Thursday, January 25, 2018

Back on Island Time: A Recap and Update on our Return to Post-Irma Tortola

The only time I actually got teary about our return to Tortola was during take off on the puddle jumper in San Juan, Puerto Rico. It had been an emotional few months. We were back in the US on holiday, when - days before we were scheduled to fly back - a massive hurricane named Irma demolished our island, home and livelihood. As a result, we were 'displaced' for over four months. We made the most of it, as any of you who follow our Facebook Page know; we met up with friends, we made new ones, we fundraised almost $170K for our island, and spent the holidays with family. We went to movies, dinners and we even went skiing....yes, our time in the US was nothing short of wonderful, but it was still not "home". So on that flight - that tiny little nine seater that I love and loathe so much - I felt four months worth of heartache, anticipation and excitement bubble up in me and, well, I got a little choked up.

But that's where the emotions subsided really, at least the ones that brought tears to my eyes...which actually surprised me. I had mentally prepared myself for this return, both out of self preservation and on Scott's urging (he'd been back and forth several times since the hurricanes). I also prepped the girls. There was no question that the place we left for our annual summer holiday in July was not the place we'd be returning to in January. "Tortola is not going to look like it did when we left it" I kept telling them. "We know mommy!" they would sigh (we had this conversation a lot) "It's all broken up, we *know*..." they'd say like it was no big thing, like I was asking what color the sky was. As for myself, I prepped like I do for any big moment in life: moving abroad, long sailing passages, cruising with a baby, twins, flying with kids and just about every other occasion that warranted planning: expect the worst, hope for the best. If there is anything I can pat myself on the back for it is an ability to know what I am getting into due to very calculated and ninja-like method of preparation. I was primed for some sadness and shock, and I was definitely ready for tears.

So as the azure blue of the Caribbean sea made way to our beautiful island of Tortola, I was struck by one observation: from a distance, she looks the same. (And I, for the life of me, could not get that damn Bette Midler song "From a Distance" out of my head...) But when I came to that realization, that beautiful and simple realization, the only emotion that was left was pure, unadulterated happiness. I knew then that we were going to be okay, and whatever tears I thought I might shed upon arrival were replaced with a shit-eating grin.


Our plane touched down on Tortola soil and I was hit by the familiar sweet, sticky heat that I missed so much. The girls were giddy and punch drunk from almost twelve hours of travel, and as we clamored out of the tiny plane they giggled and jumped and we took in our surroundings. "Look mommy, a broken palm tree!" "Look at that broken car mommy!" "There's no windows over there mommy, hurricane Irma did that!" they observed... Sure, things were a bit worse for wear, there was no doubt about that. But it wasn't that bad. It was nothing that we hadn't seen in pictures and nothing that some time and hard work couldn't fix. The blue sky, the sun shining, and that lovely winter trade wind breeze was still there. It was all I needed to know we were back where we belonged, and it felt so. very. good.

Driving back to our home marina of Nanny Cay, we saw closer up what the aerial view from the plane did not expose; broken buildings, abandoned cars, entire homes demolished with only a single toilet left standing to let you know that, yes, just four months ago someone actually lived here. Sure, it was sad. And to know that so many people are still unemployed and struggling on a daily basis, that is very hard. But nothing about the state of the island was utterly shocking to me. Nothing really took my breath away. Call it a point for social media; but I knew more or less what to expect. Sure, seeing it in person is a little bit different, but after scrolling through hundreds of photos and having spoken to many on-island friends, I felt well prepared. As our taxi man, Larry, navigated potholes new and old, the girls pointed out all the broken things around us (like it was a game) I challenged them not to find the broken things, but the beauty around us instead... And, as kids do, they changed their tune completely; "Look at those beautiful pink flowers!" "And those baby cows! Look, beautiful cows mommy!" and "Look at the water mommy, the water is beautiful..." and it is, the water and the views are still breath-taking...


