One year today. Fast forward.

Yes! Today it’s exactly one year since we slipped our lines in Lanzarote to embark on the Atlantic crossing. And by chance I am in Sant Carles de la Rapita (Spain) where we started our adventure last year. I think that being here today is sign that it’s a good time to wrap-up the rest of our adventure, on fast forward, together with my apologies for not posting for such a long time.

So here we go…

Joshua Tree was beautiful: the desert, the rock formations, the scattered trees, everything. We walked for an hour or so, we had a picnic and in the evening we set off towards Nevada, on the famous Route 66.

As I was running out of gasoline, I stopped at what seemed the only gas station on a 100 km radius and to my surprise the price was double than the most expensive gasoline we bought until then.

Grand Canyon

We stayed in a motel and the next day we arrived in Grand Canyon National Park for a one-day visit.

We all saw photos of Grand Canyon. Very nice! Photoshop-ed! We’ve seen Grand Canyon in movies and documentaries. But believe me, when you go there, everything you’ve seen before is a pale representation of the real thing. It is really, and literally breathtaking. Especially when you visit off-season and there are not so many people around.

We treated ourselves with a helicopter ride over the canyon. On boarding, the pilot asked if we ever flew in a helicopter and as we said NO, he assured us that it’s gonna be OK. It’s his first flight too.

Of course he was joking! The fourth person in the cabin was, by chance, his wife.

Paul was very silent the whole flight and very reserved. Even to this day he will tell you he was not afraid but mom was. I believe that he was half afraid, half excited.

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While riding a bus through the park we saw a few deer, walking between some of the lodges and we started thinking: “How about we sleep here for a night?” It took us about 3 minutes to decide and we booked a room in one of the lodges.


The price was high but not extremely high. We had a great dinner and learned that there are a lot of Romanian youths working over the summer in the restaurants there. Next day we walked and tried to see the place from as many angles as we could. And…stayed one more night in our lovely lodge, “sacrificing” our night at the Bellagio in Las Vegas that was really, really cheap that weekend.

Next day, we drove to Vegas, stayed for two hours, took photos of the Bellagio fountains, of chicks on the streets, marveling at the kitsch and showing Paul the fake Eifel Tower. We told him that this is not the real Eifel Tower, the one he knew about from his French storybooks. We didn’t think he really understood, but we felt that we did our job as parents. Months later, stopping in Paris while changing flights on our way back home, and seeing the real tower, he asked: “Is this the real tower?”

Late in the evening we stopped at some motel on our way towards, Alina’s friend and the Pacific coast.

US West Coast

I’ll be quick about this. We enjoyed walking along the deserted beaches of the Pacific coast populated with sea lions, the rolling hills of California and the sequoia forests. We drove up north, to Oregon, to visit Stuart. He crossed the Atlantic a year before us, so we had a lot of sailing chat. He was also the one who was so kind and drafted an excellent 22 point plan for our West Coast visit. We didn’t manage to tick all of them so we have to return :).

We passed a large sign saying: “Welcome to Weed!” Hmmm, I thought, how would it be to live in a town named “Weed”: “Hi, would you want to come to my place and enjoy Weed for a few days?”

I consider myself a very responsible citizen and tourist but I have to admit to have broken the law in Oregon. While refueling my car, a guy comes and tells me:

“You know this is illegal!”

I said: “What?”

“This, what you are doing.”

“What, squeezing a little more gas to reach a round amount in dollars?”

“No! Fueling the car by yourself”.

After fueling the car myself in five US states…yes, I broke the law in the state of Oregon. Apparently  in Oregon and New Jersey one is not allowed to self service at a gas station.

We were tired at the end of our 6000 km trip so we really enjoyed stopping at my cousin’s place and being pampered with good Oregon wine and wild salmon. We were the first family to visit them since they moved years ago to the US so enthusiasm was high.

Last stop: Napa Valley where the hotel had a wine tasting evening so as a final treat we had some of the famous wine in the region.

We took our return flight from San Francisco and while taxiing, the pilot heard some strange noises. After a brief check by airport engineers and another attempt, he decided that “This bird is not flying anywhere tonight.” Shit! Our connection to Martinique, in Miami, was just two hour apart. We changed planes and made it just minutes before our connecting flight was departing. Fortunately, the departing gate was close so we made it.

Caribbean take two

Our port days in Martinique were over and we moved back at anchor. I repaired my pump with spares I brought from the US, but it lasted only for a run or two. So again, dishwashing moved to the forward toilet. Eventually, this time was just a nut that came undone, so no real breakage.

Our enthusiasm for the Caribbean did not improved since we left but reluctantly we decided to sail south to the private island of Mustique. In the end it was a very good decision and we stayed there for a week.


