Too Many Drummers.com
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
Journal 15 - Trinidad
Journal 16 - Bahamas DC-3 Plane Wreck
Journal 17 - 34 Things I've Learned in 33,000 Miles
CANARIES TO CAPE VERDE TO ATLANTIC
In my continuing quest for global groove infusion I've uploaded a new song
the Unafraid. Check out
to hear more music recorded on the boat....
There is something extremely amusing about landing a dinghy on a nude beach.
I have a hard time keeping a straight face as we tromp through the
awkwardly-sunburned ranks carrying our inflatable boat and acting like this
is something we do every day.
Maybe I need to grow up. But I bet you’d be giggling too.
You should see people scatter when I pull out the video camera.
Graciosa Island features sand dunes, sheer cliffs, nude beaches, surf, and a
volcano all within five minutes walk of the anchorage. But you won’t get to
town (La Sociedad) in a hurry…it is a 45 minute pilgrimage through the
desert each way.
Speaking of deserts, Graciosa is home to the greatest concentration of Land
Rovers I’ve ever seen. Nearly every vehicle in town is a Landie (that’s cool
off-roading slang) from one era or another. Unfortunately the locals didn’t
want us filming the Rovers so you’ll have to use your imagination.
La Sociedad boasts one occasionally-open internet café. Unfortunately its
random hours of business meant that a 45 minute walk could end in an
unexpected “closed” sign. After a few unfruitful walking attempts, Morgan
and I began taking the dinghy to town in spite of large seas and gusty
On the first attempt I drove while Morgan splayed his body across the front
of the boat to keep the bow down. We got completely soaked, battered, and
bruised but it was great fun. For some reason Morgan refused to go with me
The next stop after Graciosa was the town of Arrecife on the island of
Lanzarote. Arrecife is a strange place. It felt like someone was watching
everything I did…. because someone usually was. The locals have an affinity
for sitting in vehicles and watching the world. Every night the parking lot
by the pier was chock full of trucks, vans, and tricked-out sedans with
tinted windows. Silhouetted heads turned to follow my progress every time I
We moved on quickly.
Las Palmas, Grand Canaria
Our next and final stop in the Canaries was Las Palmas, on the island of
Grand Canaria. Las Palmas is a full-grown city. Cruisers go there for any
final tune-ups or provisioning before an Atlantic crossing.
We arrived in Las Palmas in time to witness the final week of preparations
for the ARC (Atlantic Rally for Cruisers). This year the rally included 224
yachts of all makes and sizes, from 30 ft. newbies to 100 ft. mammoths. The
marina was completely full with ARC boats so we anchored in the outer harbor
with 60 other cruisers.
Rallys can be a great way to make friends and gain a measure of confidence
for long passages. Crossing an ocean is a serious business for even the most
seasoned of sailors, so it makes sense for people who aren’t comfortable
with going it alone to join up. The ARC sports a popular racing class for
the competitive guys with the carbon fiber rigs and deep pockets.
The ARC provided a lively social calendar for their yacht crews. Since there
were so many rally members it was easy for us to blend in and join the fun.
From a Spanish pop concert to a helicopter rescue demonstration and
flare-use seminar, a good time was had by all.
One fateful day, Mom discovered an art competition with cash prizes that set
me to work. The object was to paint a wooden board with a nautical theme
containing your boat’s name and flag of registration. We entered on the last
day of the competition so I had to whip something up quickly and hope for
Lo and behold, we won third place! I put the money to immediate and
effective use and bought an mp3 player before anyone could figure out we
weren’t an ARC yacht. As an unexpected byproduct of my purchase, Dad bought
Mom an mp3 player and Morgan took the plunge as well. Thus the entertainment
for the Atlantic crossing was assured.
I spent the next three days trying to put songs on it. Those little players
are time consuming to set up.
On Race Day we filmed the massive parade of ARC yachts as they left the
marina. Since I could only see through the camera viewfinder as Dad slalomed
the dinghy between the stampeding boats, I was certain we were going to die.
Somehow we avoided collision and crush to log some nice footage.
As soon as the ARC boats were clear, cruisers poured into the marina from
the outer anchorage. We remained where we were.
The ARC’s designated departure date clashed with this year’s extended
hurricane season. Sailing to a schedule almost always makes for worse
passages because you have to leave regardless of the weather. This year’s
ARC was plagued by windless conditions, cross seas, and headwinds.
Although Morgan wanted to be home in time for his kids’ Christmas vacations,
we had the luxury of choosing our departure date according to current
Tropical Storm Delta
But the weather did not improve in the coming days. In fact, Hurricane Delta
set records by forming incredibly late in the season. Even though the ARC
boats were not in the storm’s path, they tasted it’s wrath from afar as
uncomfortable ocean swell patterns and unpredictable winds dogged the fleet.