We arrived to our temporary residence, the catamaran that my mom had bought right before the storm to use as her base for visits. Miraculously, it survived - almost unscathed - only a couple slips down from where our boat sank. The girls ran into like it was no big thing. They claimed rooms, started un packing their things and playing. Like we'd lived here forever. I immediately went into organizing mode and started assessing storage and where things would go, keeping in mind that this is a temporary dwelling and we'd be moving again in a couple of months, and that's when I saw her out of our front window: Legato. Our old boat who had been found on the bottom of our marina a month after Irma and who'd been raised and laid haphazardly on her side along the break wall in the place that is now referred to as "the graveyard". She is a sorry sight and almost unrecognizable; her name nearly completely rubbed off, her once-sparkling navy hull now a dullish gray-blue due to the murk from a month on the seabed, and her rigging in tangles on her deck and all around her. While it is sad to get an eye full of her nearly every day, she is a reminder that we have not given up and we are moving on. Life after Irma gave us a lot of perspective, namely: a boat is replaceable. People are not. We are blessed and lucky and can and will rebuild. We unpacked a few things and hit up the beach bar where we were greeted with happiness and hugs, the girls went running off on an adventure on their own, they didn't miss a beat... We even left a pair of flip flops buried in the sand like old times. It was almost as if we hadn't left.


"How *are* you?" people will ask us in earnest with a gentle shoulder touch and heavy look in their eyes. I feel almost guilty shrugging and saying, "We are fine, we are really just *so* happy to be back." I also feel guilty for people thinking that we have any reason not to be fine. Sure, we lost a hell of a lot in Irma and she really knocked us off our feet - but she did that to every. single. other. person who lived here as well - and we are far luckier than most. We didn't have to live through the horror of the storm, were 'displaced' in a familiar place with familiar people, we had solid insurance (that has paid out!), a roof, power, and take-out and Uber and organic food... we could flush our toilets, come and go as we pleased and we could cook on a stove. We were fine. Coming back we have returned to a very comfortable boat with air conditioning, a cooking stove and electricity. We live in Nanny Cay, arguably the most recovered and comfortable place to live at the moment, with a vibrant community, a fully stocked grocery store, coffee shop and beach bar with nightly barbecue specials (THERE IS TACO TUESDAY NOW, PEOPLE!)....we cannot complain. "Honestly, we are just so happy to be back" is what I say to everyone, and I mean it with all of my heart. Maybe that makes me odd, but the destruction doesn't really bother me that much. And the girls? They don't give a hoot about it. Kids are truly amazing in that way, their resilience is inspiring.


We have been back just over two weeks and the thing is this: while everything looks VERY different, (the destruction from this storm is everywhere, overwhelming and almost too much to comprehend)  the BVI still FEELS the same. In fact, in some ways, I even like it better than before. It's a little grittier, a little more raw, a little less crowded and it feels more rustic. As someone who used to live in a little cowboy town in East Africa, I like rustic. We didn't move here for the architecture, the restaurants, or the cuisine...we weren't here for the glitzy night-life, spas, fantastic road quality or the bustling city center. We were here because we love living on the water and beacause we love this community. Because we love the melting pot of cultures Tortola provides and the fact that our girls greet at least ten different nationalities and dialects on a daily basis...we were here because most of our waking hours are spent outside in the sun, running around barefoot in the sand or climbing trees or swimming in pools.... we were here because the pace of life is a little slower and planning an outing with friends takes minutes, not weeks....we were here because this little group of islands - the BVI - are so. damn. beautiful and unlike any other place on earth.... we were here because we can hop in our boat and have lunch on a new island in less than an hour....we were here because people are more laid back, rules are not so rigid, and we can be a bit more "heathen" and a little less "uptight"....we were here because the characters we meet on a daily basis range from the crazy to the quirky to the profound and we learn from all of them... we were here because I truly believe this is one of the greatest places to raise little children in the world...the list goes on. My point is this: all of that is *still* here.

So - don't get me wrong - Tortola is still struggling and the road to recovery is a long one, I do not want to sugarcoat that. I have an overwhelming amount of respect for those people who were here for the storm, and those people who have remained to rebuild in the aftermath. I honestly cannot imagine what they all endured....Help is still needed here and it will be an uphill battle for quite a while, years in fact. But for us, at least, it's okay. In fact, it's better than okay.

It is so, so good to be home.

