Bon Voyage Richard!

Just a few short hours ago, Rich embarked on his journey to sail across the Caribbean Sea. This two-week passage will take him from the island of Antigua, along the Colombian coast, and through the San Blas Islands to the start of the Panama Canal covering approximately 1,200 nautical miles.

Projected route based on John and Amanda’s last Caribbean crossing in 2008.

Alongside sailing experts John Neal and his wife, Amanda (who together have sailed more than 600,000 nautical miles), on a 46 foot Hallberg Rassy, Rich and five other individuals will learn how to navigate by the stars at night, get through heavy winds and large swells, as well as deal with every other challenge (big or small) that comes with
extended oceanic crossings. All hands are on deck, as this boat lacks autopilot which calls for a two-man watch and chart plotting at all hours of the day.

John and Amanda Neal of Mahina Expeditions

It’s not all work though! Rich and his sailing mates will be able to swim, fish, weather and government permitting- stop in Colombia for some dinner, and they will explore the San Blas islands inhabited by the indigenous Kuna people- who are very selective as to who can come ashore (John and Amanda, having done many circumnavigations, have built a relationship with the people over the years bringing them supplies such as reading glasses, so they are welcomed with open arms).

I am so proud of Rich for taking this step so we can do our own adventurous sailing and long crossings as a family. I am excited to hear about all the fun he had and all that he learned upon his return just before the holidays.

Check back in a few weeks to read about his experience!

 

-Lauren

Sail Log of the “Jenny”- Sweden’s Bohuslän Coast

This was a very special trip for me.  Around 20 years ago I sailed a similar route with my father on his 1972 Hallberg Rassy 31 foot sloop.  “Pada Rae” (to keep afloat) is solid, full keeled, Swedish-built boat that is almost impossible to turn.  It has no GPS, no depth finder, and no navigation equipment.  With just paper charts, a set of decent binoculars and my dads unwaviring enthusiasm, we sucesifully navigated the rocky Swedish coast and had a blast.

At that time we sailed from Åmål, my mothers home town on Lake Vänern, and passed through a large canal that connects Lake Vänern via a series of locks to the coastal city of Gothenberg. We then headed north up Sweden’s west coast towards Norway. It was a formative time in my life and inspired this homecoming.

Now I return to Sweden’s “Bohuslän Coast” with my pregnant wife and great friends to celebrate my 40th birthday! We are joined by the Kratz family, including Maya (2 years old) and Noah (2 months old).

I could not ask for anything more as I push up and over the hill!

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Heading into Marstrand on my 40th Birthday

Sail Plan

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Sail Plan, Garmin Blue Water Charts (iPad)

Sail Plan

Day one: Check in and enjoy a night on the boat, City Marina, Gothenburg

Day two: City Marina,Gothenburg —>Åstol Island

Day three Åstol Island —> Gullholmen

Day four: Extra night on beautiful Gullholmen (planned to sail north to Hunebostrand but the weather was uncooperative)

Day five: Gullhomen —> Käringön Island

Day six: Käringön Island —> Marstrand Island

Day seven: Marstrand —> City Marina Gothenburg, night on the boat and boat check out in AM

“Jenny”

For this adventure, we chartered a new 2017 Bavaria 37 foot sloop.  We chartered through “Nautilus Yachting” based out of England, who more or less connected us with a local Swedish boat charter company “Sweden Yacht Charters”. They were excellent.  Easy to work with and available for any questions leading up the the sail.  Our boat was ready on time and in excellent shape.

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“Jenny”

When preparing for our week out sailing, I found very little information on the cruising grounds.  In the Caribbean and Croatia, I was able to purchase pilot books prior to the sail in order to get a feel for the anchorages, harbors and local conditions.  Local knowledge is key and it was unfortunate that no such recourse is available. To get around this inconvenience, I made a few calls to the Harbor Masters at each port to get an idea of the proper procedure for using their guest harbors and to check availability.  I also found a decent iPhone app which had links to outstanding satellite views of the harbors so I could familiarize myself with the area prior to sailing into the marinas.  I guess I’m not as adventurous as my father, but we had some important cargo onboard so I wanted to be prepared.

When calling Marstrand’s Harbor Master, I came to discover there was the biggest boat show in Northern Europe on the Island precisely on the same day we planned to stay the night.  We simply adjusted out schedule a bit and sailed our first leg up to Åstol then enjoyed Marstrand when heading back down the coast.

City Marina,Gotengerg —>Åstol Island 8-27-17

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Our Sail track in Green

During our first leg, we enjoyed a consistent 15 kt wind out of the North-NW, we set a reef in the main to keep the the boat flat and comfortable for the crew.  We kept Maya, our two year old crew member, tethered to the deck to keep her safe while underway.   The coast is extremely rocky, many hazards are unmarked.  We all kept a keen eye on our position as we tacked through the narrow channel.  Navigation was a full time job while underway.  Lots of Rocks…lots.

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Rocks, and plenty of them!

After a fanatic first day familiarizing ourselves with our new boat, enjoying sights of Sweden’s coast, and realizing that or 2 year old on board- Maya loved sailing.

We easily secured the boat in Åstols Guest Harbor.  What a place!  The harbor is nearly completely protected from winds.  It has become my favorite island besides Anegada!

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Image downloaded from Google Images

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Åstol, Sweden

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Åstol

A magical place!

30.6 nm Sailed

Fair Winds,

Rich

Åstol Island —> Gullholmen 8-28-17

Getting an early start, we continued north to beautiful Gullholmen.  Winds were westerly and light, 8-14 knots and seas were gentle.  Given the favorable conditions, we decided to head out to sea after negotiating multiple islands east of Åstol.

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A great day of sailing north to Gullholmen, between Islands when leaving Åstol, a bit of open ocean sailing, and motoring up the narrow inlet outside Orust before entering Gullholmen

It is noteworthy that this area can get wild, it lacks the protection from the open ocean that Denmark and Norway provide.   A strong westerly swell can make things unpleasant.  However, conditions were ideal and we enjoyed a comfortable sail north, winds were consistently off our port beam.  I placed 2 reefs in our main to keep the boat flat  (one for each baby on board!). We averaged 5 to 6 knots under sail despite the reefs in the main.

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Sweden’s West Coast, exposure to West swells. Open ocean between Denmark (south) and Norway (north).  Our track in Green

Dropping our sails outside Käringön, we motored through the well marked, narrow passage to Gullholmen. Overall it was a wonderful sail, lots of navigation, open water sailing, ending with motoring between many islands as we approached Orust.

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Well marked channels can provide protection from westerly swells if needed, most of all it provides great views.  Our track in green after passing the island of Käringön

We entered Gullhomen and secured “Jenny” in the Guest Harbor for two nights, allowing time to relax and enjoy this fantastic town.

 

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Gullhomen from our drone 

19.5 nm sailed

Fair Winds!