Mustique is a small island where Mick Jagger and Madonna have holiday homes and where from Prince William just left the day before our arrival after a family party held there. Despite the profile of the owners, they didn’t close the place  with fences and bodyguards but left it open for people to marvel at its beauties. I have all the respect for this.

The place was what I thought I would find out in all Caribbean, and obviously I didn’t. Just a few yachts (due to restrictions on mooring places), safe – no need to lock your dinghy or worry about your belongings all the time, great snorkeling with reefs within reach from the beach.

The best of all was buying fresh fish. We had everyday a different fish and whatever was caught that morning was at the same price regardless the type of fish, and we also had lobster one day. Prices, and remember this was a private and fancy island, were half of the prices in our supermarkets.

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Should I knew about Mustique before, I could have easily spend a month there. Time was up and we returned to Martinique, where in a few days we were scheduled to load the boat on a cargo ship with destination Palma de Mallorca.

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Why? To return by boat we should have waited until May or June, something we realized we could not afford.

The return home

Ship being loaded, after two more nights in a hotel, we took our flight to Paris and from there to Bucharest. We had to stop overnight in Paris so we took Paul to saw the real Eifel Tower and the “bateau mouche” of which he knew about from his books with “Le loup qui voulait faire le tour du monde”.

Few days at home and we flew to Palma de Mallorca to collect our boat. From Palma, we sailed the coldest night we ever spent at sea, with temperature dropping to 2 degrees and arrived in the morning in Sant Carles de la Rapita. It was 6am, when the fishing boats were going out. At some point I counted about 40 fishing boats. And according to the rules of navigation they have priority. It was just like driving the wrong way on a multiple lane highway full of traffic. I knew from last time that their destination was away from of our intended path so I had to make very few maneuvers to avoid them. In the picture below, we are the red boat and the red arrows pointed to us are the fishing boats and their current heading.


This concludes our Atlantic adventure and returns us where we left from last summer.

Yes we did it! (finally, after years of dreaming and preparations).

Paul is most likely the youngest Romanian to have  crossed an ocean in a sailing boat, while Alina is the first Romanian with a disability to have done it. As of me, I enjoyed the crossing! Tougher that I expected, but not too tough!

Thank you for following us so far! We felt really supported by you our readers, a lot more than I could ever imagine (more than my Facebook and Linked-In contacts altogether).

I promise to post the missing photos, as I discovered they are not on my computer.

On my way home I met a friend I met at IMD in Switzerland. He asked me: “OK! What’s the next challenge?”. The answer in my next post …


Joshua Tree

We went to San Diego to visit a very good friend of Alina, and because there were a number of things to do from the 22 things-to-do list, that my friend Stuart, compiled for our trip to the US.

We called Alina’s friend, and she said: “Oh! How nice you’re here! You have six hours to drive to our place! Come and visit us, we’re waiting!” Jaw dropped! Alina, convinced that her friend was living in San Diego didn’t bother to see that she moved a year ago, just a bit south of San Francisco.

We changed plans, visited San Diego Zoo, and other places around and the drove into Arizona desert, to Joshua Tree National Park. At the park entry, with a 20 USD bill in my hand to pay the fee, the ranger asks:

“Were are you guys from?”

I said: “Oh! Romania!”

“Are you living here?”


He didn’t seem very happy and returned to the kiosk at the entrance. Then he came out with a notepad and said:

“Please put your wife’s name on the list and ask her to sign.”

We did so and returned the list. He handed us a plastic card and said: “This card will allow you to visit all US national parks for free, for life. It is because your wife’s handicap. I should give it only to permanent residents, but I don’t care. Enjoy your visit to Joshua Tree!”

Wow! We didn’t ask for any discount nor did we mention Alina’s handicap. He saw it and was a very nice guy. I’d wish there are more people like him back home.

Joshua Tree was beautiful: the desert, the rock formations, the scattered trees, everything. We walked for an hour or so, we had a picnic and in the evening we set off towards Nevada, on the famous Route 66.

As I was running out of gasoline, I stopped at what seemed the only gas station on a 100 km radius and to my surprise the price was double than the most expensive gasoline we bought until then.

We stayed in a motel and the next day we arrived in Grand Canyon National Park for a one-day visit.

Flying in the US is different

We left the hotel in Miami going to the airport and allowing two hours for check-in, a coffee and boarding. All well, checked-in, coffee, went through security, and while walking toward the gate we saw and airport clock: it showed that it was already two minutes past the flight departure. We ran to the gate just to see that we missed the flight and that to our (European) surprise the flight actually left 15 minutes before schedule. My wristwatch was 1 hour behind.