To see more pictures of our daily goings-ons, please follow us on Facebook (@sailwindtraveler) or Instagram (@windtraveler), where I am posting daily.  More blog posts and updates to come! Thank you for your notes of concern and patience. My email has been more or less neglected since having the twins (cringe) but I appreciate all your kind notes. Thank you for being an amazing community for us.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Eulogy for our Boat

Note that the hole in the bow is the bow thruster and not the hold that sank our boat.
Twenty-four hours before Irma struck Tortola and changed the course of our lives and the lives of countless others, I knew we were in for it. "We are going to lose Legato," I told Scott in a contradictory state of shocked disbelief and utter certainty as Irma gained strength on her unforgiving trajectory toward our island of Tortola. I've written about how surreal it is to watch a slowly advancing "mega" hurricane descend upon your home, I've also written about the aftermath of a life forever changed from that hurricane. What I haven't written about is our boat, and what happened to her.


Those of us who live on boats know that they are more than "just boats". They become an extension of us, a part of our family and they become our home. Our boats weather storms and rough seas, they deliver us to safe harbor and new horizons. They are dreams and adventures and hopes and wonder all molded into a shiny, fiberglass hull. Most live-aboards meticulously care for their boats, as not doing so can become a matter of life and death... We are intimate with their bellies, their quirks, and how they need to be handled "just so" in certain situations. We fall in love with them and refer to them as a "she". Most of us treat them as such, with tender love and respect...We become very attached to our boats because of the tremendous amount of blood, sweat and tears we put into them. To boaters, our vessels are not inanimate objects, they have souls...

Ours was no different.

Due to the fact that our beautiful Tayana, Legato, was a new-to-us boat, she was unable to take us on all the adventures we wished for her, the trips we had planned for this coming season and beyond... She was taken from us too soon. But our short time with her didn't dampen our love of her; just as it doesn't take long for a mother to fall in love with a newborn baby, falling in love with a boat happens quickly. She was to be our "forever" boat (if there is such a thing) and she was about as close to perfect for us as we could have imagined. She was strong and safe, she sailed wonderfully and she was beautiful. She was soooo beautiful. What do they call it? "House proud?" Yeah, I was "boat proud". We loved her so much. We were very happy living in her cozy belly.

Of all the things I imagined - even worst-case scenario style - I never imagined her sinking.

After Irma struck and we were able to confirm our loved ones and friends were safe, we were able to focus on what exactly happened to Legato. As word and images began to trickle out of our home marina of Nanny Cay, it became apparent that our boat was not in the tangled mess of masts and hulls pushed ashore. "We can't see your boat anywhere" our friend wrote us. "We are so sorry. We have been looking." And, despite a few folks (Scott included) holding out the *sliver* of hope that she'd be found somewhere else entirely, we all knew deep down that she'd sunk.

As pictures like these emerged from Nanny Cay, it became clear our boat was not afloat. Note the 60 foot catamaran flipped over on land like a toy.
Weeks went by and we heard nothing of our boat. And then, one dreary afternoon as I was crafting with the girls, I got the message from my friend, Charlotte:

"Oh Brittany
They found her
I'm so sorry
She's been under this whole time."

She paused and then finished with:

"I took a picture but let me know when you're ready"

I told her I was ready. But I wasn't ready.

How can one be ready to see their beloved home in such a state? I immediately burst into tears as I saw the sorry picture of our home and a well of emotion that had been in hiding for the previous few weeks opened up with a vengeance.
The first picture I saw of our boat after Irma, she is being lifted off the bottom here. Hardly recognizable.
Imagining our boat; all our carefully selected things, our children's' treasures and toys, and all that we had worked so hard for sitting for a month on the silty bottom of the marina floor was too much. My mind imagined our saloon filled with water, dark and murky. The pillows, the clothes, maybe a few things were floating around weightlessly? The eerie stillness and silence of a watery grave...I imagined all our kids beloved books, slowly disintegrating where they were stacked so carefully on the shelf...their stuffed animals, sodden with dirty marina water, laying haphazardly where their final float deposited them...all the woodwork, paper work, tools, took us an entire month to shift all our belongings from our old boat to mind raced through the inventory aboard, the memories that were, and those that were never to be...

What happened? I wondered as I looked at the wreck of carnage that was once our home. What did her in? Was it our own rig? The rig of another boat? A piling from the broken docks? Maybe it was the corner of one of those cement blocks that were found all over the marina? Those used to be in the water...What *was* it?