Rich

Gullholmen —> Käringön Island 8-30-17

We decided to spend an extra night in Gullholmen. For one, we needed and extra day to explore and enjoy this wonderful place.  Second, an aggressive low pressure system off the western coast of Norway kicked up the winds, forecasted to ocasionaly gust over 30 knots up Swedens Coast.  We were quite cozy and secure in Gullholmen’s well protected harbor so we decided not to venture further north.

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Looking back it was a good choice, we enjoyed our time on the island and the extra night gave the young one time to play and run off the boat.  As the low pressure ventured further north, winds settled down, eventually shifted westerly as we set sail south towards the island of Käringön.

As we departed, winds died down to just 8-11 knots.  Swells however were significant at  3-5 feet so we did experience significant rocking and rolling, likely from the low that passed to the north west.  It was a bit uncomfortable at times for the crew, particularly when attending to small children below deck.  Fortunately, our sail was short, just 10 nm south.

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Overall we enjoyed a lovely sail south.   While keeping a close look out for exposed rocks, we managed our way back into protected waters and secured Jenny in Käringön’s guest harbor.

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Käringön, Downloaded from Google Images

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We were amazed by the beauty of this island, unbelievable!

9.8 nm sailed

Fair Winds,

Rich

Käringön Island —> Marstrand Island 8/31/17

Today was a day to enjoy the wonders of Sweden’s west coast.  Deciding to stay clear of developing westerly swells, we motored through well protected channels and made our way south from Käringön to Marstrand.

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We passed alongside many charming harbors, costal towns, and small fishing villages as we maneuvered Jenny through the archipelago.  We took a few mental notes of some fine places tie up during future endeavors.

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Mollösund, Orust

We entered Marstrand, secured our boat Jenny, and enjoyed an exciting night of celebration!

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Distance motored 18.2 nm

Fair Winds,

Rich

Marstrand —> City Marina Gothenburg 9-1-17

Perfect sailing conditions to finish off our week! Consistent 20 knot winds out of the west and lots of sun as we pointed jenny back to her home port in Gothenburg.

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Sailing south, we stayed on a single starboard tack as we proceed down the coast.  Daniel managed the helm with precision as we kept a keen lookout for exposed rocks and small islands.  It really was a fantastic sail.  We averaged 8 knots and had a blast!  What a way to finish off our week.

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Daniel dominating on the helm

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No sailing once you pass below the bridge, lots of traffic through Göteborg’s busy port.

 

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Cheers to a great crew! 

23 nm sailed

Signing off until next time!

Fair Winds,

Rich

Sweden West Coast Adventure

Well we’re off to a great first half of our Swedish charter. To get excited and get the juices flowing we went to Orust on Friday. We enjoyed a quick fika with the Kratz family and Lisa’s wonderful parents at their amazing waterfront summer house. Then the boys and I headed off to the boat show just a few miles away. Rich was bright eyed and bushy tailed as we were able to board and tour our dream boat as well as check out a few other new models. It was good times!

Saturday morning we checked onto our nameless, but brand-spanking-new 2017 Bavaria 37 foot sailboat. It’s bad luck to have a boat without a name. We’d “never named a boat before, but there was only one I could think of” Jenny. We worked on provisioning, organizing, and getting familiar with the new systems.

Bright and early Sunday morning the Kratz family joined us ready as ever for the adventure- Daniel, Lisa, two year old Maya, and 2 month old Noah had high spirits. We departed Gothenburg and headed north towards Åstol. We had some great wind to start the trip and made decent time, about 7 hours… After covering 33 nautical miles, tacking around both visible and hidden rocks we made it to the charming island of Åstol. This small island was so beautiful and gave us perfect weather to explore the island, take a walk, Maya found a waterslide and got to swim, and the boys grilled us all a delicious dinner. All of us were in awe of this islands beauty. It looked like a postcard.

Fun fact: Rich bungee jumped off that crane in the late 90’s

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We had an early start to the day on Monday as we had a long journey to make it up the coats to Gullholmen. We had two nights planned on this beautiful island since there are strong winds forecasted for Tuesday. We had a 20+ mile cruise up the coast were we all had our turn to drive. As we entered the open sea we were greeted by a small pod of dolphins! We are still debating weather it was actually the rare sighting of dolphins or more common harbor porpoise- regardless it was exciting to watch them try to catch up and swim with the boat. The sun came out just in time as we arrived to Gullholmen. What a great island! Maya loved that there was a great playground, while the adults enjoyed the great trails and lack of cars that provided for some optimal running. We all spent some time exploring the island, enjoying some fun happy hours on the boat, many fikas (Swedish coffee breaks- many each day), and delicious grilled dinners. Spending two nights allowed for us all to relax and unwind- just what we all needed. I called this the island of the jellyfish since I was amazed at how many of them I saw along the coast and in the harbor! Overall this island was breath-taking, it’d definitely be a nice place to have a summer house! If only… 🙂
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Lucky for us we had a shorter journey on Wednesday so we slept in a bit and Maya and Dan were able to get some play time in before our sail. The seas were fairly calm so we ventured out to sail to the island of Käringön, rather than motoring through the tight channels. It is rare to sail out there as this section of the west coast does not have protection from Denmark nor Norway so the swells can get rough- we were lucky! Once again, we were greeted by a picturesque seaside town when we arrived to Käringön, they have all been so beautiful! The Kratz family found a park, while Rich found a good place to fly his drone, and I enjoyed a delicious ice cream then found a friendly cat- of course. The clouds broke at sunset and provided for the most beautiful evening. Lisa and I enjoyed a yummy charcuterie board in the boat while the boys enjoyed some scotch and grill chips while they bbq’ed our dinner. We had a great evening together and toasted Rich closing a decade since tomorrow is his birthday!


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A very happy 40th birthday to Richard! We had a little bit of weather move through Wednesday, but the worst of it had passed through over night. We had about a 20 mile cruise through the channels to the exciting island of Marstrand. We passed between the mainland and islands and had fun checking out the beautiful homes and towns along the coast. Snacking on some hot dogs, then taking a few fika breaks, we had much to laugh at, and a lot to take pictures of. We arrived to Marstrand, greeted by the fortress atop the island. We had our first bit of rain just as we docked so while the boys were up top getting the boat tied up, Lisa and I prepped for Rich’s mini birthday celebration down below. We devoured a charcuterie, toasted Rich, and opened presents. After dinner the weather cleared so we had time to get on land and stretch our legs. We were gifted with a stunning sunset peaking out along the horizon just beneath the blanket of passing clouds. We returned to the boat to enjoy some birthday cake and tea before calling it a night.

