Too Many Drummers.com - my music website
Journal 1 - The Land Downunder
Journal 2 - Indonesia
Journal 3 - Singapore & Malaysia
Journal 4 - Thailand 1
Journal 5 - Thailand 2
Journal 6 - Indian Ocean
Journal 7 - Red Sea
Journal 8 - Egypt
Journal 9 - Suez to Israel to Petra
Journal 10 - Turkey
Journal 11 - Greece & Italy

Journal 12 - Balearics, Gibraltar, Canaries
Journal 13 - Canaries to Cape Verde to Atlantic
Journal 14 - Barbados to Grenada
Journal 15 - Trinidad
Journal 16 - Bahamas DC-3 Plane Wreck

Journal 17 - 34 Things I've Learned in 33,000 Miles


Our tour across the globe continues at breakneck speed!

Perhaps the biggest change on board Exit Only since my last journal entry is Sarah's return to the USA. Alas, the time has come for her to resume her professional career. Hopefully she'll be able to visit the boat frequently as we get nearer to America. Don't be surprised if her Journal page blossoms with new entries once we hit the Caribbean.

Until then, Sarah's departure means I have lost my will to groom. Since I haven't combed my hair in nearly 18 months, this turns out not to be such a big deal.

Last month I uploaded a brand new www.toomanydrummers.com website to aid in the endless search of a fulfilling online experience. The TMD site provides insight and info into the music I write and record during this boat trip. It currently features a new song called "Carousel" I recorded in my cabin at anchor in Gibraltar.

Mahon, Minorca (Balearic Islands)

Our trip through the western Mediterranean was largely a tour of colonial Spain. Our first stop in the Balearics was in Mahon, on the island of Minorca. Much to our surprise, our arrival coincided with a weeklong local festival called "Festes de Gracias". Here's an entry from my TMD web journal describing one memorable festive experience:

"10 September 2005 - Last night was the opening of the Fiesta de Gracias. I'm not sure what the party is specifically thankful for, but lots of people are taking part. Sarah and I went to an ice cream parlor where I saw Slurpy-like machines spinning delicious ice-cold bins of sugary delight, so (naturally) I ordered one. The lady asked me if I wanted a "pico?" (small cup) or "grande?" (large cup), to which I loudly cried "GRANDE!". I should have realized something was up when the lemon ice drink cost 3 euros (about $3.50). Surprised at the expense but not wishing to embarrass the shop owners by making a big deal out of it, I handed over the dough and was given a unexpectedly lukewarm glass of lemonade. I was disappointed that the lemon drink wasn't icy, but having got this far without making a fuss there was nothing to do but throw my head back and take an enormous swig of my over-expensive, dishwater warm, lemon-flavored.....GIN?!?

I don't like the taste of alcohol in the best of conditions, but when I was expecting a sweet (albeit, warm) glass of lemonade to wash across my taste buds, the gin came as something of an apocalyptic shock. I could have been cool about it...maybe coughed and done one of those macho chest-pounding things....I could have laughed and been graceful about the misunderstanding....but instead I went with my first instinct and yelled: "Blaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaauuuuuuugh!" at the top of my lungs. Sarah said it was overly theatrical, but she hadn't just had her esophagus blowtorched.

The shop owners were concerned that something was horribly wrong with their lemon/gin drink, so
they pulled out little cups, sampled the brew, and nodded in satisfaction. This is how I discovered that Minorca is famous for its home grown gin.

Lemon gin drink seems to be a fiesta favorite. At night the streets are packed with dancing locals clutching lime colored water bottles. I think the people who mooned Mom and Dad at the internet cafe were fans of the brew."- end of journal entry

After such a brutal assault, my taste buds were thrilled to discover a street market overflowing with festival candy....bins of brightly colored marshmallows and licorice delight lying within easy reach of overlarge, ergonomic candy scoops....it was like stumbling across an Oompa-Loompa
convention. My instinctive response ("Let's try one of each!") quickly got expensive, but neon Gumballs of Destiny cannot be denied.

Palma, Mallorca (Balearic Islands)

Palma has been a tourist town for over a century. Today, colonial buildings serve as lodgings for stores like the Gap and Body Shop. Unfortunately the combination of tourist prices and a poor exchange rate can make Mallorca an expensive stop.

One of the best things about cruising is that we take our home with us as we travel. Unless we stay in a marina, we don't pay for lodging. This means cruisers can enjoy places like Palma without breaking piggy banks...and since boats have a limited carrying capacity, the temptation to buy extraneous souvenirs is minimal. Internet cafes, phone bills, and ice cream are the big expenses.

I mention the cost of living because Palma has 3 massive marinas where 1 night of berthing for our boat costs 99 euros ($120 US). Thankfully we found a quiet bay just outside of town to drop anchor for free.

