Tuesday, August 24, 2010

It Takes a Village to Cross Oceans

Departed: La Paz, Mexico on March 20, 2010
Arrived: Oslo, Norway on August 15, 2010
Total Distance: 8,200 miles
Total Days Underway: 91

At 0400 on August 17th Jeffery was the last of ‘The Sophianauts’ to leave for home, leaving us to our fate in Oslo. If the past five months are any indication of what the year will bring, we will be in very caring and capable hands. This has been a journey of friendship. We had a fair share of breakdowns and problems, but it was thanks to the talent of Sophia’s crew and the support of the numerous people in each port that we made is to Oslo.

As many of you know the only one to have completed the entire trip from La Paz, Mexico to Oslo, Norway is Sophia. It took a very talented team to envision this trip and get her all the way here. Truth be told, she got us here.


First, we wish to express our deep sense of gratitude to all who sailed for months and weeks (that may have felt like months) aboard Sophia. These are the souls who endured cramped spaces, wet everything, mildew, seasickness, and stuffing your used toilet paper in a bin. They are, in no particular order:

Dad (Phillip)
• Pre-Leg – The drive from Seattle to La Paz and preparing Sophia
• Legs 1-2 – La Paz, Mexico to Panama City, Panama
• Legs 4-8 – Bermuda to Oslo, Norway
Thank you for being a great partner in this journey and for holding the unwavering faith that we would get there and on time. You made this trip possible from the very beginning and showed that dreams (even of a lifetime) can be realized.

• Pre-Leg – The drive from Seattle to La Paz and preparing Sophia
• Leg 1 – La Paz, Mexico to Ixtapa, Mexico
Thank you Andreas for doing the first six weeks, which included a hectic and hair-pulling two weeks of getting Sophia ready to cross oceans. This was quite possibly the most aggravating portion of the trip with constant breakages and a ridiculous schedule. You got this half-baked-idea-of-a-trip off the ground.

• Leg 1B – Manzanillo, Mexico to Ixtapa, Mexico
Thanks Alison for jumping on a plane and helping bring Sophia down the Mexican Coast when Andreas and Phil were delayed and light handed. We have had to rely on the “Watch This On a Really Tough Day” dvd more than once. I just found the fruit leather when I cleaned out the refrigerator – I think it is still good?

• Leg 1A – La Paz, Mexico to Manzanillo, Mexico
• Legs 3-7 – Panama City, Panama to Inverness, Scotland
Dan the sailor man, Sophia’s chief engineer, French interpreter, problem solver, aka “he who swims with crocodiles.” Thank you for the determination and relentless work fixing and patching. We think you’re the only person who could have mastered the sextant in one ocean crossing!

• Leg 3 – Panama City, Panama to Providenciales, Turks & Caicos
• Legs 6-8 – The Azores to Oslo, Norway
Thank you for the jumping at the opportunity to join this crazy adventure, and rearranging your travel plans to Greece, buying (and at times re-buying) plane tickets to/from exotic islands. Thank you for your knowledge and skill, and the perseverance to work from 8am to midnight in the sweltering heat in Panama to stop all the leaks we discovered. We’ll be sure to send you some tube food from Norway ☺

Dad (Jim)
• Leg 4 – Providenciales, Turks & Caicos to Bermuda
We miss Captain Jim reporting for duty (early) every night. Your good humor was a welcome treat, especially in light of the rough seas and strong winds those first few days. Thank you for making such an effort to be part of this adventure, especially to join the portion through the Bermuda Triangle. Thankfully we weren’t lost at sea, but we did learn how the Triangle works its mischief ☺

• Leg 4 – Providenciales, Turks & Caicos to Bermuda
Perhaps our least likely crew member. Connie had only sailed one afternoon in Seattle prior to joining us for what was supposed to be an easy leg to Bermuda. She demonstrated incredible determination and good humor (once the initial seasickness subsided). In the midst of painfully rough seas our first night out, we were approaching another island with a dangerous reef and our need to tack when Connie wittily asked, “Does that island have an airport?” But she soldiered on and found her sea legs.


This trip was also possible because of the gifts of many friends and family at home...

Steve on White Cloud
Thank you for the generous gift of one of White Cloud’s spinnakers! We were thrilled to have it crossing the Atlantic from Bermuda.

Duff Kennedy
Thank you for the survival suits. They gave us peace of mind as we crossed the North Atlantic and the North Sea. Dan liked them so much he wore one around the deck (see photos from Bermuda to the Azores).