 

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With some strong winds forecasted, and a long sail ahead of us- Lisa and the kids checked off the boat in the morning- we’d meet again when we returned to Gothenburg. We made incredible time on our 26 mile sail home. Making 9+ knots at times it was like the boys had a smile glued to their faces. They clearly we’re having a great time! It seemed over all too quickly as in just under 3 hours hours we approached the mouth of the busy Gothenburg port- not before enjoying one last fika with some chocolate. With Jenny tucked away safely in her home harbor we were sad the week had come to a close. We said our goodbyes to the Kratz family then settled in for one last cozy slumber in our V-berth.

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Reflecting on the great times, this week was wonderful. Rich and I were blown away with Sweden’s West Coast geography- it was absolutly stunning. Navigating around the many rocks, created a new challenge and growth opportunity for our sailing. Leading up to the trip the weather forecasts had not looked in our favor but minus a few hours of clouds or rain, we were blessed with a lot of sunshine (which seemed to be timed as we arrived to each harbor) and the perfect amount of wind for fun, yet safe sailing. Major props to Rich for being, as always, a great captain keeping everyone safe and happy. Snaps to Dan and Lisa for being a wonderful help on the boat- it’s so nice to have extra hands and great company aboard! Noah gets the award for most relaxed crew member, Maya gets an award for behaving so well and being so positive the whole trip (she’s definitely a future sailor)! We truly had such a great time living with Dan, Lisa, and their kids for a week. What great memories we created this week and we can’t wait for our next adventure with their family. Best of all, we learned sailing with kids is not only extremely doable, it is a ton of fun as they bring so much excitement to the sails and adventure. With a little bit of planning, and a lot of reefing of the sails we successfully sailed with a baby and toddler aboard and enjoyed it.

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This couldn’t have been more perfect and reassuring as Rich and I are expecting to add a new baby Ahroon crew member in February! 

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Cheers!

-Lauren

Sail Log of the “Ellis Island II”- Redondo Beach to Catalina Island, California

Catalina Sail

We chartered our old faithful, Elis Island II, out of our home port of King Harbor. We enjoyed a 3 night, 4 day sail exploring Catalina Island. We were joined by family…. Jackie, Jim and Jamie Melton!

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We have chartered the Ellis Island many times.  She is part of the Marina Sailing feet.  Ellis Island is a sturdy, well worn Catalina 34 foot sloop with lots of “character.”  Despite being a bit run down, the owner always lets us take along his personal kayak and paddle boards, a nice bonus!

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Zero wind leaving Redondo

We departed from Redondo Beach King Harbor for lengthy 30 nm sail to Avalon Harbor situated on the southeast end of the island.  Winds were light so we motor sailed the entire way.

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Great new app for wind lovers..check it out at Windy.com

Sail Catalina

Our GPS track, Redondo Beach to Avalon

Despite the light winds, during the San Pedro crossing we faced a mixed 3 ft swell that caused Ellis Island to yaw from side to side.  By raising the mainsail and keeping the main sheet tight, the light wind stabilized the boat a while motoring.  This smoothed out the yaw, creating a bit more comfortable ride for the crew (an attempt anyway).

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Along the Catalina Coast

After a lovely day and night spent exploring Avalon, we proceeded up the cost for a beautiful motor sail to Two Harbors.  Again, conditions were light and enjoyable.

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Our track from Avalon to Two Harbors

After a rather relaxing cruise up the Catalina coast, we secured Ellis Island to a mooring ball in Isthmus Cove.

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 Drone shot over Isthmus Cove

The mooring system is a bit different in Catalina.  Rather than only securing the bow to the mooring ball (as is typical in the British Virgin Islands) the system at Catalina requires a second stern hawser.  This effectively prevents the boat from swinging around the mooring ball, allowing more boats to squeeze into the harbor lined up side to side.

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It does take a little practice as the boat will swing until the stern line can be secured.  Just a little reverse engine will cause a “prop walk,” a sheering force which tends to twist the stern to port.

As always when securing a boat…. slow is gold! Jackie and Jim were a great help getting us tied up without complications!

 

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After few nights of great food and fantastic company, we motor-sailed home.  Conditions were warm, and winds were light.  We kept the music loud to dampen the constant hum of Ellis Island’s engine purr.

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Fair Winds!

Rich

Fun Times on Catalina Island

We recently returned from a wonderful four day sail to Catalina Island. Joined by my parents, but unfortunately not by the wind, we motored to Avalon Harbor for our first evening aboard Ellis Island II. My parents hadn’t been to Avalon in many years so we headed ashore, walked the town then had a lovely dinner along the water at Blue Water Grill. The next morning we woke up to sunshine and the noises of a lively harbor; we launched off our mooring and motored up to Two Harbors.


Typically we stay in Cherry Cove however when we arrived it was already full! We think people were slow to leave but we decided Isthmus Cove would work instead. This way we were closer to shore and we could pick up our third guest, my sister Jamie! Jamie had taken the ferry that morning and passed us as we approached the harbor…(thanks for the wake!) and she booked a campsite for the night. 

The day was warm, but the wind picked up a few hours after we got settled in making it a little cold if you were wet. The water was a bit chilly but we had plenty of toys to use without having to fully submerge. My Mom took to snorkeling, Rich to his floating chair, my Dad to the hammock, and Jamie and I enjoyed the now open space in the cockpit. Everyone had delicious snacks and beverages while we relaxed in the sun. Before the sun set we grilled off the back of the boat then sang an early happy birthday song to my Dad. He’s turning 60 next month but we won’t be around so we enjoyed (more than we needed) cupcakes and fun times.

We took to shore in the morning to stretch our legs and clean up in the showers. On the boat my Mom treated us to a fantastic brunch of chorizo and eggs, coffee, and mimosas. She really outdid herself. To the point I definitely think Rich is considering switching up the galley girl in the future, I usually spoil him with cereal in the AM… needless to say, he was impressed by the meal. The day was again filled with relaxation, good music, food, drinks, snorkeling, paddle boarding, and floating. We enjoyed one final dinner prepared on the grill, then road Jamie ashore so she could catch the last night ferry back to the mainland.

The harbor master stopped by in the morning asking us if we wanted to stay another night since they had many moorings available. We would have loved to, but we had to get the boat back to its rightful owner. Luckily since the harbor wasn’t full, we were able to enjoy a breakfast and take our time getting the boat ready for our journey back to Redondo Beach. The wind that had picked up the other day was nowhere to be found so we motor sailed home.

We had a great trip with the Melton’s and can’t wait for our next adventure with them. It was so nice having my Dad there to help with lines and the dinghy, and having my Mom there to help with food and all things down below. I think it might of spoiled us a little have the extra help! We’re looking forward to the next opportunity we have to get back to California. Until then we get to look forward to our sailing trip for Rich’s birthday this month in Sweden with the Kratz family!

 

Cheers!

-Lauren

Sail Log of the Nina Croatia

Agana to the Island of Solta, Maslinica. 

We begin our sail log of our charter boat Nina on the central coast of Croatia, Marina Agna,  just north west of the city Split.