The answer to these questions will likely never be known, but it is clear that something punctured her starboard side, just at the waterline. That hole - such a seemingly small yet incredibly significant thing - was what took down our boat and all our belongings inside of her. Have you ever seen water rushing into a boat from a hole below the waterline? The force is incredible and terrifying from even the smallest puncture and it's amazing how quickly water will accumulate. I imagine that fateful moment of impact and how quickly water flooded in, filling our boat at an alarming rate. Our bilge pump wouldn't even have put a dent in it...but our newly installed high water alarm might have sounded for a few moments before it, too, was under. Our boat went down fast, that much is certain. I imagine the water rising, covering all our rugs that I so carefully selected, the floor boards floating up, releasing all the contents kept underneath them. I imagine the water quickly submerging the girl's toy box, their dollies and blocks joining in the frenzied floating fray, and water rising up past the settees and to our bookshelf... All the electronics, the crafting cubby and the pictures on our walls ...I imagine the chaos and swirling water and debris down below as even greater mayhem reigned outside. And I imagine her going down, settling on the murky bottom to die with a soft thud.

A few inches higher and she might have still stayed floating...
While at first I was confused why no one could find a sign of our boat for a solid month after the storm, it became clear later when the diver who found her told Scott that there is only one foot visibility at the moment, and that they are locating boats on the bottom by touch. He met Scott, had a beer with him at the beach bar and offered his condolences. "When I found your boat, I put my hands on her and thought, 'Damn, this was a nice boat'" he told him. And she was. She was a really, really nice boat - and a very comfortable and lovely home. And even though a boat is replaceable, we grieve the loss.


As much as Irma took from us, we are among the lucky. We are alive and healthy and young. We were insured and as such, our "stuff" can and will be replaced, and - yes (spoiler alert!) - we will eventually get another boat. It's amazing how something like this puts a whole new perspective on life and what is important. At my lowest moments post-Irma I would immediately think, "But what if I lost a child today? I would then wish for where I am right now..." Suddenly, losing our house, livelihood and things - while shitty - didn't seem like a big deal. Things can be replaced, lives can be rebuilt and communities can heal... I am grateful that we are/were so lucky. We have an amazing support network around us, a fantastic community to return to and we have resources at our disposal. While we mourn the loss of the beautiful home we lost and all she took down with her, we will cherish the memories as we look forward to what lies ahead... This is a single chapter in the story of our life...the adventures will continue.

RIP s/v Legato
Tayana 48
Lost to Hurricane Irma

September 6, 2017
Scott has been going aboard almost daily to try to salvage things. Not easy as the boat is at a 45 degree angle.
So sad to see such a mess and imagine all the garbage this one single boat has produced.

A very sorry state for what was once such a regal and beautiful boat.
The tangled mess of lines and rigging is hard to even comprehend. It gives you a tiny idea of Irma's power
Legato in what has become the boat graveyard at Nanny Cay.
Scott has, amazingly managed to salvage some of the kids things...legos, dinosaurs, some dress up clothes, a tea horrible as plastic is for the ocean, we are grateful to be able to keep some of these things. He even rescued some stuffed animals that after a good soak in disinfectant and a few wash cycles are good as new! Our chain, anchor, and dishes have also been salvaged. Every little bit counts. Note: He propped up this bear and dolly so I could show the girls that the toys were safe together...

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The Annapolis Boat Show: A Salve to My Soul

I am currently coming down from the high that was the Annapolis Boat Show. To think I almost didn't blows my mind because, for me, it was more than a boat show; it was a cathartic salve to my soul. It was long embraces from friends, tears shed with longtime blog followers, and deep belly laughs over too much tequila with my sailing brothers and sisters. It was meeting online pals in real life for the first time, being stopped when walking from A to B  by blog followers just wanting to say hi and express support and it was raising money and awareness for our beloved British Virgin Islands...The Annapolis Boat Show was so very much to me but more than anything it was a reminder of one of the main reason's we love being sailors and living aboard: the community.


Going to the boat show was not even on my radar. A few weeks ago, however, I got a message with the generous offer to stay at the home of some friends of friends, free of charge. They had extended the invitation to a few other folks in the form of a group message, mostly bloggers and vloggers (all of whom are dear friends, Tasha from Turf to Surf and Cat and Will from Monday Never to name a few) and finished the note with "It will be great to get you all together." I agreed. It was uncertain how Scott and I could make this happen (child care for three littles is not easy, thank you to Scott's mom for saving the day!), but, due to a nagging gut feeling of "needing" to go, we did make it happen and the weekend was marked on our calendar.

