Totally Chulo!

Our crossing from Plymouth, England was a comparatively pleasant 3 days with a couple of British guys as crew.

We arrived into La Coruña, or “A Coruña” as the Spanish call it, on a Sunday morning, and attempted to clear in ourselves and the boat, and get Tadd a Schengen entry stamp in his US passport. In most places that would have been a non-starter on the weekend, but we were told by the marina to call the officials.

La Coruña City Marina

But, in spite of many phone calls and a promise by the Policía Nacional to stop by the boat, we saw neither customs nor immigration. And Tadd still had no proof of entry into Spain, and back into Schengen.

So we gave up, went ashore and found ourselves a tapas bar with a view. What else!?

Plaza Maria Pita – enjoying an extremely reasonably priced bottle of Rioja

The Plaza is an important location in Coruña, where many locals come to hang out and grab some favourite tapas and admire the ornate building of the municipal palace. The square is named for the local heroine, María Mayor Fernández de Cámara y Pita, who helped protect the city from the British attack by Sir Francis Drake, even after her soldier husband was struck down and killed in the battle.

Monument to Maria Pita, A Coruña

We never did talk with any officials during our week there, but we had an amazing time getting to know this colourful, historic city full of wonderful flavours and amazing people.

Lots of the buildings in the old town had wonderfully ornate brass door knockers

Playing tourist took us to the Castillo de San Anton, which keeps watch over the entrance to the port. It was built by King Carlos I to protect the city during merchant times, as Coruña traded spices to Europe, and continued to protect their interests through the years.

The Tower of Hercules has served as a lighthouse and landmark at the entrance of La Coruña harbour since the late 1st century A.D. when the Romans built the Farum Brigantium. The Tower, built on a 57 metre high rock, rises a further 55 metres, of which 34 metres correspond to the Roman masonry and 21 meters to the restoration directed by architect Eustaquio Giannini in the 18th century, who augmented the Roman core with two octagonal forms.

Every day we took a different walk through the city… amazing what you can find!

“Sit!”

“Good dog”

Meeting the locals is always the jewel in the crown of any new destination. Here we were lucky enough to get to take out las hermanas Golepes for a half day sail and show them a view of their city they had never seen before (even though their father was a merchant mariner!)

Galegas Ana & Lucia

In exchange for their sailing trip, we were delighted by their offer to go for an inland adventure to their family’s ancient home in the countryside.

Afterwards we wandered the hills of Bentanzos, “the tortilla Espanola capital of the world!” Unfortunately we had already filled up on a bunch of delicious tapas and wine at a country restaurant.

Our friend from London, Cassie, was also visiting and came along for the ride.

Our original plan of staying just a few days in A Coruña turned into more than a week! We will definitely be back.

Overdue Visits with Great Friends

Having spent the last couple of months day-sailing and spending time with friends and family, it was a bit of a shock to return to an overnight sail from Crosshaven to England. We had planned a stop in the Scilly Isles, but with some good wind and somewhat following seas, it was a no-brainier to push through to Landsend in England, and on to our destination of Plymouth.

Having survived some scary amounts of tankers and container ships in the shipping channels, we made it.

Enjoying a glass of wine aboard a classic tall ship in the Historic harbour.

But the real purpose of our chosen port was to catch up with people we haven’t seen for way too long (my friend Chris who I met 15+ years ago in Ecuador, and our English friends from Puerto Morelos)!!

We happened to arrive in time for Ebon’s birthday, family celebrations, with Jen’s family.

Jen’s dad’s a French horn player!

Sadly we were too busy having fun to get any pictures with Chris & Cath…

But Ebon and Jen took us for a walk on the famous Dartmoor.

Back Where Our Hearts Lie in Ireland

Finally back where it all began at the Royal Cork Yacht Club, Crosshaven, Ireland, we were happy, relaxed and ready to enjoy a few days before venturing into traffic and into the English Channel to Plymouth.

Crosshaven is such a lovely, welcoming town.