We chartered with the company Sunsail and upon arrival we were immediately impressed by the professionalism of the of the company and supporting staff.  Lauren and I attended our captain briefing which gave us an overview of the cruising grounds. The briefing mostly consisted of which harbors will provide the best shelter for any given wind direction we may encounter.

We were then notified that our boat was clean and ready to board.   We received a very through boat briefing by one of the expert boat technicians where we were introduced to all the major systems on the boat.  We inspected the standing and running rigging, and were ensured the boat was “ship shape” before our week on the Adriatic.  After time spent provisioning for the week, we relaxed and settled into our new home.

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During our first evening, we both attended the Medsail welcome reception, caught up with old friends, and enjoyed our first night on our boat.

The next morning, after a glorious slumber,  I attended my first series of lectures -all part of the conference- “Medicine for Mariners and Saftey at Sea”.  We covered a few basic topics including Sea Sickness (etiology, prevention and treatment) as well as topics surrounding solar injury.

We then enthusasticaly set sail to Maslinica, a picturesque village on the island of Solta.

Our track in green, taken from our ipad Garmin Blue Water App.

Conditions were quite good for sailing, a low pressure system passed through overnight resulting in exciting downwind sailing and brisk winds out of the north.

Initially we hoisted a full main and unraveled a full jib, but quickly realized the gusty 20 knot winds slightly overpowered Nina so we rolled in the jib to the first reefing mark, reducing her heel.

After making our turn to the south, we preformed a series of long jibes before entering the beautiful harbor of Maslinica.   The marina was quite busy when we arrived, creating quite a bit of congestion at the harbors entrance.   We decided to circle outside the entrance to allow other boats who arrived before us time to tie up to the marina dock.  The idea was to clear up some mauvering room for Nina as we were inexperienced with Meditation Mooring.  While circling and waiting our turn we enjoyed our first close look at Maslinica.

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Entering Maslinica, Solta Island

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Circling outside Maslinica

On a side note-Prior to entering a new harbor, I get a good look at the digital chart to get an appreciation of any obvious obstacles to avoid.  I also find it useful to take a look at google earth to gain an understanding how boats are situated through the marina.  Perhaps a bit of overkill here, but planning is part of the fun for Lauren and I and its gets us excited about our new destination.

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Google Earth, Maslinica

We were able to successfully mediterranean moor on the south side of the marina.  We also found the facilities and marina staff top notch.  We were offered all kinds of support  when docking.  Marina officers were zipping around in zodiacs, aiding in the docking process as boats squeezed into the marina, side by side, stern to, throughout the day.

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Overall our first leg was a fantastic shake down sail for us.  We completed our first docking stern-to and loved every minute of it! Next stop, the Island of Vis!

5/21/17

Distance Sailed 12.0 nm

Fair Winds,

Rich

Maslinica to the Island of Vis, Vis Town

Our next leg was an exciting 20 nautical mile crossing, 180 degree south, to the Croatian island of Vis.  The weather was warm, and the our predicted wind forecast was perfect;  Constant 15-20 knot which had shifted Westerly.

Before sailing off, I attended our next series of lectures: “Onboard Medial Emergencies, Responsibilities of the Medical Officer, and Marine Envenomations”, just fantastic stuff! We had a good long slog ahead of us and Lauren and I were eager to make way.  When I returned to Nina after the conference, Lauren and already set up the boat for sailing, completed all our pre-sail instrument checklists and we were ready to push off.

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Our GPS track in Green

As Lauren mentioned in a previous blog, our sail to Vis was quite similar to our experiences sailing in California to Catalina Island.  Vis is approximately the same distance off the mainland as Catalina, with a similar shape and topagraphy.  The manner in which Vis unveiled herself as we slowly approached created a cozy, nostalgic feeling of home.   Notable exceptions included the lack of any significant ground swell, fog, or worries negotiating enourmous cargo tankers that we invariably encounter crossing the channel to Catalina.

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182 Degrees South, Vis coming into view

Winds were ideal.  Our gauges displayed boat speeds over 7 knots, just reaching our calculated maximum hull speed.   Wind speeds were occasionally recorded at over 25 knots, however, we did not trust our gauges, and attributed the wind high wind measurements as an apparent rather than true wind velocity  (our thinking was that our down wind boat speed was additive to the true wind speed with some sort of calibration error in our electronics).

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25 knots? Probably around 18.

Regardless, it was an exhilarating sail to Vis under a full jib and a fully hoisted mainsail.  Just the right amount of heel to keep our speed optimized.

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As we entered the harbor, we prepared our boat for docking by taking down the sails, setting out our fenders and tidying up all our loose lines.  We faced bit of cross wind during our approach, but we had plenty of room to maneuver and safely secured Nina and enjoying our first views of the island.

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Overall it was a very memorable sail for Lauren and I.  Exploring the island of Vis was spectacular!

Distance Sailed 21.3 nm

5/22/17

Fair Winds,

Rich

Vis Town to Palmizana

After an action packed visit to Vis, including some time off the boat exploring the island via motor scooter, we were excited to head back out to sea to our next destination, Palmizana.  After two very interesting lectures, one in dive medicine, the other a review of recent dive accidents, Lauren once again had Nina ship shape for our next crossing.

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Our track in Green

Palmizana is a small uninhabited village on the Croatian island of Sveti Klement (San Clemente).  Evidently, Palmizana’s marina is situated in one of the safest natural harbors in the Adriatic, only 3.5km from the neighboring island of Hvar.

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Towing our Dingy (the Phat Fish) Vis in the distance

The sun was out and the weather was beautiful, winds shifted towards the SW, but unfortunately dropped down to 5-10 knots.  With our sails full, we averaged only 3 knots of boat speed.  I set the autopilot in these light winds, freeing our hands to enjoy delicious snacks.  The conditions were glorious so we decide to take a short detour and drop anchor in a bay on the south side of the island.

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A number of large catamarans arrived before Nina.  They expertly dropped anchor in a shallower, more ideal area of the bay closer to shore, forcing us to anchor in approximately 40-50ft.  At this depth, I ran out 150 ft of chain, resulting in a 3:1 scope.  The anchor set well.  At that scope and depth I would not trust the holding as an overnight anchor, but it worked out perfect for a lunch stop! We enjoyed a peaceful lunch with beautiful island views.

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After our lunch stop, we motored around the east end of the island through a tight passage, then preceded to north side of Palmizana.  Winds were light while securing Nina in the well protected, beautiful, natural bay.

A delightful passage!

5/23/17

14.8 nm sailed

Fair Winds,

Rich

Palmizana to the Island of Brac, Milna-Marina Vlaska

As Palmizana is largely uninhabited, it lacked the facilities or support to host our pre-sail lectures.  Understanding this, the “Medsail” conference organizers planed our morning lectures on Hvar Island, just a short ferry ride across the channel.  Topics included; Man Overboard, Safety at Sea, Seafood Toxidromes, Decompression Sickness and Issues Surrounding Arterial Gas Embolism when diving.

