Monday, February 27, 2017

A Special Day in Trellis Bay: An Artist Community and A Magic Morning

We don't get to East End, home of the eccentric and eclectic Trellis Bay, often. For one thing, it's quite a drive - which I realize is laughable on an island that measures twelve miles by three - but as the car drives, it's a solid 30-40 minutes one way. With three little kids, and a mid-day nap that I will only forego for extremely special occasions - it's hard to justify an hour or more commute for an hour or two of fun. But when our friend, Cem (pronounced "Jem", like the jewel) invited us to see a special artist friend of his, I thought, "Why not!"

Trellis Bay is...unique. It's location - on the easternmost tip of Tortola - is a bit off the beaten path giving it a relaxed, sleepy vibe that is more commonplace in the remote islands down south. The bay itself is a horseshoe cove surrounded by thick mangroves and tucked-in by steep hills making it feel somehow hidden. It is home to a host of live-aboard boats (and a few derelict ones), a handful of great restaurants, and a vibrant artist's community. At first glance, it doesn't seem to have much to offer. There is not much beach to speak of, and the area isn't particularly 'beautiful' as tropical island coves go, but it is certainly 'picturesque' and what it lacks in sweeping visage it makes up for in character and charm. This place has more color than most and I've never been anywhere quite like it.

We kicked off our shoes and started walking down the beach to the sound of sand underfoot, rustling wind through palms,  and the call of the mourning doves until we came upon several local fishermen on the shore hauling in their catch in tandem. The girls stood and watched, mesmerized as the men - completely unfazed by our presence - grabbed handfuls of small bait fish out of their nets and headed to their boats to catch the bigger guys. We headed down the beach a little further, to Aragon's Studio, where we were to meet Cem and his artist friend.


***

Under the shade of a lush sea grape tree, there was "Green Eye" Joseph putting the final touches on a carving. Surrounded by messy pots of paint, with his head cocked to one side, he tentatively painted the various grooves and crevices of his creation, his hand smooth and steady. At his feet played his son, Ocean, a beautiful boy of seven who's general adorableness and effortless charm made me want to have a son and name him Ocean. Haven and Mira (Isla was at school this morning) were immediately taken by him and after a few bashful moments from the girls (who clung to my legs), soon they were all three jumping on the giant, purple, ad-hoc fishing net hammock set up in front of Aragon's.




Suddenly, I heard the happy voice of our Turkish friend, Cem. "Welcome, Brittany!" (he pronounces every syllable, Bree-tan-knee) "You came early! You meet Joseph? I have picnic and wine, but is chilling...wait a moment..." and off he was in a flurry. He returned with a bag of pretzels which the girls and Ocean happily indulged in and then he started giving us the run-down of Joseph's work. How he, and most of the (dead) wood he carved, came from Dominica, how it's sustainably harvested from the rainforest. We oohed and ahhed at his creativity, at which point Ocean showed up at my hip with a handful of his creations. "I made these ones!" he told me. "I sell my art too!" he beamed. God, this kid was cute. I would be buying something from him for sure.

Joseph, while incredibly friendly and kind, was a man of few words and for the most part stuck to his work, quietly laughing and smiling at random comments from Ocean or at some antics the twins got into. At one point he brought over some pictures of commissioned work he did for Richard Branson a few years ago. If you visit Necker or Mosquito Island, you might just see Green Eyes work. Our party migrated to a picnic table where Cem (an environmentalist and keen farmer who has an eco-resort in Turkey) produced a lovely picnic of a prosciutto-esque meat (the name escapes me), organic tomatoes and arugula grown in his very own garden. He also unwrapped a gorgeous hunk of grainy white cheddar and a few fresh baguettes. I was instantly transported to my solo backpacking days where this was the go-to meal of choice; often eaten on the steps of a church, piazza, or park under the mid-day sun in some new town... I had forgotten just how well these simple ingredients came together.


As we gathered, a few more people joined us: Aleksandra, a Polish print artist just out of art school doing a residence in the studio for a couple of months, an old salty sailer with milky eyes who has been a captain most of his life and written books, and Dave, a jack of all trades sort of fellow who lives near Trellis and does some work for Aragorn, maintaining the full moon party fire balls and general upkeep. It was an interesting assembly and some good conversation was had while the kids played happily in the background and we munched on Cem's generous picnic, sipping wine and chit chatting.