And this visit, we finally made time to go explore the city of Cork too.

The Old City Gaol

But we were on a mission to go see some old friends, so it was time to venture on our first overnight since the Atlantic crossing and just the two of us for a 24 hour sail to England.

The Land of Finn McCool

Sadly we couldn’t stay on the Isle of Arran forever, but we would have if we could!!!

So on a day sail through the Sanda Island races, across the shipping channels, around Rathlin Island and around the headland, we sailed in and anchored in the Bay of Portballintrae.

After a pleasant night on the anchor, time to go visit the giant!

Coming into Portballintrae

Spectacular views on the coastal walk

Makara looking good on anchor

The Giant’s home

Th Giant’s Causeway

And after a walk and some fun geology… Whiskey!!

Old mill on the Bush River.

5 amazing facts about the SOS distress signal – Contrary to popular belief, SOS does not stand for ‘save our souls’ or ‘save our ship’. Nor does it mean ‘send out succour’. SOS actually stands for nothing at all.

The SOS distress signal has been a staple for emergency communication for 110 years, and although communications technology is very different now to the days of Morse Code, the term is still widely used today.

The SOS distress signal was the work of the British Marconi Society and the German Telefunk, who established it at the Berlin Radio Society on October 3, 1906 – although it wasn’t properly introduced until July 1, 1908.

To celebrate this landmark occasion, we take a look at some of the interesting SOS facts from across the last 110 years:

SOS does not stand for anything

Contrary to popular belief, SOS does not stand for ‘save our souls’ or ‘save our ship’. Nor does it mean ‘send out succour’. SOS actually stands for nothing at all.

SOS was selected purely because it could be very easily transmitted in Morse code during distress · · · – – – · · · (dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot). Only later did the likes of ‘save our souls’ emerge.

The SOS signal was first used in 1909

SOS was formally introduced on July 1, 1908 and almost a year later it was used by the Cunard liner SS Slavonia on July 10, 1909 during a shipwreck off the Azores, Portugal.

All on board were rescued, and some of the cargo – which included 400 bags of coffee, 1,000 ingots of copper and 200 casks of oil – were salvaged from the wreckage before it was completely abandoned.

SOS took a while to be adopted

Even though the SOS distress signal was made official in 1908, it took some time to be widely adopted. So much so that in 1912, the radio operator aboard the striken Titanic used the old CQD distress signal first before he joked that they may as well do the new SOS distress signal too as they may never get a chance to try it again.

Think you know Morse code? Try their quiz.

Courtesy of Jamie Harris on BT.com

 

 

Makara – What’s In A Name?

When we bought our catamaran, she came with the name Makara. We could, of course, change the name of the boat. Even though it is considered by some as terribly bad luck, there is a delightfully elaborate ceremony that you can perform (as we did to change Tadd’s original sailboat from Praxithea to Third Aye) to appease the gods of the elements and the great Neptune. But as Makara didn’t pose the difficulty of having to constantly spell the name out to all the world over the radio, and because we liked it, we chose to keep the name (and just change to home port to Key West).

Sailing Key West

 

So What Does Makara Mean?

Makara, chosen by the previous owners, means ‘sea dragon’ or ‘aquatic-monster,’ in Sanskrit (मकर). Long thought to be a mythical creature in Hindu and Buddhist traditions, paintings and sculptures of this fantastical creature are found in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan — practically everywhere in Asia.

Ganga being carried by Makara
Ganga being carried by Makara

In India Makara  is known to be the vahana (vehicle) of Ganga-devi – the goddess of the river Ganges and the vahana of the god of the sea, Varuna. And in Hindu astrology the Makara is also the astrological sign of Capricorn. A little research reveals this strange mythical creature to have been very popular both in ancient times and in our present day.

The Makara is often depicted with the head of a crocodile, horns of a goat, the body of an antelope and a snake, the tail of a fish or peacock and the feet of a panther. Varuna is said to be the only one who can control the Makara and does not fear them.