Back in Las Palmas, the cruising community watched the approach of Delta
with dread as the hurricane refused to die. By the time it hit the Canaries
it had downgraded to a tropical storm…but it was still strong enough to
pummel the outer anchorage with 10 foot swells, 40 knot winds, and a slew of
anchor-dragging boats. Thankfully our Beugel anchor held like a champ and we
experienced nothing worse than 3 days of relentless bouncing.
Yachts in the marina had a worse time. While we bounced around in our
washing machine of anchorage, they struggled to keep their boats from
rubbing against each other. Cosmetic damage abounded.
Three Hairy Tales
1. One night during the storm we were watching a movie when the VHF radio
sprung to life with a heart-rending call for mayday. Over the next hour we
listened in horror as a panicking French woman called for help. The local
coast guard quickly responded, but for some completely unfathomable reason
they insisted on speaking to her in English (the Canary Islands belong to
Spain and the local language is Spanish).
The coast guard repeatedly asked for her position (in English) and the woman
just sobbed “yo no hablo espanol”. Even speaking a little French ourselves,
we couldn’t understand what she was trying to say. The woman was straight up
freaked out. Eventually she threw out the name of a local landmark so the
coast guard sent a rescue boat out into the stormy night.
About 30 minutes later a male voice came on the radio and said (in English)
“There is no problem now. The engine is started.” Presumably he had been in
the engine room the entire time his lady friend was spazzing out on the
radio. Boy, you should have heard the coast guard telling them off.
We’re still not sure exactly what happened that night, but the next morning
the distressed yacht was towed in by the coast guard.
2. Delta hit the marina at Tenerife (the next island over) with 70 knot
winds. The marina literally came apart. Some yachts suffered major damage.
3. After sitting at anchor for two days I convinced Dad to let me take the
dinghy in to get pizza during a calm patch in the storm. Everything changed
by the time I was ready to return to the boat. The sun had gone down, the
wind was howling, and waves were rolling into the harbor.
Getting back to Exit Only was the most intense dinghy ride of my life. In
the pitch black darkness the waves were easily ten feet tall. Although I was
going in the same direction as the waves, I was worried about accidentally
surfing down a face and flipping the dinghy end for end (not because of
personal danger or losing the pizza as much for the fact that Dad would kill
me). In the increasingly shallow water of the anchorage the waves built into
It was a tough call. I had to choose between going slow enough to avoid
surfing down the wave faces or going fast enough to choose one wave and ride
it all the way back to the boat. The problem with the first technique was
that it exposed me to every single wave that came through and increased the
likelihood of bad things happening on a rogue wave. The problem with the
second technique was that it was extremely dark and I didn’t want to hit
anything (translation: another boat in the anchorage) while traveling at 20
knots in the middle of a storm.
I chose a third option: constant prayer while surfing when I could but
pulling back when it got too dangerous.
I don’t think I’ll ever forget the Biggest Wave. When it came up behind me
out of the black I instantly throttled down to stop a Surf of Imminent
Death…but the wave picked me up higher and higher and higher…..it tilted the
dinghy so it pointed straight down the wave’s face….then came the dreaded
sound of a wave beginning to break….I leaned back as hard as I could and
tried to ignore the horror in my stomach….and somehow I slid off the back of
I made it back to the boat with both hands shaking from the adrenaline.
Everyone in the marina was impressed with how badly we wanted pizza.
Heading South with Sharkslayer
We left Las Palmas planning to head south until we hit the trade winds, then
turn west and run downwind all the way across the Atlantic. It is a
time-honored route, tried and tested by thousands of mariners throughout
One of the ways we maintain our sanity on long ocean passages is through
daily radio nets. Here’s how it works: At a designated time each day a group
of cruisers making the same passage checks into a radio net to share their
latitude/longitude, weather conditions, and any other information. Then
whoever has caught fish waits until the end of the net (if they can stand
it) to brag about their tale of fishy fortune to their friends.
Spurred on by Morgan’s Canadian-Man-Of-The-Wilderness persona, Dad bought
new fish lures in Las Palmas. One particular lure was large enough to
instantly merit the name “Sharkslayer”.
The strategy behind our new fishing technique was to drag Sharkslayer 20 ft
behind the boat to make bubbles….bubbles which would attract fish to any of
the other 8 lures we were pulling.
We weren’t expecting to actually catch anything with Sharkslayer, so
we were shocked when it took our first strike. We were even more amazed at
the size of the mahi mahi we pulled in. It was enough meat for 4 meals!
This circumnavigation has transformed be from a meat-loving fishing
hypocrite to a meat-loving fishing enthusiast. On the Atlantic crossing I
completed the last stage of my evolution by filleting a fish. The ocean
finally made a man out of me.
Or something like that. I still don’t like killing them. But if I have to at
least I can do it without passing out now.