As the food dwindled, Aleksandra brought out a giant piece of sailcloth and a few pots of paint. "Is it okay for the girls to make art?" she asked me. Of course it was! Off came the twins' shirts and on went the paint. The girls and Ocean had a blast painting and creating on their giant canvas (and themselves!) and as I observed the scene I had a visceral moment of gratitude that our kids are able to have experiences like these. Moments like these are precisely why we live here. Everything I wanted and imagined.


Too soon, our time had come to pack up and leave to get home for naps. We finalized our purchases from both Ocean and Joseph, and made promises to return.

Which we will do, sooner than later.

The magic and organic evolution of this particular morning (one where we thought we were just going to check out some carvings!) would be hard to re-create, for sure, but you never know what might be in store for you when you visit Trellis Bay. At the very least, you can be transported back to a sleepier, simpler time and quietly enjoy the beauty and bounty this exciting little place has to offer. Or maybe just maybe, you will be treated with open arms to a lovely picnic with a talented artist, his eclectic and interesting neighbors, and walk away with memories to last a lifetime.


Joseph's art
Ocean

The meeting of new friends, always a bit awkward at first.
Cem, saying hello to the girls
Ocean constructing stands out of remnants of a fire ball
The commissioned pieces Joseph did for Richard Branson.
Our picnic
Joseph, methodically working away - Ocean's creations are on the front of the table.
By the end of our visit, the girls ADORED him!
More of Joseph's work.
Ocean serenaded us after we painted

Thursday, February 23, 2017

That Time We Were Models: Our Shoot with Vineyard Vines

When I opened my (very neglected) inbox and found an email among the unopened hordes entitled "Vineyard Vines Photoshoot" my interest was piqued. I clicked the message and discovered it was from one of their producers, Kerry, asking if we'd like to be featured in their next catalog as part of their "Real People, Real Good Life" campaign.

Um, YEAH!! 

But there were a few things I needed to clarify; namely 1) Scott is ridiculously busy with our business and often not available for a full day so we needed to really hammer down a date and timing and 2) [scrunches up nose] Did she know we had three (*kinda* crazy) kids ages four and under who would most likely have to be present for the shoot and could very well make said shoot end up...well, nuts?

Her response? WE WANT ALL OF YOU!!

Hooray! So I messaged Scott asking whether or not he'd like to partake and braced myself for some flack as Scott is usually not the most enthused about offers like these being that he's the more private of our duo, but I was happily surprised when he came back with "Sure! Sounds fun!"

Game on, Vineyard Vines. Game on!

***

Vineyard Vines, if you have not heard of it, is a Connecticut-based clothing brand that has a full-blown cult following. Their style is preppy and "east coast"; their look decidedly "yachty". People are obsessed with them and for good reason; the clothes are comfortable, well-made, and stylish. The styles are vibrant, fun, and classy... Seriously, check them out - soooo nice. It's not a surprise after having worked with this great company now; the people behind it (who we met at the shoot at least) are incredible.

I communicated a lot with the producers about what they wanted, and had to request that our shoot include a two hour break for the girls to nap (beauty sleep!) as well as blue M&Ms and coconut water in our trailer. I went full diva because, well, I was going to be a model (flips hair). Okay, joking. I did not pull a Beyonce, but I did request that nap time be respected under the preface that nobody wants pictures of my motley crew if we are under-slept! They happily obliged and before we knew it - the day had come.

***

We have never modeled in our lives so had no real idea what to expect (although Scott does a mean "blue steel"). The Vineyard Vines crew flew down en-masse with a crew of about fifteen (maybe a few more?) and at least as many humongous duffles full of clothes, shoes and accessories. Our shoot was to take place in three phases: phase one would be us sailing to the beautiful Peter Island, phase two would take us on the beach at Peter Island Beach club and then finally, phase three, in the luxury villa at the top of Peter Island.

A producer and photographer came to our boat at 7:30am to give us the clothes we were to wear and the general run down of what they wanted. "Just be yourselves," they said, "We have seen your pics. We just want you to be yourselves." Super! Easy enough. The photographer stayed on the boat with us while the producer followed in a chase boat getting video. We sailed as we do, the girls happily playing about, chilled out and very curious with our new crew member, but lucky for all of us, the wind was great, the sail was peaceful and we got to Peter Island for naps. "I cannot believe how well-behaved your girls are" the photographer told us as we docked. "Kids in NYC, they'd never be able to sit like these girls did for two hours without a device or toys. You guys rock!" I took the compliment because, let's be honest, our kids can be downright unruly and rude at times (they are four and two, after all). Thankfully today, they were not those things and they slayed a few hearts. Phew.