And yes! I did diagnosis myself with Scombroid in Dubrovnik, (Read Lauren’s blog!) a topic discussed in detail on Hvar.  A self diagnosis that I certainly would have missed without attending the lecture on Seafood Toxidromes!

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Charming Dingy in Hvar

After an exciting visit to Hvar we set sail towards the town of Milna on Brac Island.   Initially, forecast called for light winds, 5-12 knots out of the SW, plenty of sun and easy sailing.

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After rounding the west end of Hvar, we quickly realized a storm was approaching.  Nothing was reported in any of the forecasts! Winds shifted from SW to Northernly and the temperature quickly dropped about 10 degrees.  Now heading North towards Milna, Lauren observed frequent distant lighting strikes along the coastline. Visibility slowly worsened and we eventually lost sight of Brac Island.  We continued onward, somewhat reluctantly.  Light rain began to fall, and the winds picked up to 15 knots.  At that time we decided to take down our sails and prepare our boat for storm conditions. Lauren and I put on our rain gear, we made sure Nina’s hatches were tight, and we organized loose items below deck.  I even prepared the fenders early…. probably overkill… but my thinking at the time was that I did not want to be fumbling on the foredeck, tying the fenders to metallic lifelines in a lighting storm!

So now we were ship shape. We motored North towards Brac, winds continued to increase to over 35 knots.  Despite the conditions, we felt safe and secure on Nina. However, we did consider motoring to a nearby harbor if conditions continued to deteriorate.   We felt we had lots of options and plenty sea room if we got uncomfortable.

In order to get more information about developing conditions, I radioed ahead to a fellow flotilla captain who was positioned well north of our track and in a great positon to give us a wind report.   I was told that winds had eventually died down to around 18 knots as they approached Brac Island.  They also mentioned that our lead Sunsail Flotilla boat instructed all boats lower all sails!  I guess I missed the radio call, or the lead boat forgot about good old Nina!  However, all was well, and conditions improved as we approached our destination.

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So after a bit of excitement, still under motor, we turned East towards Milna.  As we entered the bay, the wind dropped to almost a standstill and the sun slightly emerged.  We tied up at the marina, safe and sound; but amazed on how quickly the conditions can shift.  I love it!

 

13 nm Sailed ( around 6 under motor)

5/24/17

Fair Winds!

Rich

Marina Vlaska, Milna to Trogir

I believe I enjoyed two espressos and one delicious cappuccino during our MedSail Conference on the morning of the 25th!  We learned about marine wound care, management of drowning, cold water immersion, and we were presented an analysis of recent sailing tragedies and “lessons learned”.  Very informative and expertly presented topics!

The weather was beautiful, light winds forecasted 6-12 knots from the NE for our planned sail to the city of Trogir.

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Our sail from Milna to Trogir turned out to be an easy, sun filled relaxing sail.  Winds were light at times, allowing us to really soak in our environment.  We enjoyed a long NW reach before dropping sails and entering Trogir.

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Trogir is a beautiful and historic city, situated on the Croatian coast just south of the city Split.

IMG_2355As we entered the Trogir, we noticed a significant current passing between the islands  running from east to west.  By adjusting our angle of approach, and applying a bit more engine speed against the current, we secured Nina smoothly and easily in the ACI marina, situated on the south side of the harbor.

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After a lovely sail, Lauren and I were eager to explore the city of Trogir.  We were off the boat and exploring in no time

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5/25/17

17.4 nm sailed

Fair Winds,

Rich

Trogir to Agana Marina

Our last sail, a short 6 nm sail back to “Sunsial’s” home base of Agana Marina.  Sadly, this was our final day at sea.

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Before setting off, I enjoyed our last group of lectures, “Updates on travel medicine, Marine infections”, and “Shark attacks and Health Maintenance at Sea”.  We said our goodbyes, exchanged contact information and made exciting sailing plans for the future. Overall, I was very impressed with the conference.  I learned an enormous amount and I look forward to continuing my work towards a Diploma in Dive and Marina Medicine.

As we prepared to set sail, conditions quickly changed.  Strong gusts up to 45 knots whipped through the harbor!  I then went to the marina office to pick up an updated daily marine forecast.

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Warning! in the morning locally along the coast wind gusts 35-45 knots

Our plan was simple…. just wait a few hours until the winds lighted up.

While waiting out the winds, enjoying coffee, we watched a fully crewed boat attempt to enter the marina in these strong winds.   Unfortunately, the boat got caught up in the gusts, lost total control of the bow, and got pinned up sideway. Trapped on its side between the dock and the strong winds.  The boat was fine, and they received plenty of help to right themselves.

However, as we waited, the winds just did not lighten up! I started thinking seriously how to get Nina home safely.  Particular when observing other boats in distress.

In order to exit the harbor safely, we would need to

1. Drop the mooring line off the bow,  (this takes a bit of time)

2. Keep the boat strait, perpendicular to the dock using the engine and windward spring line

3. Drop the both stern lines (without getting the lines caught in our propeller once free)

4. Gain forward momentum, (careful as the strong wind is behind us)

5. Make a quick, controlled turn to starboard (right) against the force of the strong wind and current (careful to not get pinned against the other two boats directly facing us, just a few feet downwind and down current

6. Finally, when exiting the marina, (assuming I could make the turn in time) I would need to avoid other boats mooring lines that extend off their bow, effectively narrowing our exit even more

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“The turn”  Looked worse when standing on the bow and calculating the turning radius!

My concern was the strong wind gusts and underlining current would make it extremely difficult to turn our boat safely.   If attempted, it was likely that the wind would push on the right side of our boat as I turned Nina towards the exit into the wind.  Also, Nina would have very little maneuvering room in the tight marina.  As a result, I would lack the necessary engine speed to counteract the forces of the wind.  I assumed, as we turned, Nina would invariably pivot to the left, giving way to the strong forces of the wind and current.  It was very possible I could loose control, get blown downwind,  and crash into the two boats just across the finger!

Lauren and I discusses this. I told her my concern that I honestly believed there was a good chance I would smash up our boat! Nothing like that could happen to our beloved Nina!  We agreed had we not had to turn in the boat by the evening, we would of just stayed put in Trogir waiting for conditions to improve.  Since this was not an option,  I decide to ask for help.

Some of the other conference members don’t sail, or they choose not to so they can relax! These boats have a paid Sunsail Captain on board.  Having these experts close by, we decided to get some help from Eddy, A Sunsail Captain and master sailor who has always been available to help out in situations such as these.

After some discussion with Eddy, who nervously laughed when he saw the tight and difficult conditions of our exit, we decided to use an extremely long spring line, and keep this line attached to the windward stern cleat and connected the dock as we motored out.  The line would prevent us from drifting into the other boats and we could use the line to twist the boat up wind.  Eddie controlled the line and the helm, letting out slack as he motored forward.  Lauren took care of all the other mooring lines as we moved off the dock.  I positioned myself on the bow.  I used a boat hook to grab a hold of the bow of the boat on our right as we turned.  These maneuvers prevented Nina from twisting downwind.  Eddy’s skilled work controlling the helm and the spring line, made it possible to exit the marina safely.

