We have made additional stops in Egypt, Israel, Cyprus, Turkey, and the United States since then.
We have covered a lot of ground. It feels great to be back at anchor, like our life is finally returning back to normal. Sophie School has resumed, the water toys are out, and Jenna and I just completed a paddleboard circuit of the harbor, accompanied by turtles, fishies, and goats. I even got to fix a toilet and a bilge pump since we arrived here the other day.


Back in March we rested in Port Ghalib, Egypt for a couple of days after our long passage across the Indian Ocean and the Red Sea. There were 5 other boats there that had completed the Red Sea passage around the same time we did. Other than being able to connect with fellow cruisers, there wasn’t much to see. Port Ghalib is a destination resort that is suffering a 90% reduction in tourism due to the terrorist attacks in Egypt. Most of the businesses there had stopped paying rent to the resort’s absentee Kuwaiti landlords.

Our Red Sea guards departed Sophie a couple of hours after we arrived. The German bar that I had been looking forward to was a bit of a disappointment. They didn’t even serve German beer!


The resort maintains a sailboat that had crashed up on the rocks ten years ago as a reminder of how treacherous the local waters can be. They are proud of it, while all of the cruisers view it as a very bad omen.

RDSE7239On the positive side, Port Ghalib offered a very protected harbor, an easy government check-in process, and diesel fuel pumps right on the quay. It was an excellent stop after our long passage. We do not regret having made the long push to get here.

After Port Ghalib, we made an overnight run to Port of Suez at the entrance to the Suez Canal. For the first 6 hours we slowly motored into a steep chop, but the wind soon swung around to a southerly as forecast, and we had an uneventful trip for the rest of the way.


We stayed at the Suez Yacht Club, which 15 years ago had a restaurant, bar, and swimming pool. Fleets of 50 sailboats at a time used to stop there as they cruised up and down the Red Sea. Now the yacht club is reduced to a single plastic floating dock with no facilities other than a security guard. We were just the second sailboat of the year to call on them, after Egoiste, a Jeanneau 56 that left the Maldives three weeks before we did. The yacht club’s facilities have been handed over to Egypt’s military, which now uses it as an Army and Navy Club.


Our dock was just 100 meters to the entrance of the canal, and it was a little weird to see 1,200 foot container ships passing us as they made their way into the desert.
Our agent met us on the dock and took care of our paperwork. He also arranged for us to take a taxi into town and have dinner at a traditional kebab restaurant. It was our first real exposure to local middle eastern food. No one in the restaurant spoke English, and as a result we ordered way too much food, including chicken, lamb, pita, humus, tahini, salads, and sweets. We had some excellent leftovers.


The next day a tour guide took us in a van into Cairo where we toured the Cairo Museum and then visited the pyramids at Giza. It was a stunning experience, made all the better (and sadder) by the complete lack of tourists in the city. There were no lines at the Cairo Museum, and we were able to take photos of the Pyramids with no people in the background. Apparently this is the first time someone had done this since Napoleon visited over 200 years ago.

Some people question whether we are taking big risks visiting places where there have been terrorist attacks within the last year. Our view is that if we don’t visit countries that depend on tourism to support their economy, then the terrorists win. We will never do anything that we consider unsafe for our family, and we did skip visiting some other aras of Egypt this time. Cairo is no different than Paris or Brussels in terms of safety right now. The local people rely on income from tourists to survive, and we believe it is our role as world travelers to help them.

After a couple of days in Suez, we picked up our pilot and transited the first half (40 miles) of the Suez Canal, making an overnight stop at the yacht club in the port of Ismalia. It was surreal taking Sophie through the desert. All we could see were mounds of sand on either side of the canal, with army forts and emergency floating bridges every couple of kilometers. During the ’73 war, the Egyptian Third Army was trapped and surrounded on the wrong side of the Suez, and apparently the country never wants that to happen again.


We even had to stop for 20 minutes during the tail end of a floating bridge staging exercise. Each bridge section had diesel engines attached to it, and the entire bridge swung like a door across the canal. Later on during that day we passed by a couple of tanks that were crossing the canal on motorized rafts. There was a lot of military activity.


The only other thing I remember from that first day of our canal passage was how cold it was, how very very cold it was. Jenna stayed below doing Sophie School with the diesel cabin heaters running at full blast. I was up top with the pilot, and I was wearing a puffy insulated coat over 3 layers of sweatshirts. I even had to loan the pilot my Gill sailing jacket, and he was a little disappointed when I had to inform him at the end of the day that it was not a gift.


We made it to Ismalia by mid-afternoon and docked at the yacht club there. We caught the tail end of lunch at the restaurant, which was mostly serving a business crowd, and then went to bed.


The next morning we met out new pilot and quickly proceeded on our way. Once again it was cold, and once again our pilot assumed my loan of the Gill sailing jacket was a gift. He spoke no English and spent most of his time quietly praying. We offered him tea and kebab for lunch, which he was finally willing to accept once we convinced him that it was halal. At one point he even made pig oinking noises in trying to communicate to us that he couldn’t eat pork. But it all worked out, and he enjoyed his lamb, hummus, and tahini.


During this leg Jenna climbed to the top of the mast and took some pretty awesome photos of Sophie driving through a trench of water in the middle of an Arabian desert. Surreal.


By early afternoon we reached Port Said, and a pilot boat pulled by to disembark our pilot. We suddenly found ourselves motoring into the Mediterranean sea on a cold and sunny afternoon. We were greeted by some of the fattest dolphins we’ve ever seen. It was quite a moment for us.