After naps we headed to the beach with several other models where we raced the sun to get some shots, because if there is one thing you need for great photos, it's light. We got some fun shots on the beach but, unfortunately, the girls weren't exactly wanting to cooperate with what the photogs had in mind. "Walk in a line from tallest to shortest down the beach" was one request that was absolutely not going to happen with our crew. I joked that the twins basically killed our dreams of being professional models because they simply could not take direction! Luckily the crew, by this time, had fallen in love with our girls so all was forgiven and they let us just do our thing. I think the shots they got turned out pretty good.

Finally, we ended at one of the Villas atop Peter Island where the shoot was to wrap up. OH. MY. GOSH. Peter Island Resort is truly amazing. Just spectacular. If you are looking for an exclusive and incredible place to vacation, this place has you covered. Our villa was top notch. We were greeted by our friend Alec and his gorgeous girlfriend Elsa (who the girls ADORE because: 'Elsa'!) when we arrived. "Welcome to our humble home" he joked as he wrapped his arm around Elsa, "Can I get you a drink?" We got a few more frantic pics as the sun was setting, sipped some wine, had some laughs and then - it was a wrap!

***

The day was better than we could have imagined and we had a total blast. The people at Vineyard Vines - from the photographers to the make up people to the higher's up - are so. much. fun. They were all nice, relaxed, and *so* easy to work with. They doted on and adored the girls (which our kids ate right up!) and we now have these incredible pictures and this wonderful memory filed under "awesome opportunities we were given". We really cannot thank them enough.

If you want to check out the profiles of the other awesome BVI locals and friends in the shoot, check them out here: Real People, Real Good Life.

***

Thank you, Vineyard Vines, for choosing us to work with! We had SO much fun and we love you guys!

And now, for the pics...

First, some behind the scenes shots:
We did raise the sails, but this is leaving the harbor and we were really hoping to dodge the squall. Luckily we did!

One of the producers showing the girls the gear. They loved him.
There were no trailers at this shoot, but big power catamarans. So many clothes, shoes and accessories. And snacks ;)
The "look book" they also had all of the pics of the models (ours included) from Instagram and whatnot, as well as our profiles and outfits.
These shadows were getting in the way of the shoot!
Trying hard to get in some final shots while daylight was still good.

They put on a cartoon for the girls and made them popcorn, it was about 5pm and the wheels were coming off the bus.
We are completely fake laughing here. It seemed appropriate.


Now, for the catalog shots:





We are also on the website:


And Haven and I are on the little mailer that goes out:

And here are some more shots that didn't make it into the catalog:









Monday, February 13, 2017

We Bought a New Boat: But Why? The Method Behind our Madness (and a photo tour!)


"This boat is going to change our lives!" I exclaimed as we stepped on board the Tayana 48 that we would put an offer on less than 12 hours later.  Scott looked at me with wide eyes, "Um, I think you're putting a lot of pressure on this boat..." he started tentatively. While, yes, I probably was putting an undue amount of weight on the effect of a boat on our life, but I truly stood by what I said and I repeated myself: "Scott, this boat is literally going to change. our. life." He shrugged and shook his head as we continued lifting up floorboards and digging through cupboards.

But I knew it: this was the one.

I'd been eyeing her on Yachtworld for about five months and looked at the listing no fewer than 200 times, memorizing the specs and committing to memory every square inch of her.

She was absolutely beautiful, checked off just about every item on our "wish list" (more on this later) and, gosh darn it, she was going to change life as we knew it. I could feel it.

***

The bottom line is this: while Asante was working for us, she wasn't really working for us. Because of our two cabin configuration, and the fact that Isla slept more or less in the main cabin (on a make shift bunk that is smaller than a toddler bed) meant that once bedtime hit at 7:30pm, our boat was in shut-down mode. At anchor this arrangement was better - as our cockpit became a veritable outdoor living room and extension of our home. However, at the dock the cockpit simply does not get utilized as much due to the fact that a) there is a remarkable lack of breeze at our marina and b) being so close to your neighbor doesn't have quite the same appeal as sitting on deck being surrounded by open water. "Something about being in a marina makes a boat feel smaller" my friend Carly wrote as we chatted about it. And I 100% agreed. It most certainly does make a boat feel smaller....And since we will be living aboard at a marina for the foreseeable future, something needed to change. Not being able to cook, converse or do pretty much anything other than whisper and go our separate ways was taking its toll on our life in more ways than one.