Sharon Meehan/Kennedy
Thank you for stocking us up on Starbucks Via Instant Coffee packets. It was a treat to have great coffee and for the ease they offered aboard Sophia. No more coffee cones, scalded hands, or coffee ground all over the galley when an unexpected lurch came at just the wrong moment. We even shared some with the Phonecian replica ship we met in the middle of the Atlantic. They had been at sea for 72 days and where especially grateful for some delicious coffee.

Jim (Dad)
Thank you for making sure we were safe with the gift of the EPIRB. I hope it brought you some peace of mind knowing that we could send an emergency signal if anything happened. It certainly brought us peace of mind.

Bob and Jackie Stern (Grandpa and Grandma)
Whose gift of the Eagle and sailing made this trip possible.

Uncle Gary Severson
Thank you for lending us your SCUBA regulator!

Frank Schattauer from Schattauer Sails in Seattle
Frank spent over an hour with me (Rachel) putting together my ditty (sail repair) bag and providing information on how to do common sail repairs. It came in handy on many occasions as we had to do minor re-stitching and abrasion tending along the way.

Santa Monica Windjammer’s Yacht Club
For generously making us honorary members and cheering us on! We proudly flew the club burgee as we entered new ports.

Our Land-bound Family and Friends
Who watched our progress diligently on the SPOT and woke up early to see us transit the Panama Canal. You worried over us, supported us, believed in us, and celebrated each successful leg.

And for those people we met along the way who provided the help at the critical moment. In chronological order:

Carlos the Taxi Driver – Panama City
The best taxi in the country. Thanks for the mango collecting, using your Savemart card, the fish market… the list goes. If you need someone in Panama Carlos is your guy.

Jesus Godoy, Maritime Works, Panama City

Cel: 507-6676-7189
Thanks for having our alternator rebuilt within days and for such a good job (it is still running strong!). We heard many stories of people waiting weeks for parts. You were terrific to work with!

Dalton and Max, our Panama Canal Transit Advisors
You guys know what you are doing. Not a scratch on Sophia. It was a real pleasure and educational to have you aboard for our transit of the canal.

Frank and Gretchen
What a surprise to find you in Shelter Bay, Panama! The suggestion to head east out of Panama was spot on, making for a fast and easy crossing. The chart you gave for Providenciales was priceless. I don’t think we would have been able to get across the bank with out it. Thanks, too, for the sushi makings (we made good use every time we caught a fish) and for the English muffin recipe (a crew favorite). We look forward to seeing the San Blas Islands...

Wayne “Tool Man” and Diane aboard the Long Legged Lady (Providenciales)
Thanks for lending us the necessary tools to remount our windlass.

Herb (aka “South Bound Two”)
He does not know it but we listened to his wisdom and weather forecasts (he could not hear us) all the way from Bermuda to Flores in the Azores. The result was fast and sunny passage.

Carlos, The Lajes, Flores Port Captain
Carlos demonstrated the meaning of hospitality and generosity. He spent an entire morning building us what Yanmar charges $800 dollars for – a coupling nut socket. We were able to get the coupling nut back on, again and again making this procedure routine. It is no small thing having your driveline come apart when you are least expecting it! We look forward to visiting Lajes, Flores again.

Steve (from UK)
Thanks for setting us up with charts in Flores so we know where to go in Ireland. We used them all the way to Belfast. It was a real treat to meet you. By the way, Steve was the ONLY sailor we met who didn’t have boat projects. An exemplar of a well-planned and maintained boat!

Salvo Marine, Crosshaven (Cork), Ireland
Thanks for assisting us with the equipment we needed. The transformer is working great!

Michael Glover in Bangor (Belfast), Northern Ireland
Michael set us up with a new gear box (transmission). Certainly no one could have had the gear box delivered and installed any faster! Thanks, too, for the tip that we need a right hand prop rather than a left hand. No wonder the old gear box failed, it has been running in reverse for who knows how long. We have been going backwards for 9000 miles!!!

The crew of Good Year
Thanks the for the chart help getting from Inverness, Scotland to Kristiansand, Norway.

Arendal Sailing Club
Thank you for the great night’s stay and for the showing us the way up the Norwegian coast. We would not have attempted the rock strewn passages otherwise and would have missed the spectacular beauty. Take a look at our spot track. Some of the channels you suggested looked imposable on the chart and not any more feasible in the real world.