We officially cleared out of Egypt back in Port Suez, so we had no need to stop in Port Said and headed directly for Herzilya, a port in Israel 15 kilometers north of Tel Aviv. It was an easy overnight run, highlighted by my 3:00 AM interview over VHF with Israeli Defense Forces. Even though we had contacted them in advance, they wanted to know the name, birth date, and passport number of every soul on board. The discussion took an hour.

Later that morning when we were 10 miles out of Herzilya, an IDF patrol boat roared out to greet us. They did a big circle around Sophie and then stopped 100 meters off our port side. They didn’t say much on radio, other than requesting that all passengers and crew please come up on deck. In Southeast Asia and in the Pacific, when military patrol boats greeted Sophie, the military on board whipped out their mobile phones and took selfies with Sophie in the background. The Israelis were all business and had a 50 caliber machine gun pointed at us the entire time. We also assume they had an infrared camera on their boat to see if we had any people hiding below. But they were super friendly and after a minute said “We hope you enjoy your stay in Israel” and roared off.

An hour later we docked at the marina in Herzilya. After we stern-tied to the pier, a couple of millennial guys in civilian clothes came up to us, said they were with the border police, and asked if they could search the boat. They were quite polite, and I wasn’t worried at all that they were going to ask us for a bottle of wine like the customs dudes in Tonga had done. When they were finished searching, they asked me to accompany them off of the boat, where we were joined by two young women who asked if I minded if they could ask me some questions. I had been through this drill during my previous visit to Israel, and it was fascinating to go through it again. One woman smiled and asked all of the questions while the other three watched me. Where were we from, what did we do for a living, did we carry any packages for people from the Maldives of Egypt, did we ever leave the key to the boat with anyone, what did I do for a living again? It was all super friendly and super competent, and after 20 minutes they smiled and said “Welcome to Israel. We hope you enjoy your stay!”

Herzilya is a luxury, modern marina, unlike anyplace we had visited since our stop in Singapore a year earlier. The marina complex included a Ritz Carlton hotel, a mall, and 20 outdoor tourist restaurants along a broad waterfront promenade. We stayed there for 10 days, making side trips to Jerusalem, Jordan, and Acre. We also reconnected with the Sagiv family, friends from Seattle whose children had gone to daycare with Leo and Hazel before we left on our adventure and they moved home to Israel.


We loved our stay in Israel, and we hope to return there before we leave the Mediterranean.


After Israel, we made an overnight run to Paphos on the western tip of Cyprus and stayed there for over a week. Paphos is a tourist town built around a small fishing port that doesn’t have a big marina, but we were able to obtain a stern tie berth on the police dock. The location was spectacular, with a small Crusaders castle across a courtyard from Sophie, and a bike trail led to Greek and Byzantine ruins just 500 meters away.


By the time we reached Cyprus, were beginning to master our new Mediterranean cruising lifestyle, and we liked it: stern-tie in an ancient harbor, visit local Egyptian/Greek/Roman/Byzantine/Ottoman ruins, avoid the waterfront tourist restaurants, and wallow in the Mediterranean “mezze” cuisine: eggplant, tomatoes, hummus, cucumbers, mint, yogurt, lamb, fish, olives, sparkling water, and dry red wine. Using Paphos as our base, we toured the entire island and feel like we barely scratched the surface during our ten days there. We plan to return to Cyprus during our cruise.

After Paphos we made yet another (and potentially our last) overnight run for a while and went to Kemer, a harbor with a marina next to the Taurus mountains in Turkey. Jenna and I had decided that after 3 and a half years living on Sophie, it was time to cut the ties and rent out our house back in Seattle. We needed a safe place in Turkey where we could park the boat for a couple of weeks while we flew back to the states to clean out our house and get it ready for tenants. Kemer fit the bill: a big, safe marina just 40 minutes from the airport in Antalya.


So we spent just 2 days in Kemer and then locked up Sophie and headed to the airport. Before we flew to the states, we made a 3 day stop in Istanbul, which is a spectacular city. We visited all of the big mosques and took a cruise on the Bosphorus. Jenna took 10,000 pictures. Our list of cities we plan to re-visit continues to grow.

Then it was off to Seattle for a 2 week visit that combined work and pleasure. We were able to pack up all of our stuff, move it into storage, clean up the house (almost), and get it ready for rental. We were also able to visit with our great friends back home. Leo and Hazel had multiple sleepovers, and one family even loaned us their brand new Beneteau 455 for a weekend rendezvous with our Seattle boating community friends. It is really important for us to maintain our roots back home, especially for Leo and Hazel, and this was a great visit.


After our 2 weeks in Seattle we flew back to Antalya and then cabbed straight back to Sophie. After being on a dock in Port Ghalib, Suez, Ismalia, Herzilya, Paphos, and Kemer, we really wanted to cut the dock lines and get back to anchoring. The Herzilya and Kemer marinas charged us us over 100 Euros per night for moorage, and for us that is not sustainable over the long run. So after one day in Kemer we saw we had a weather window and motored 50 miles around the corner to our current location.

We are now free swinging on anchor in a big protected harbor at Oçagiz. There are 8 other sailboats here. Yesterday, it was dead calm all morning, and then the wind picked up to 25 knots right after lunchtime until evening. This is apparently the weather pattern here. Within 4 kilometers are 2 castles and multiple Byzantine underwater ruins which we plan to explore with with the big dinghy. All of our systems are working, the kids have settled into their school routine, and the local produce is fresh and inexpensive. We are going to try to go three months without docking.

Once again, we are really grateful to be on this trip and feel incredibly lucky to be exploring the world on our boat.

nite nite