Scott and I are what I like to call a "perfectly imperfect" pair. Okay, fine, we're downright volatile at times (I mentioned how I'd be honesty bombing you, right?) Don't get me wrong, we are an amazing team in both boating and parenting and we can accomplish a lot more together than alone, but our union is far from perfect which may or may not surprise you. Part of this is due to conflicting personalities and stubborn natures, part of it is simply this "season of life"...The last two years have found us drifting farther and farther apart. With three kids, two of them being twins, and the purchase of a new business, we have both been up to our eyeballs in everything but each other. I tend to the kids and housework, Scott runs our business. For the most part, we pass like ships in the night and can go days without really speaking about anything other than work or kids. We have not had a "date night" in years.

What is the point of me telling you all this? Well, we needed a change and we figured, why not buy another boat to fix our problems? Ha! Just kidding, that was not our thought process at all. BUT...we did have some serious discussions about our future, we both made a commitment to work on our marriage by carving out some together time and we both decided that, yes, a bigger boat *might just* give us the space to be a little more comfortable, provide the means for a little more quality time, and allow us more privacy together. Running a business and raising three very boisterous young daughters in a two-bedroom boat was getting tight at best, stressful at worst - and more breathing room was in order.

***

"What do you think about flying to the east coast for a day to look at that boat I sent to you earlier?" I asked Scott over Whatsapp one day this summer while we were home at my mom's house. To my great surprise, he replied "Sure" (Scott is for sure the more pragmatic of our duo). And so it was; we had a 48 hour window between us coming home from Michigan and Scott heading back to Tortola to make it happen. It was rushed, it was nuts, but we did it and with Isla in tow (you have never seen a little kid more excited about getting her own "big girl room"!). We covered three states and saw four boats in less than 24 hours. The Tayana 48 - the one that I knew was 'it' and the one I was certain would shine above the others - was last to be seen.

When stepped aboard s/v Legato on that gray, overcast day in Connecticut it just felt right. Excitement swelled up in my belly and I took a quick deep breath to keep it at bay. "Don't fall in love, don't fall in love, don't fall in love" I kept telling myself, "Asante could definitely work for one more season if this isn't the one...Do. Not. Fall. In.  Love. With. This. Boat." But, as we all know, matters of the heart are simply not controlled with the head (oh, if only it were that easy!) We both knew it, though. I don't dare say she was "perfect" but she was pretty dang close. She felt instantly like 'home'. I found it no coincidence that a copy of one of my all-time favorite books, "Don't Stop the Carnival", happened to be laying on what would soon become my side of the bed.

***

The next morning as we were rushing out of our hotel to catch our flight home, I got a call from our broker (and longtime friend), Allen Schiller (best. broker. ever), letting us know that if we wanted the boat, we needed to move fast. One offer had come in and been denied earlier in the week, and another couple had a second viewing right after we did and were most likely putting together an offer as well. My gut told me she was going to go, and she was going to go quickly.  I wanted it to be us. After a quick talk with Scott and Isla at our sleepy terminal in Hartford, Connecticut, we agreed to go for it. "Let's do it," I texted Allen, "Let's put in an offer". By the time we landed in Chicago, we were under contract.

And thank god for it! Mere hours after we had a deal, another offer came in for 5K more than ours. Hours later! Talk about lucky. Timing truly is everything. Thankfully the owner was a man of good character and continued to honor our deal, but it was pretty incredible to think we were so close to losing this boat that is now our beloved 'home sweet home'. Sometimes, you need to move fast.

***
She arrived a week before Christmas (Plug for fantastic human: if you need a delivery captain, look no further than the incredible Andrew Burton! He is not only professional and accomplished, but an awesome person to boot. As if that's not enough, the boat was impeccable when we took her over, he and his crew deep-cleaned her head to toe!) and we began the crazy process of moving from one boat to another. It was... nuts. There's really no other way to describe it. Moving house (or boat, rather) while simultaneously trying to make Christmas "magical" for our three kids was exhausting and stressful. Scott was working all hours trying to finalize the new online booking system for our business (much easier said than done!) and I was doing Christmas crafts, buying presents, and doing all the other stuff necessary to keep our home(s) in order. We pushed on and persisted, and in the end felt very lucky that our situation was about as ideal as could be: our new boat was docked next to Asante, we had plenty of time to move our personal effects from A to B, we purged a LOT of accumulated junk, and so many friends and family came to our aid to help us with the move and with the girls. All in all, we had it pretty awesome. Despite these perks, moving is no fun. Moving with three little kids nipping at your heels? 9th circle of Hell. PERIOD.