We asked what should we do and were directed to an airline courtesy phone for a rebooking which we did, just to find out that a rebooking would cost us 900 USD per person. I told Alina that I’d rather rent a car and drive across the south of US than paying that amount.

On our way out, we asked again an airline representative what to do. This time it was a nice girl who taught us not to say that we were late but that we went to the gate and the plane left ahead of the schedule. We tried again to rebook our flight, this time talking to a person at a counter. Miracle…the advice worked and we found a new flight just for 50 USD per person. The flight was through Minneapolis but it didn’t matter to us…until a few hours later.

I had no clue where Minneapolis was and while waiting in line at the gate I saw a display showing that the temperature in Minneapolis was -20C. Ooops! We were dressed in shorts and T-shirts, and our luggage was already on its way with the first plane.


Fortunately, we didn’t have to leave the airport, or board a bus, while changing flights but were the only dressed so light and with a nice Caribbean tan. Looking out on the airport windows Paul could see snow for the first time this year.

We are used in Europe, on anything other than low cost flights, to receive a meal, a free cargo luggage, etc. Here, in the US, you get soft drinks, but that’s it. Even if the flight is 5-6 hours, even if the fares are comparable or higher than flying internationally in Europe, you still pay for your cargo luggage, any food you may want, no blankets or pillows, no fun stuff for kids. To me, they really look and feel like European low costs (at least US Airlines and Delta which we flew this time).

But…we made it well into Los Angeles, got our rental car and off we were to San Diego where we didn’t know that our plans will be hit by another surprise.


We went to a resort near Orlando and during the check in we received 100 USD in cash with a tiny string attached: to sit on a one hour sales presentation of their services. Cool! These guys really know how to sell things.

Next day we headed to Disneyland. A plastic-fantastic place if you ask me, but Paul enjoyed some of it. The experience however consisted a lot into waiting in line for an hour or so to go on a carousel for am minute or two or shake hand with a cartoon character.

To my surprise there were a lot of grown-ups without children visiting the park. I remember a Brazilian couple telling Mickey mouse that they traveled all the way just to see him. Oh dear!

We stayed for the one hour sales presentation in which they tried to sell us time-sharing villas. And it took three hours eating out time from our visit to Cape Canaveral and the NASA Space Center. Which was a biiiiiig shame.

The Kennedy Space Center is really worth visiting. From great presentations to shuttle launch simulation, which they say is as realistic as their simulators to train astronauts, is FANTASTIC !
We decided to ha again on our next trip to the US. One really needs a full day to enjoy this place.
On our bus tour they also pointed out to an eagle’s nest in one of the trees, that’s there for 47 years. It was about the size of a double bed and withstood a few hurricanes in all this time.
Next day we boarded a plane to Los Angeles, but first we missed it but this is a different story.


Our trip to the US had multiple motivations behind. One was to offer Paul a (lame) compensation for not going to Galapagos. For us, was a breath of chillier air and searching for new places to visit.

We landed in Miami late in the evening and, maybe due to my tan, everyone addressed at first in Spanish (even a very kind police officer who helped us finding our car rental agency). It felt good to speak again Spanish but I changed to English soon as, I have to admit my Spanish is not good enough.


The car we rented was supposed to be a compact but we received a much longer one (longer than the VW Touareg, the biggest car I ever owned). The trunk was so deep that in order to collect some things from the bottom, I really had to slide in to reach them.

We stopped in Fort Lauderdale for two nights…nothing special. We didn’t made it into Miami (city) and this was the beginning of a trip during which we didn’t see any big city, except for a short stop in Las Vegas.

We were served at a terrace by a young Slovakian girl and I asked her how was her life there: “Tough!” she replied but was confident that this will change in time. She arrived there just a few months before, alone, and hoped that things will change once she will get to know more people.

Next stop, Disneyland, Orlando.

Home sickness

Yes…I am missing home big time. Our trip to the US was supposed to bring back some enthusiasm regarding sailing the Caribbean islands but it didn’t happen…probably we miss home too much.

I admire those, who probably knew how things work, and soon after their Caribbean landing took a flight home for a few weeks.

We were back in Martinique and the moved at anchor. A few more days at the beach and eventually we decided to sail south.

The dirtiness, wild west aspect of the Caribbeans had got us. I grew tired of becoming a target, the typical ignorant tourist, for most of the locals selling us whatever. This year, places deemed to be safe from burglary and theft, like the Rodney Bay Marina, were not…receiving incident reports twice a week.

We sailed south to the island of Mustique. This is the “island of billionaires”, a private island where cruisers are still allowed to get on land. Although quite expensive, it gave me a break from the Caribbean “wild west”. I don’t need anymore to lock my dinghy, my boat or watch my belongings with a hawk’s eye.