We did it!  Well, Eddy did it!  But I learned a new technique and Lauren was impressed I understood my limitations. Thanks Eddy!

After dropping off Eddy along the dock in Trogir, we enjoyed a fun sail back to Agana. Winds dropped off as we sailed West along the coast.  Marina Agana was well protected and we had no difficulty securing Nina safe and sound in Sunsail’s home marina.

Lauren and I loved our time in Croatia, we can’t wait to return and sail with family and friends.

6 nm sailed

5/26/17

Signing off until California!

Rich

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prague, Czech Republic

Fun fact, the Czech Republic’s new “English” name is Czechia. Don’t believe me? Check on google maps. Other fun fact, I have had this ready to post for too long- sorry for the delay!

To say our trip came full circle is an understatement. After a lovely night train from Krakow (it was a big step up from the one in Croatia. I’m talking private bathroom and shower in the room, breakfast delivered in the morning… top notch), we arrived in the romantic city of Prague. We took the metro into town and found our apartment in no time. We were so lucky the owner was ready for us and we were able to check in soon as we arrived to town. The studio apartment was great, and had a perfect location. But the most fun thing of all was the artwork hanging on the walls. Rich spotted it the moment we walked in, they were framed sailing charts of the Croatian coastline! What are the odds that in our last destination we were reminded of the fun week at sea that started it all…

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Anyhow, we had only two days in Prague so it was time to hit the sites and soak up the city and chimney cakes, can’t forget about the chimney cakes! Our apartment door opened up to the John Lennon Wall. Here was an iconic wall that today is covered in graffiti. In the past during communist rule, this wall served as a platform where youth were painting messages of peace, and unity after John Lennon’s death. Each day it would be painted over by officials, and each morning a new message would appear. That morning there was a man playing some Beatles music on his guitar which added to the ambiance. Little did we know it was the actor that played Draco Malfoy playing guitar. He continued to do so all over the city that day without being recognized, it was a top story on the CNN app that night. I felt bad, but in our defense he doesn’t have bleach blond hair and boyish looks anymore- I would’ve never known had Rich not found the article.

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As per our routine this trip, we spent the day walking the city. Today we spent all of our time on the east side of the river. We wandered through the old cobble stone streets, took millions of pictures, and found some delicious snacks along the way. We then strolled along the river and crossed multiple bridges until we found this hidden little gem of a restaurant where we stopped for some refreshments. Although our train was great, we were still very tired. We retreated to the apartment for an afternoon snooze, before we’d head back out for dinner. We found the restaurant Lokal, which was recommended to us by a server in Vienna. We didn’t forget! And we were not disappointed by the local food and fun and extremely casual, almost cafeteria like, vibe of the longest beer hall in town. We were just in time in the town center and were able to see the astronomical clock go off at 7pm! We had walked right past it earlier without noticing because of the construction and scaffolding. With a chimney cake to top of the night, we crossed the Charles Bridge, the most famous picturesque in Prague and listened to the street music along the way. It was a great day.

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The next morning we took a jog together along the river. It was fun to get an early start before the crowds, especially on Charles Bridge where there were multiple brides taking photos. I wondered what time they had to get up for hair and makeup to be out so early…

We freshened up, had a nice breakfast just outside our apartment, and ventured up the hill on the west side of the river, the castle district. We roamed the castle grounds taking in all the views while trying to avoid being sandwiched in between tour groups, yes- this happened a few times. Clearly prime summer tourist season had officially started, the city was getting crowded. The cathedral was breathtaking and we enjoyed watching the change of the guards. Although we didn’t see the “big” noon time change, it was still interesting. Before heading to the gardens we stopped for some coffee and honey cake at a nice little cafe. It was quiet and peaceful and so nice. Then this large group of French people came, they were loud, had about 10 kids with them, they took up most of the patio, encroached on our space, and were moving chairs all around. Eventually they settled down, but the cafe was no longer just ours. I was pleased to see in about 10 minutes a large group of Germans also wanted to dine on the patio. They encroached on the French, moved chairs and tables around, everything all over again. This time however the French were not pleased and were rolling their eyes at the behavior. Karma I thought as I laughed with Rich, we were finished so we went to the garden. We walked miles on our trip around the castle grounds as well as heading back towards the apartment. There was something on my list I refused to miss though! Apparently there is a fountain in Prague of two men relieving themselves into a small pool in the shape of Czechia. I read the two men have microchips, are powered and relieve themselves while writing quotes of famous Czech writers and poets. I had to see it to believe it and it was worth it. The fountain was hilarious, although I had a hard time making out any of the famous quotes…

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We stopped at the Beatles Bar to have some happy hour before crossing over to the other side of the river for dinner. While we crossed Charles Bridge we were pleased with the number of performers and enjoyed a fun jazz band for quite some time. It was great! We were trying to find a Cafe that had great reviews and apparently was a tourist “must see” but the music drew us away from the destination. As we walked along the river, there was a live band playing fun throwback 90’s jams in a beer garden. We looked at each other and knew this waterfront fun local location would be much better than a touristy cafe. We enjoyed hours of music and some BBQ chicken and sausage. The sun began to set and we started our final journey back to the apartment, with a lot of photos along the way, more music as we crossed the bridge, and of course one more chimney cake, we watched as the town and castle illuminated then called it a night.

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We surely didn’t have enough time in Prague, but I know we will be back. The character, charm, and size of the city made it a favorite of mine for sure! We had nearly 24 hours of travel to get back to Salt Lake City but we made it safe and sound.

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We are very much looking forward to our next adventure and are thankful you followed us along the way through Eastern Europe! Next up is Catalina Island, then off to Sweden in August.

 

Cheers!


Lauren

Krakow, Poland

We were not sure what to expect from Krakow before arriving. It wasn’t initially on our travel list but after talking with a sorority sister, she had told me that if time allotted, we needed to add this city to our list. There is something Rich and I stand true to when traveling, if a fellow traveler tells you not to miss something- you make it happen and boy are we happy we did. Krakow is an amazing city.