Makara are considered guardians of gateways and thresholds, protecting throne rooms as well as entryways to temples; it is the most commonly recurring creature in Hindu and Buddhist temple iconography, and also frequently appears as a gargoyle or as a spout attached to a natural spring. Makara ornaments are a popular traditional wedding gift for the bride; these makara-shaped earrings called Makarakundalas are sometimes worn by the Hindu gods, for example Shiva, the Destroyer, or the Preserver-god Vishnu, the Sun god Surya, and the Mother Goddess Chandi. Makara is also the insignia of the love god Kamadeva, who has no dedicated temples and is also known as Makaradhvaja, “one whose flag depicts a makara”.

Varuna riding Makara
The Sea God Varuna

The leading Hindu temple architect and builder Ganapati Sthapati describes Makara as a mythical animal with the body of a fish, trunk of an elephant, feet of a lion, eyes of a monkey, ears of a pig, and the tail of a peacock. A more succinct explanation is provided: “An ancient mythological symbol, the hybrid creature is formed from a number of animals such that collectively possess the nature of a crocodile. It has the lower jaw of a crocodile, the snout or trunk of an elephant, the tusks and ears of a wild boar, the darting eyes of a monkey, the scales and the flexible body of a fish, and the swirling tailing feathers of a peacock.”

All in all a pretty cool name for a boat… so we’ll keep it!

InReach Plays Pivotal Role In Saving Novelists Life

When Tadd and I talk to people about our planned adventures sailing around the world, starting with crossing the Atlantic next spring, they are typically surprised that we’re so excited about the prospect of being out in the middle of the ocean, hundreds of miles from land. Of course there is a scary element to launching on any offshore voyage, but like anything in life, preparation is everything. And a big part of that prep is safety equipment, from lifelines running from bow to stern of the boat (so that we can be tethered to the boat at all times) to auto-inflating lifejackets on all people on deck, and from exposure suits (it’s damn chilly out there!) to a “ditch bag” all packed with emergency items, first aid, gps and food etc, to be grabbed at the last moment before abandoning ship (should the worst happen… remember, always step up into a life raft!). So last year Tadd invested in one more safety device, which until now has been used for fun rather than any emergency!

We have a Delorme inReach, which is what allows friends and family to check here on our site and see where we are. It’s a small but great device… so great this amazing piece of innovation was, of course, acquired by the giant, Garmin. But as fun as it has been, it will be a great comfort to us during our major journeys, and here’s precisely why:

michael-hurley “Less than halfway through his 3,400 ­mile solo trip to Ireland, novelist Michael Hurley’s sailboat began taking on water. What could have easily become a tragic tale was saved thanks to his inReach, which he had brought on the trip to stay in contact with family and post to social media. Michael used his DeLorme inReach to send out a distress text which the Coast Guard relayed to all vessels in the area, including Michael’s exact coordinates and bearing. Help arrived less than two hours after the signal was sent. Now Michael says he’ll make sure to bring his inReach with him whenever he plans to go off the grid.”  To read more…

Photo of the Day: Good Times in Key West

Tadd & Lindsay at sunset

Although we generally avoid the touristy side of Key West, there’s nothing like a good sunset from Sunset Pier. The coolest thing was when I noticed that the hotel’s lighting was offering some nice, warm, subtle illumination, so I set up the picture to take advantage of the chance to light us up, while still catching the last of the sunset in the background.

Photo of the Day: The Local Wildlife Part 1

Flamingos in Key WestEvery once in a while we decide to go play tourist in Key West, typically when friends come to visit, or if we manage to catch a “locals day” at one of the attractions (when we get to go for free!). We enjoyed the Butterfly Conservatory here in Key West once before just before sailing away to Mexico in 2009, and thought it was time to check it out again. All the vibrant, fluttering butterflies are really amazing, but what was most impressive this visit were the pair of stunning flamingos. The male was very much intent on wooing his lady!