As often happens with plans in the sailing world, things changed and less than a week before we were to fly to Baltimore, our friends at Nanny Cay found our boat at the bottom of the marina. A tailspin of sadness and heartbreak washed over us as we saw the pictures of Legato being hauled from the sea, and despite knowing her fate, the pictures were salt on our very raw wounds. "I need to go to Tortola" Scott solemnly told me two days before the show. "I have to go down and see it all and try to figure out how to get our life back on track." And with that, it was decided that he would go to Tortola, and I would go to Annapolis by myself.

We had been housing Puerto Rican evacuee-turned-friend Diana Margarita since Hurricane Maria, she and I met online immediately after Irma and had been coordinating relief efforts together. In an incredible and very serendipitous turn of events, she not only became our roommate here in Chicago after being evacuated pre-Maria, but also became the Executive Director of the relief group Sailors Helping. As such, she had a very relevant place at the show. We traveled together, two hurricane displaced and emotionally drained island girls, and we emerged from the show buoyed by the love and support of our community.


There was much work to do at the show and it started almost immediately upon landing. I had over 400 t-shirts to sell and when I saw the multitude of boxes my heart sank, "How on earth will I sell all these?" I thought to myself. It seemed impossible. Luckily I had some friends and volunteers help me out, not the least of which is one of my most favorite longtime sailing/blogger friends Tasha, from Turf to Surf and Chase the Story. Together we were a dynamic duo, and with the help of my neighbor Claudia and her family, as well as the awesome duo behind Sailing Lunasea and Diana of Sailors Helping, we sold out of everything in under four days. I could not believe it. Humongous thanks to our good friends Mia and Andy from 59 North Sailing for letting us squat in their booth when the BVI Tourism Board was unable to accommodate us (apparently it did not have a 'sell' license). Our booth was "the" booth and was always hopping', the love for the BVI is legit!

I was also invited to speak on a Cruising World Magazine panel geared toward boats heading south and what was to be expected. My Puerto Rican friend Diana was on the panel with me, as well as fellow boat mama, circumnavigator and longtime online friend, Behan Gifford of Sailing Totem. Meeting her was amazing. We squealed, embraced, and both shed a few tears out of sheer joy of finally meeting in person, as well as some tears in solidarity. As a fellow boat mom and live-aboard, she completely empathized with our situation. The panel was a great success and the message was clear: the islands will prevail! "Our beaches are still golden, our water still blue, and our drinks are still cold!" The subject matter requires a separate blog post, which will come, but all in all, it was a great discussion and another chance to share the stage with and meet some amazing people.

After being on our feet and talking all day (I have a whole new respect for anyone that does trade shows like this for a living!) we'd retire as a group to the "Casa de Bach" where we ate, drank, and talked about everything under the sun while being surrounded by like-minded sea-gypsy souls. I cannot tell you how wonderful it is to be sitting on a porch enveloped by people who "get" you; people with whom you already share so much in common that friendship happens instantly. We all stayed up way too late, drank way too much, but the laughter - oh the laughter! - it was so, so good for my soul. I am smiling ear to ear thinking about it.


By the weekend's end, I'd lost my voice, was completely exhausted and felt like my legs had run a marathon, but what was depleted from me physically during my four frenetic days in Annapolis, was replaced ten-fold emotionally. I was as high as a kite leaving that place... Hopped up on joy. Walking on sunshine. On cloud nine.... Bonds were deepened, new friendships forged, and I was again reminded that if we have good people around us to make us laugh, hold us tight and empathize with our hurt, we have everything we need to move forward.

Community by definition is: a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals, and Annapolis showed me that we not only have this, but we have it in spades.


Thank you again Jeff and Cam for forcing me out of my comfort zone and bubble of post-Irma-ness (for lack of a better word) - and opening your home so generously to me and all the others. We love you both so much! Your kindness and generosity will never be forgotten!

If you like the shirts and hats you see in these photos, PLEASE BUY SOME
All proceeds go to the VISAR BVI Relief Fund. Thank you so much.