The train from Budapest took nearly all day, but we enjoyed having some time to put our feet up, read, and relax after all the walking we have been doing for the past three weeks. We arrived to the modern train station/ mall and were happy to find out at the tourists desk that Old Town, where we were staying, was less than a mile away.
Krakow’s old town was one of my favorites ( I know I’ve probably said that about every city now). A beautiful green belt path encompasses the cobble stone streets and large open town square. The center of old town was the largest and most open we had seen so far. There were endless things to look at and amazing people watching. Turns out Krakow is a popular destination for people from the UK- apparently the cheap beer, vodka, and lively nightlife entices them to come for stag parties and whatever else reason they have to drink, soccer seemed to be a big reason that weekend.
Turning in a circle in the square you see the beautiful old buildings, a wonderful church,  the town hall tower, an indoor market hall, statues, outdoor market, and many horse-drawn carriages. Along the circumference of the square are countless restaurants, cafes, and bars; between that and the street entertainment, you can keep busy people watching for hours. Right away we noticed the beauty and charm of this 13th century city. Luckily it suffered little to no damage during WWII, and Poland clearly takes pride in its upkeep; it is so beautiful I told Rich it almost looks fake like it belongs in Disneyland. It’s no wonder Rick Steve’s uses Krakow’s image for the cover of his Eastern European book.

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We arrived late so the first evening really only allowed us to check into our hotel, wander the town center for a bit, and grab a bite to eat; but the next morning we would take full advantage of our time. We woke up and enjoyed a jog around town on the green belt. We managed to get slightly lost as we approached the castle and the path took us along the river. We were happy though because it was really nice down there and full of locals and school children. Since we built up an appetite we took to the streets to find a local place to get breakfast. We found this awesome place along the river and went in. Turns out it was more of a bar than a restaurant but we couldn’t pass up the ambiance so we decided to stay. The servers didn’t speak English but we managed; I ordered a zapiekanka, which is like the Polish style of a french bread pizza, Rich ordered the sausage. I came up with a saying while at this restaurant, “Eating with the locals is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get…”
Rich came out with a sausage, two pieces of bread, and a few thick slices of cheese. He told me to feel the sausage- it was ice-cold. Turns out he had to cook it himself over the open flame. And I thought it was just a fire pit from the night before… We laughed and had a great time as he cooked his own meal. We next visited the Wawel Castle and enjoyed the magnificent views atop the hill the overlooks the city. We were able to enter the Wawel Cathedral, which we agreed was the most beautiful we had entered thus far on the trip. Almost 1000 years old, this church’s beauty and history stands out from the others. It is the Polish national sanctuary and traditionally has served as coronation site of the Polish royals as well as a resting place for many royal sarcophagi. We went back down the hill towards old town to find the Wodka Cafe. Here Rich was able to taste over 7 delicious different polish vodkas. Since vodka and I are not the best of friends I passed on this opportunity. In the evening we left the old town and walked through the Jewish district just past the green belt. We found an amazing restaurant and had one of the most tasty meals of the trip. Rich had wonderful lamb dish and I had an apricot stuffed pork. Walking back to the hotel, we crossed through plac Nowy and outdoor market, where the former Jewish market once stood. We were surprised to see a line, probably about 40 minutes long, for ice cream. Apparently it was famously good, Rich asked one person if there were diamonds in it which gave everyone a good laugh. We headed home, but admittedly we were curious if it was THAT good- we’d possibly find out tomorrow.

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Once again we enjoyed a refreshing morning run before taking to town once again. To fuel ourselves for the day we went to near by Milk Bar. Milk Bars are cafeteria style restaurants that imitate those that were common during the Polish communist times. Here you can get a good heavy traditional Polish meal for dirt cheap. We tried to explore all the little streets in old town before going back out to the Jewish district. This time we went further than just the restaurant from last night and crossed the river. Here was where the Jewish Ghetto was located during World War II. We wandered the area until we reached Schindler’s Factory. Unfortunately tickets were sold out to see the museum inside, but we were happy to have been able to at least see it. On our way back to town we walked through the old Jewish district and found ourselves back at the market. With no line, we decided to give the famous ice cream a shot. Chocolate coconut, yes it was good, famously good? I don’t know…

We had an early night that day to rest for a busy following day.

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We had a night train out of Krakow which was nice because it gave us a full day to make a necessary trip. After a lovely breakfast, we boarded a bus and took the 1.5 hour drive to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum. Visiting these two concentration and extermination camps was a very somber experience. Walking through the gates that all the prisoners once did gave you a feeling of unease. Visiting the blocks where prisoners were once slept in over-crowded, starving, sick, and infested with lice and varmints conditions made you sick. Staring into the eyes of some of the prisoners’ as you walked past their portraits and saw their camp entry and death dates recorded made your heart heavy. Walking through the basement where Nazi’s tortured and first tested gassing the prisoners with zyklon-b gave you the chills. Witnessing 2 tons of human hair that was shaven from deceased prisoners and used for military fabric made you want to scream. Viewing the stolen luggage, 20 thousand pairs of left behind shoes, pots, pans, and hair brushes made the sheer numbers come to life. In Auschwitz, walking down the stairs into the gas chamber and looking up into the holes where zyklon-b was poured down on the innocent lives then seeing the crematory that was almost assembly line like made you wonder how people could really do this to someone. Walking the rocky dirt path in Birkenau that nearly one million people once did as they stepped off the train and were marched straight to their death in the gas chamber made you cry. Seeing the complexity and the vastness of these two camps, knowing these were just two of many was unimaginable. Sharing this experience with many people, including countless tours of young teenagers gave you hope.

Approximately 1.5 million people were murdered at these two camps, mainly Jews. The trip was not enjoyable, how could it be? But it was meaningful and we are very glad we did it. Throughout the trip we had seen many memorials and sadly enough it was these two camps that many of the people were sent to.

It is so important to make sure these acts are never forgotten and truly, the only light of the day was seeing the number of youth having this experience as well and knowing that this generation of lost souls will not be forgotten and hopefully a horrendous act like this will never be repeated.

*most of Birkenau was destroyed by the Nazis to hide evidence prior to its liberation.

-Lauren

 

The Grand Budapest, Hungary

We had very much been looking forward to Budapest. Having heard nothing but great things about this city, we allotted the most time here compared to the other locations. Coming from the smaller city center of Bratislava, we arrived to Budapest after a short train ride and were greeted by a grand train station.

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We hopped on the Metro, which we purchased a four-day pass, and headed to our apartment. We were shocked when we walked into the apartment on the 5th floor. It had unimaginable views of the Danube river, and sights of Buda (the castle district) snuggled between the Elizabeth Bridge and the Chain Bridge. We ventured to find a place for a quick bite to eat and found a lovely cafe in the Jewish District. After some coffees and traditional Hungarian Goulash Soup we were off to explore. In no time we stumbled onto the Dohany Street Great Synagogue. Here lays not only a beautiful synagogue, but it also houses a jewish museum inside. We were unable to enter due to the hours of operation, but we walked to perimeter of the property and spotted the Tree of Life. This holocaust memorial built as a weeping willow tree has the names inscribed on each of its leaves of Hungarian Jews that were killed during World War II.

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We continued to walk around the hip area of town until we reached the New York Cafe. I had seen the cafe spot-lighted on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown and I knew it was a place I had to visit. It was one of the best and largest cafes of the Habsburg Empire time; known for attracting artists and writers and other literary elitists of the time. The ornate rich interior was worth it; the string quartet and pianist was an added bonus.  