In Palma, Sarah and I were able to continue our tradition of visiting IKEA stores around the globe.
Our streak of not buying anything on those visits also remains intact (IKEA meatballs with mulberry sauce don't count as a purchase...they are a necessity).

I was delighted to discover flamenco guitarists in our wanders around the city. Most played classics like "Ave Maria" and "Romanza" (popular songs to get tourists' attention), but occasionally we came across a minstrel pounding and strumming their guitar with real flamenco passion.

Mom and Sarah flew back to America from Palma, leaving Dad and I to sail 500 miles to Gibraltar on our own.

Whale of Tale

You would think extended sailing passages would be indistinguishable from each other, but each one takes on its own flavor. Our trip from Mallorca to Gibraltar was more eventful than either of us expected.

The wind was light, which made for flat seas and lots of motoring. On our second day Dad noticed
an unusual white dot on the horizon and changed course to investigate. To our delight it turned out to be an enormous rubber fender someone had lost overboard. Judging from the algae growth on the handle it had been floating for a couple of weeks.

Salvaging the bounty of the sea is not uncommon in these highly traveled and frequently rough waters. One inopportune wave can wash a poorly secured boat clean of deck-top gear. Just yesterday we talked to a fellow cruiser who ran across an abandoned dinghy floating in open ocean. After scraping a great deal of growth off the boat's bottom and replacing the stale fuel in the engine, it is fully operational. Of course if anyone finds anything with another yacht's name on it, they make every effort to return the gear.

On the fourth day we saw more mysterious bumps on the horizon....and 10 minutes later We were nose to nose with a momma pilot whale and her baby cruising just beneath the surface. They hung out an hour and a half photo session. 30 minutes into our whale watching experience, papa whale steamed back to find us filming his family. He cruised up to the boat, blew a massive air bubble, dove, then surfaced between our hulls to gave us a squeaky telling off. It was amazing to see this massive animal lay the smack down on us. I guess he didn't think we were much of a threat, because he soon swam off again and left his lady behind for more photos. You can see some of our whale encounter footage on the video page.

In retrospect I'm glad I don't have a waterproof case for the video camera. I'd hate to imagine what papa whale would have done if he'd caught me swimming paparazzi-style around his brood.

Back to the voyage....Every cruiser has to decide how they want to handle watch schedules on long
passages. The biggest risks are cargo ships, fishing fleets, and squalls (localized storms). Most of these dangers can be alleviated by having an alert crewmember scan the horizon every few minutes. When you have four people on board it is relatively easy to set a clear cut watch schedule, but with just two of us it works better for the least tired person to stand watch while the other person sleeps. When the person on watch can't keep their eyelids open, it's time to swap places.

We spent the last couple days of the passage dodging ship traffic and fighting counter currents. I had my first glimpse of "the Rock" at the dawning of the sixth day.

The Rock

To quote Dad: "Gibraltar has more history per square inch than anywhere else on the planet."
It's hard to imagine how many battles have been fought over this little parcel of land. Just 10 miles from the northern coast of Morocco and sitting at the mouth of the Mediterranean Sea, Gibraltar has great strategic importance....at least it used to.

It didn't take long to figure a few things out:
1. Gibraltar is called "the Rock" because it is one.
2. Those mountains across the bay are in Africa.
3. Dad and I were going to eat a lot of McDonalds until Mom returned.

Gib (that's what the locals call it) is located on the southern tip of Spain, right next to the border town of La Linea. The Rock's small size mean high real estate costs, so many Gibraltareans commute daily from homes in Spain. Everyone seems to speak English and Spanish fluently, and conversations constantly flip from language to the other.

Spain and England haven't always gotten along so well, which is why the Rock contains 32 miles of
tunnels. These tunnels lead to holes in the cliffs... perfect vantage points for the British gunners and their cannons. Over the years there were 13 sieges of the Rock by various armies, but the Brits couldn't be budged from their elevated rocky fortress.

A steady stream of cruise ships come through Gib, disgorging hundreds of tourists in search of duty free liquor, cigarettes, and electronics (which brings me to an question: Is duty free really cheaper? In my experience "duty free" always translates as "overpriced").

In Gib we discovered the World's Most Expensive Internet Cafe. $7 US for one hour...and since it is technically possible to check email in less than five minutes, the cafe blasts loud music carefully selected to scramble brain waves. I don't know what laws of nature they are exploiting, but simply opening a hotmail account takes the better part of 45 minutes.

When we weren't getting ripped off at the internet place, Dad and I did boat maintenance. More
accurately, Dad did the work while I filmed him. If you're feeling frustrated and overworked, watch Dad single-handedly accomplishing a two-man sail folding job on our video page...it's guaranteed to make you feel better about your work load.