The waters are clear and we did some snorkeling, around a coral reef seeing the colored tropical fish just a few meters from the beach. Even Paul did and saw Dory, a blue fish from “Finding Nemo”.

Internet is still scarce, and blogging difficult so I guess I will have to catch up when back in Europe, which will happen somewhere in the second half of March. We have a lot of photos from the US and some from our snorkeling here. Alina took a serious number of photos from the car, while I was driving, and despite my scepticism regarding their quality some are really good.

I’m running out of battery!


Chat soon

Prospecting for new adventures

Just a short update…

We left Martinique for a change of climate and scenery and decided to go to the US. Our main targets were some national parks (better visited off-season) and some friends along the road. We agreed with Paul to change his plans from going to Galapagos to going to Disneyland, a lame trade off, but because he can’t swim yet and as half of Galapagos fun is about snorkeling, he accepted. So far we drove about 3600 miles (about 5000 km) and seen almost the entire US west coast, Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Las Vegas, some of Route 66, friends and family, so yeah, we were busy the last weeks.

As usual, photos and the full story, will come soon but here’s a teaser:

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Three weeks in Martinique

It’s now three weeks since our arrival in Martinique so I feel like drawing a line regarding our adventure so far, what we found here, joys and frustrations.

As said before, we visited the island by car, on which occasion we went to a short of botanical garden, Jardins Balanta, just to find out that the admission price for the three of us was equal to the price of any European zoo, somewhere close to 50 EUR, but the offering considerably smaller. We soon realized that Martinique is an expensive place to be…at least as a tourist.
The same day we visited a waterfall,  spectacular in photos but in fact quite small. However, going there through the forest was interesting as it was really a tropical forest, humid and thriving with life,  trees with huge leaves, flowers.
We went up close to the peak of the highest mountain,  Montagne Pelée, à former volcano, and the views were spectacular. 
Unfortunately the path to the top was to long and to difficult to be walked with Paul, who anyway was asleep when we reached the end of the road.
Next stop: an old rum distillery, Distillerie Clément. Even if the visit was paid it was worth the money.  Very nice and well maintained, very interesting history good rum.
We became big fans of rum and we’re now at our third bottle, when at home one bottle lasted for six months. We mainly drink punch as neither of us drinks strong alcohol. I have to say that the last purchase was in the form of boxed, 3 litter, bag of rum, the same way wine is sold back home.
We tried the local market and bought christophines, something like potato but firmer. We cooked it with good results. We also tried some local fruits for which I can’t tell you their names, but they were good. Local oranges and lemons are green in color and look “bad” by our usual standards, however very tasty.
The disappointment was the price. Everything was around 3 EUR a kilo, and that’s a lot for something local. Tomatoes, even local were 5 EUR, avocado 3 EUR (but at least very tasty).
On December 17, our port days were over so we moved with the boat in the nearest anchorage, where we stayed for  more than a week. The longest I’ve stayed at anchor so far. The good side is that finally I could jump in the water in the morning and swim. The not so good side was that going to the village meant going by the inflatable boat for about 500 m, and if the wind was blowing stronger, it also meant ending up on the shore, wet.
We went to the beach every day and ate fish at our favorite beach bar: Abdelito’s Paradise. Abdel, the owner, treated us very nice, prices were more sensible and fish fresh and good.
We took a few walks and saw in the evening, tens of red crabs, coming out from under every rock, root or other hiding place. Like all tourists, we marveled at all the fruits that seem to grow everywhere… coconut, banana, passion fruit, bread fruit and a lot with local names which I don’t remember.
We’re now into another anchorage, Grande Anse D’Arlet, surrounded by high hills (more than 400 meters hight) covered in green forests. Proper tropical surroundings.
Tomorrow we go back in Le Marin, where we will leave the boat for a month to pursue a different way and place to explore.

My frustrations revolve mainly around the lack of time to myself. With a four year old kid, my attention was seriously distracted and boat stuff takes also its share. I hardly manged to finish a book I started reading in Barcelona. Obviously I didn’t learned to play the flute, nor did I manged to make a planned introspective inquiry into “who I am, what I know, what I have and who I know “. When I was in Spain, I met am old man, the grandfather of a friend, who, when he was in his forties, decided he won’t work anymore but decided to retreat to a farm, and dedicate his life to…thinking.The meeting was very interesting as any meeting with someone who has seen a lot in life and left me with a “homework “. But about this on anther occasion, when I’ll have more time (for me :)).
The blog had an audience far beyond I ever thought. More than a thousand visits in one month and more than 200 visitors, from 15 countries. Thank you all. This is very supportive and encouraging.
Two more things: photos will come soon and more important I wish you a very Happy New Year!