I digress...

So how are we doing in our new boat?

In a word: Amazing.

We love her. I think I say how much I love her to Scott every single day. She has, indeed, been life-changing, just as I imagined her to be.

Her name has a musical connotation and means "in a smooth flowing manner, without breaks between notes." In Italian, Legato means: tied together. I think it's a pretty nice name for a family boat, and we have no plans to change it. Partly because the name is not terrible, mostly because we're lazy. Her perks are great: she is much more roomy than our last boat and the addition of the third cabin has been everything we imagined it would be. WE HAVE THREE BEDROOMS!!! Isla has her own room now and she is positively ecstatic about it. The twins share the bunk room (although, despite having two beds they opt to both sleep together on the top bunk - how adorable is that?) and everyone has their own little space now. The addition of not only one, but TWO stand-up separate showers has also been life-changing; prior to this boat the girls and I would shower off the back deck with a cold water hose, and Scott would have to walk to the marina showers (no where near as often as necessary, mind you!) Not that big of an issue, and at the time it certainly didn't seem like a deal breaker - but being able to take warm showers on our boat and not on-deck has been truly AMAZING. The list of features that we love (centerline queen aft berth, an aft cabin that is large and spacious, a nav station that doubles as a desk...etc.) goes on and on...we love this boat. Love her.

***

So what were our other desires when boat shopping this time around? We wanted a monohull under 50 feet, largely for cost reasons but also because if we wanted a ton of space we'd get a condo. We like living "cozy" and we wanted to get the smallest boat that would give our family the space it needed to be comfortable. 48 feet worked out to be just right for us. Small enough to go anywhere and still be manageable, but big enough to give our growing family of five some individual space. We wanted three cabins, an in-boom roller furling main, great sailing performance (she is a dream to sail!) at least one separate stand up shower stall, two heads, an ample aft deck swim step, center cockpit configuration, cutter rig, and not a 'fixer upper'. While this boat has done the Caribbean 1500 a few times, it's not at all set up for long-term live-aboard cruising which actually suited us fine. We are staying local for the next few years and while we eventually plan to cast off again, that's a ways away for us. By the time we get ready to shove off, there will be gear that is even better suited for long-term cruising than there is today. Off-grid systems and electronics get better and more efficient every year, so when our time to go approaches - we'll start adding things like solar power, water maker, davits and whatever else we think we need. For now, we're perfectly set up to be weekend warriors here in the beautiful Virgin Islands.

And now, for the picture tour. We will start aft and then work our way up!

This is our aft cabin. It is a dream. We love the headroom, the extra storage, and the centerline queen bed.

Quite possibly the biggest upgrade of all, the aft head with a separate stand up shower. It is heaven!

Looking forward from our bedroom door (we have a door now!)

Our saloon. We still need to add some personal touches like family photos and such, but it feels very comfortable and homey.

One thing I LOVE about this boat? It's so bright! Natural light is a must for me in a home of any sort, and we love that we get lots of it here.

Another big upgrade! A desk! I write here, Scott works here and the chair is extra space for a friend to sit when people come over.

Looking aft to our bedroom from the saloon. Our walk-thru galley is a dream.

The twins bunk room. Two beds and plenty of space to store their goodies, especially since they both sleep up top together. Scott and I designed the bedrail using L-brackets and starboard. Works like a charm!

This is where the twins sleep, together. They sometimes sleep on opposite ends, sometimes snuggled up, but always together up here. Their choice!

This is the forward head directly across from the twins' room. Also has a stand up shower. Love!!!

Isla's room. This is her little sanctuary. She truly loves it and all three will play up here together in the morning.  Books, books and more books!

Looking aft from the front end. Our home sweet home!! We love her SO much!

Here's the layout of our boat to help further the visual tour. Hope you enjoyed!
OUR OLD BOAT, S/V ASANTE (BREWER 44) IS NOW FOR SALE. 
EMAIL US IF YOUR ARE INTERESTED WINDTRAVELER09 at GMAIL.COM 
STAY TUNED FOR A FULL LISTING WITH PRICE, PICTURES and SPECS.

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