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.
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.
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.
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.
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 …