Leif and Hanne
Our new friends in Oslo. You helped bring us “home” on the anchor leg and making us feel like we had friends in Oslo before we arrived.

Monday, August 16, 2010

And Now She Gets Some Rest...

There's a saying among sailors that "You can choose the time or you can choose the place, but you can't choose both." Our planning for this trip involved a LOT of both! In fact, at times we had just days to re-provision, repair, and rest before setting off on the next leg. So it is not without some sense of awe that we have arrived to Oslo, Norway on the EXACT date we planned.

We arrived at the top of Oslofjord at 12:15pm (local time) on Sunday, August 15, 2010. We had a beer at the little restaurant on Hovedoya Island across from downtown before moving over to Dronningen Marina (and the Royal Norwegian Sailing Club) for the night.

The trip up to Oslo from Kristiansand was gorgeous. The southeast coast of Norway is packed with tiny rocky islands (sometimes just a few meters across), many of which have quaint summer cabins. We wound our way through narrow (as little as a meter on each side) and shallow (as little as 1.5 feet below the keel) paths through these islands. We stayed at the Arendal Sailing Club the first night out of Kristiansand. They provided a tie-up alongside their dock, fresh coffee, and showers all for free. And one of their members gave us detailed instructions on routes and anchorages up to the entrance of Oslofjord. It was an incredibly warm and generous welcome to Arendal!

The next day we sailed to a Norwegian Heritage Village of Lyngor, where we met Hanne and Leif on their sailboat. They suggested we join them in a great anchorage a few hours away. So we followed them to a small cove through a narrows that you'd never attempt if you were just looking at the chart. It was magic! Hanne, Leif, Karl, and I swam -- yes, swam! -- in the cove. The water was surprisingly not cold (I wouldn't say it was exactly warm) at about 70F/20C. Hanne and Leif shared some aquavit and strawberries (Norwegian liquor) and we shared some coffee and brownies. They even liked our Starbucks instant coffee, or maybe they were just being polite? :-) They were a lot of fun, and we will be seeing them again tomorrow for the weekly sailboat racing in Oslo.

So, the trip up to Oslo was a wonderful welcome into the new life we will be having here.

We'll be tallying up total distances, days sailed, etc. and posting them soon!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sophia Has Arrived in Norway!!

It has been a LONG time coming...Sophia has arrived in Norway. She tied up in Kristiansand on Tuesday, August 10, 2010, about four and a half months after setting off from La Paz, Mexico. We still need to tally up the total miles sailed and all the stats, but we roughly figured it has been 8,500 miles.

We still have 120 miles to go to get to Oslo. We will take the next few days to do so and enjoy the beautiful coastline.

Thanks to everyone who has rooted for us, encouraged us, and supported us on this grand adventure!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Secreting Off to Oslo

The guys dropped me (Rachel) in Oban, Scotland yesterday, from where I took a train to Glasgow overnighted and am now off to Aberbeen on the east coast of Scotland. Again by train. Then it's immediately off to Oslo. I'll be there tonight.

Sophia's new gear box meant having to creatively get to Oslo for my Fulbright Orientation meetings on the 5th and 6th. I'm sorry to miss the Caledonian Canal. But our plan is for me to meet them in Kristiansand at the south tip of Norway after they cross the North Sea. Then we'll head up to Oslo together.

Our adventure story is nearing it's end...

Sunday, August 1, 2010

She's Got Irish Legs Now

Our Sophia done tuckered herself out after all this travel about. We had planned to leave Northern Ireland several days ago, but discovered a "wee" leaking transmission. ("Wee" is the preferred term in the Wee Northern Ireland.) The prognosis was not good and we had to have Sophia's transmission replaced. You can see some photos of the new gear box in the "Ireland" photos on the right. We just finished up the job today, so we'll be off in the middle of night. Not slipping out of moorage payment mind you, just catching a favorable tide.

Alas the delay has put a monkey-wrench into our schedule and I (Rachel) will have to miss the Caledonian Canal and instead travel by train to Aberdeen to make my flight to Norway. The guys will carry on without me, though I'm not sure how well they'll fare now with the Loch Ness monster ;-)

Daniel will leave us in Inverness and travel to London and then Quebec. Karl, Phil, and Jeffrey will make the crossing of the North Sea. I plan to rejoin them in Kristiansand at the south tip of Norway to do the final push into Oslo.

So start looking for us again on the SPOT!