The Big Fish
On the morning of day 7 I had just gone off watch when Morgan yelled from
the cockpit. I popped up in time to watch a huge marlin rocket through the
air. He looked angry…probably because the overly-ambitious Sharkslayer was
clinging doggedly to the corner of his mouth.
The fishing line instantly snapped when the marlin hit. It’s just as well.
As challenging and exciting as it would be to reel in an 800 lbs fish by
hand…what happens if you succeed? At least this way no one got impaled by a
furious fish and we can cluck our tongues and say “Too bad the line broke.
We’ll get him next time!”
Alas brave Sharkslayer is no more. The marlin kept him.
28 Hours in Mindelo
Our trip south didn’t yield the kind of trade winds we had hoped for so we
were forced to motor for a few days. When we reached the Cape Verde islands
we decided to stop in Mindelo to refuel for the long westward run ahead of
The big question for everyone on our radio net (and indeed, in the entire
Atlantic) was weather. The trade winds had yet to establish themselves and
weather patterns remained unpredictable.
Decision time: Should we stay in Mindelo until a perfect weather window
appeared or should we go for it and hope for the best? In the end Morgan
tipped our scale in favor of leaving…after coming this far we wanted to get
him across the Atlantic. We bailed after 28 hours in Mindelo.
And So Began the Great Crossing
We were half way across the Atlantic when we realized we had left Mindelo on
a Friday. In the maritime world this is a major no-no. Friday departures are
traditionally connected with ill-fated voyages and mysterious accidents at
Thankfully no one fell overboard and the boat didn’t sink. The Atlantic was
the easiest ocean crossing we’ve done. In fact, I’m leaving exclusively on
Fridays from now on (famous last words on a par with “There aren’t icebergs
around here. Besides, this ship is made of titanium....it’s unsinkable.”).
In Mindelo our dreams of the Fishing Hall of Fame were crushed when we
showed a fellow cruiser a picture of our trophy-sized mahi mahi and he said
“yeah, that’s an average-sized one”.
We took this knowledge to heart and threw back the next two fish we caught
since they were “only” 20 inches long. Morgan observed that in Canadian
lakes he would have been thrilled to catch a fish as large as the smallest
fish we pulled in. When we caught a third fish in the 20 inch range we
realized our standards may have gotten too high and we started keeping them.
16 Days and 200 Dolphins
One of the best parts of our crossing came about half way across the
Atlantic. Mom was on watch and yelled “dolphins!”, and the crew tramped up
on deck to be greeted by a horizon full of the squeaky mammals. It was the
biggest pod of dolphins we’ve ever seen on the open ocean. They surrounded
the boat and swam with us for about half an hour.
Click here to watch video
footage of the incredible experience.
Our westward run across the Atlantic turned out to be fairly uneventful.
Five days from Midelo the trade winds kicked in and we turned off the
Probably the best way to describe the nature of our Atlantic passage is by
pointing out how this is the only ocean crossing we’ve done where the crew
weighed more at the end. Mom’s great cooking and our ideal sailing
conditions combined for a relaxing two week run.
The Disappearing Bananabread Incident
I’ll give you the basics of the story and let you draw your own conclusions
Early in the trip, Mom made a large pan of bananabread. It was excellent.
Each of the crew nibbled away throughout the day. When I got off watch there
was at least half a pan left…
But when I woke up in the morning the pan was empty, save one pathetic
slice. Someone ate half a pan of bananabread and left a little morsel out of
sheer guilt. The entire pan lasted less than 12 hours…
One of the nice things about being in the middle of the ocean is there are
fewer suspects so crimes are easy to solve. Morgan took watch after me…Dad
took watch after Morgan…then I woke up. You do the math.
And still they deny it.
On day 16 we sailed into Barbados. To mark the occasion I filmed an
impromptu karaoke-style sing-along in the cockpit.
Click here and sing with me.
It is awesome to return to the Caribbean after so long. There is much to
look forward to in the next six months as we head towards Florida to
complete our circumnavigation.
First we’re heading south to Trinidad. Sarah will join us there for
Carnival, then fly back to KY. Then we head north up the island chains. I’m
A pilgrimage to town on Graciosa
La Sociedad's pimped-out rides
Someday my children will laugh at my sideburns
and I will calmly tell them how cool and hip I was.
Then I'll ground them.
(it's never too early to plan a discipline strategy)
My kids will re-evaluate their earlier
assessment of my coolness at this point.
Sarah says I'm grounded.
The ARC fleet
ARC boat called "Disco Inferno"
Even in Las Palmas they put up
Christmas decorations in November
Chilling in the Cape Verdes
Mama, Papa, & Baby
Red sky at night....
(this better be at night or we're in trouble)
Morgan is my fillet sensei
Squally weather makes for great rainbows
Following the sun
The sailor's life is hardcore
Our first Caribbean sunrise in 10 years
About two seconds later...