Gibraltareans care a lot about their vehicles. They seem to have fallen in line with the street racing craze sweeping through the First World (and other places people have more money than sense).
Customized spoilers, hyper waxed finishes, giant chrome rims, DVD players, and monster sound
systems abound....and that's just the motor scooters.

One of Gib's main tourist attractions is a large population of Barbary apes. The apes were originally brought to the Rock by British sailors who gave birth to the legend that "as long as there are Barbary apes on Gibraltar, the English will retain control of the Rock". When the apes died out, Winston Churchill arranged for a quick shipment
from Africa to ensure the continuation of British rule.

To be honest, everything in the previous paragraph could be a lie. It's hard to be certain because I heard about twelve different versions of the story.

I lost count of the number of times we were told not to feed the apes...A warning which unlocked the rule-breaking fiend lurking in every tourist soul. Everyone fed the apes, including the tour guide who warned us not to. If you go to Gib don't be surprised when the apes tug on your pant leg to let you know they want M&Ms...they've been highly trained.

Extreme Passage to the Canary Islands

After 5 weeks in Gib, we were ready to move on. A friend from our off-roading days in Saudi Arabia has joined us for the trip from the Rock to the Caribbean. His name is Morgan and he's getting a crash course in cruising.

The first two days down the coast of Morocco had light winds and smooth seas. We didn't push the
boat hard since we didn't want to stress test the new rigging we had just installed in Gib. Instead we contented ourselves with sailing along at 2-3 knots.

Day Three: Everything changed. Bam! Blindsided by a cold front! None of the weather faxes or forecasts predicted the massive weather shift, but there is no arguing with 30-40 knot winds and 20 foot seas. Our relaxed drift became a bouncy bobsled ride on the borderline of control.

Fortunately we were heading in the same direction as the wind, which meant we could surf down the
waves instead of pounding into them. And by "surfing" I mean exactly that. Under a small amount
of sail we kept our boat speed around 6 knots...but big waves behind us accelerated our boat speed into the 15 knot range. Twice we saw speeds of more than 18 knots on our speedometer.

As fun and exciting as it might sound, when you are in heavy Atlantic Ocean weather it is best to play it safe. All cruising yachts use autopilots to steer their boats to avoid constant hand-steering. Sometimes autopilots can get overwhelmed by rough conditions. If our autopilot over-steered at a speed of 18 knots and turned the boat sideways to the next wave, very bad things could happen:

a) we could break the autopilot and have to hand steer 24 hours a day for the next 4 days
b) we could get swamped by a breaking wave and get extremely and unpleasantly wet
c) we could flip the boat over (unlikely, worst possible scenario)

Time to slow the boat down....bringing up the interesting dilemma as to how we were planned to do it. We couldn't take down any sail since the autopilot needed some sail power in order to steer.
We could put the engines in reverse but that would be stupid. We could turn into the waves but that would be insane and in the wrong direction. There was really only one option: taking it in turns to swim in the water with a line tied around our waist.

Just kidding. We "streamed warps" behind our boat. This is nautical jargon which means "throw
some ropes in the water to create drag and slow down". Sometimes warps are also called "drogues". It was the first time we've pulled drogues and we were very impressed with their effectiveness. Our 15+ knot surfs slowed to under 10 knots and our average boat speed dropped to
5 knots.

The autopilot was happy. Mom was happy. Morgan was happy. Dad was happy. I put away my surfboard and sulked.

Our video page features some footage from the Canary Islands passage. If you want to see how
drogues work and what it's like to careen downwind in 40 knots of wind, click here.

My best efforts to write and record on the open
seas are laid bare for your listening pleasure....

Click here - March the Unafraid (it's danceable!)
Click here
- Carousel/Move to Sever
Click here - Sarah's Song
Click here - One Less Kangaroo (just the song)
Click here - One Less Kangaroo (with explanation)
Click here - Picasso

Party time....

....or not.

The free anchorage

Blissful Oompa Loompa joy

Sarah burst my Oompa Loompa joy

The Med taught me the beauty of olives.

Mama and Baby

Feed them or they steal your pants.

(a conversation two minutes before this photo)
Tour Guide: "Don't feed the apes."
Guileless Child: "OK."

Little known fact: This is how the phrase
"Make my day." was popularized

I could live here

Funky accordion rocker

The Running Man....MC Hammer's timeless contribution to my extensive dance repertoire

Mom and I with Madrid's famous bear statue

This restaurant is famous because
Ernest Hemingway ate here

This restaurant is famous because
Hemingway didn't eat here

All my Spanish friends want to be painters

Go ahead....wave something red.  I dare you.

Mid-ocean stowaway

Searching for land

Putting the brakes on

This web site is a companion to Outback and Beyond.com.