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Time flew by in the New York Cafe. We stopped by the market on the way home to grab some things for dinner then rushed back to our apartment to enjoy the views from our balcony. The view was even more stunning in the evening as everything was illuminated in a night show. We also were entertained by the steady stream of river boats working hard to get their clientele the best photo opportunity. There were what looked like a few close calls as they zipped around each other in the heavy currents of the Danube.

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The next day could be considered, according to Rich, “the best day ever”- really the entire trip has been full of these but day two in Budapest was an adventurous mix of activities. We began our day at the thermal pools of Szechenyi Baths. This amazing facility has over 18 pools and baths both indoor and outdoor full of locals and tourists relaxing in natural mineral baths of various temperatures. We found our favorite outside at 37 degrees celsius. Coming in close second was the whirlpool that was cooler but a ton of fun with random floor jets that surprisingly changed every few minutes and the actual whirlpool that was activated a few times each hour. Rich loved the whirlpool. After hours in the pools, lots of people watching, Rich trying to join the local Hungarians with their chess game, playing some cards, snacking on some schnitzel sandwiches, we decided, but hesitantly so, to move on.


We dedicated the remainder of the day to explore the Buda side of Budapest. We walked to well-known chain bridge, skipped the funicular and choose to walk up to the palace. After walking the cobble streets of the castle district, taking in the gorgeous views of the Pest side, gawking at the beautiful churches and other architecture, we made the big mistake of trying this so-called Chimney cake. We had seen them in the Jewish district the night prior but didn’t try them. The smell today made it beyond possible to pass up. What a mistake… these delicious sweet tubular bread cakes would be my kryptonite for the remainder of the trip… (yes I found them in the rest of the cities we visited). We walked further into Buda to find the Hospital in the Rock and took a wonderful guided tour. This hospital had been built deep into the hills of Buda by connecting the natural caves found in the territory. Its use began just prior to World War II, but obtained its highest capacity during the Siege of Budapest when the Soviets took control. After this, the Soviets convinced everyone it was no longer operational. This now top-secret facility was fortified to act as a nuclear bomb shelter if the Americans were to bomb the area. It wasn’t until the early 2000’s that it was decided the facility was not able to protect against the destruction of a modern nuclear bomb that it opened its doors and eventually in 2008 became a museum. We ventured back over to the Jewish District to grab a nice dinner trying Paprika Chicken and other traditional dishes.

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Tempted to return to the baths the following day, it took a lot of will power to pass them up. Instead we walked south along the river to the Central Market. Here was a vast hall made of three stories. The ground floor was full of everything you can imagine, produce, meats, cheeses, wines, bakeries, and lots of duck and goose liver. The basement was a fish market and the top floor was a mix of souvenir shops and street food shops.After walking the market for a long time we gained an appetite and headed to the street food area. Okay so we got a little duped and paid a pretty penny, plus some, for street food, but it was a ton of food, and the flavor beat the restaurants; with our lesson learned we’d return the following day. Rich was especially pleased you were able to get Hungarian Brandy with your meal and traditional Hungarian Digestif, Unicum.


With stomachs full and satisfied we walked the beautiful green Liberty Bridge; it is said Emperor Franz Joseph nailed in the final bolt that completed the project. We then hopped on the charming street car and headed north towards Parliament.

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Just outside of the building is another memorial named, Shoes on the Danube. Here rests a long chain of shoes along the riverbank. This was a very touching memorial as this was the location many jews were shot into the river by the Arrow Cross Militia during World War II.

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We continued our walking self-guided walking tour around the breathtaking building of Parliament and continued to Liberty Square. Along the way we saw many beautiful statues and memorials, including one of good ol’ Ronald Reagan. We had a nice coffee break in Liberty Square then went to find another statue along the river of the famous Hungarian Poet, Attila Jozsef. It had been a long day, we stopped by St. Stephen’s Basilica on the way back to the apartment. This is the largest church in Budapest that houses the hand of St. Stephen- yes, we saw it… or at least the intricate box it lies in. We freshened up then took the metro back to the Jewish District. We found this was the most exciting area in the evening. There was always a lot going on, it had great bars, and restaurants. This district is also well-known for its Ruin Pubs. Here are buildings that had been destroyed during the war and have now turned into trendy bars where young people party late into the night. Filled with interesting people, decorated with intriguing art, and bumping hip euro turns we were tempted to try one; but decided against it. We found a lovely restaurant serving Israeli food named Mazel Tov. Ironically enough, you could consider it a “grown-up” ruin pub as it was a reconstructed building that had been destroyed during the war. We couldn’t pass up a chimney cake on the way home, of course!

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With full bellies and well over 20k steps for the day we were quick to sleep after some night photography (and local wine) on the balcony.

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Our final day in Budapest forced us to try to get everything else off our “must-see” list. First on the list was the Opera House. Built during the Habsburg period, permission and half of its funding was provided by the Emperor under conditions that it would be smaller and less “grand” than that in Vienna. I’ll admit, although beautiful, from the outside it does appear to have followed the request of the Emperor. Upon entering and viewing the elaborate golden and marble details of the interior, the joke almost appears to be on the Emperor as it is exquisite. We purchased Opera tickets for the evening and continued with our list. 


We went to Hero’s Square where the faces of significant historic Hungarians statues are perched for all to see. We walked through the city park, and along the Vajdahuyad Castle grounds. This castle looks old but was only built a little over 100 years ago. A replica of a Transylvanian (which was part of Hungary’s territory prior to WWI) castle was built to showcase the history of the Magyars, but now mainly hosts museums. There was a lovely cafe along the water in the park where we stopped to hydrate up before heading back down towards the river.



We decided to walk instead of take the metro to see more of the city and we somehow found ourselves back at the Central Market for lunch. This time we were able outsmart the salesman only getting exactly what we needed without paying a dime more. Again, the food did not disappoint! After lunch we strolled across Liberty Bridge and trekked up Gellert Hill. There were many statues and memorials along the way and atop the hill- not to mention the views you were rewarded with. Ending our walk back to the apartment we crossed Elizabeth Bridge and took a short nap before going to the Opera.

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We couldn’t have been happier to end our time in Budapest with the Opera- it was amazing. We saw 2 one-act Operas that evening. Both were traditional Hungarian operas, we were very happy with the second- Bluebeard’s Castle. A beautiful story of a women learning of her newly wed husband’s past, his pain, his loves, his treasures, and secrets as she opened one door of his castle at a time.

Clearly, Rich and I absolutely LOVED Budapest. It surpassed all expectations and we could have easily stayed longer- we will be back! The final morning we woke up early to head to the train station, we had a long day of travel up to Krakow Poland.

Cheers!

-Lauren

**we are back state side- with our packed travel schedule I fell behind on blogging while in the last three cities. Krakow and Prague to follow…