We are also still accepting donations for our BVI relief efforts HERE
Help us reach our goal of $200K!
Diana and I working the Virgin Unite Fundraiser party on our first night.
These two. Seeing them was SO emotional. They are our neighbors at Nanny Cay. Here they are, working to rebuild our amazing Nanny Cay community from afar...they are back on the ground now and we cannot wait to see them soon!
The sailing badass Andy Schell of the 59 North Podcast. Not only a super nice guy, but a super accomplished sailor. His wife  Mia is equally bad ass.
C is for Community! Mia Karlsson of 59 North Sailing (love her!), and Nanny Cay neighbors Claudia, Ted and Anne.
My partner in crime in all things. Tasha from Turf to Surf. An amazing human and friend.
REUNITED AND IT FEELS SO GOOD! Terysa and Nick of Sailing Yacht Ruby Rose.
Party people. We work hard, we play hard. Tasha of Turf to Surf, Will from Monday Never, and Me.
LOVE THESE TWO. Seriously meeting them was a highlight. Jennifer and Mark of Sailing Lunasea.
How long have I known Carolyn Sherlock from The Boat Galley? A long time. She replaced my sunken copy of her amazng cookbook for free. Because she's amazing like that. Love her.
I love these two. Cat from Monday Never, Terysa from Ruby Rose, and me.
Old friends Paul and Sheryl Shard of the television show Distant Shores
After hours shenanigans. The shenanigan game was strong with this posse. Megan from Missing Vissers was another highlight new friend.
So. Much. Laughing.

Bad-ass boat girls who pretty much make my world a better place. I love them all.

My partner in crime, Tasha, at the end of the show. Photo courtesy of the Annapolis Boat Show.

Monday, October 02, 2017

Life After Irma

Life goes on. This is the most comforting, and yet hardest aspect to grasp post Irma. I walked through Target the other day, meandering the aisles and taking stock of the obscene amount of stuff filling every shelf (some of which I admittedly put in my cart). I could not stop thinking of my friends  and fellow islanders on St. Maarten, BVI, USVI, Domenica and Puerto Rico who wait for hours and hours to get basic staples, who walk for miles to charge their devices and attempt to connect with loved ones...who's lives have taken on a completely different purpose and weight, and for whom basic survival is a daily game. What would they think of this Target trip, I wondered? These are people for whom a roof, a shower and a flushing toilet are luxuries. Target? What a joke. But life goes on...

There are two camps of people who have emerged from this storm; those who lived through the horror of it (and by almost all accounts, it was absolutely terrifying) and those of us who are residents and watched from afar as the horror unfolded. The experiences for each - both pre and post storm - are different, but the end result is the same: Every single one of our lives have been changed forever. Many of us lost our homes and most all of our worldly belongings. Many of us lost jobs and businesses. Not a single one of us came out unscathed. An entire geographic area's inhabitants (not to mention our islands) are permanently scarred from #irmaria and while each of our scars are unique, they are there. The side-effects of the trauma of an entire life completely turned upside down are vast. And we will all feel the after-shocks of Hurricane Irma for a very, very long time.

As most of you know, we are in the Chicagoland area where we plan to stay for the time being. And - despite the unfortunate circumstances - it's wonderful here. We are surrounded by amazing family (Mom, you are the best! Thank you for everything!) and have many friends - new and old - nearby. Isla is enrolled in kindergarten and I walk her to school hand in hand every day as leaves crunch under our feet while we chit-chat. She has fit in seamlessly and absolutely loves it and all her new friends, who come running up to her to envelop her in hugs as we arrive at the school doors. Haven and Mira attend a little pre-school two mornings a week where they play and paint and they too love it. Not a single morning has been met with tears or protests of not going. They are adaptable and social children and we are very proud and grateful for that. They are all in dance class twice a week and swim class on Mondays...and, honestly, are as happy as ever. They miss our boat, they ask after their island friends daily and are excited to go back and rebuild ("We are gonna bring food and water to Nanny Cay momma!" they say. The lack of food and water immediately after the storm is something they really clung to). As much as we want to go back and try to rebuild our life and business on Tortola, the time is not now. We need to assure it's safe and that schools are running, and we need to prepare our girls for what will be a very different - albeit interesting - life when we return (we are up for the adventure and challenge). In the meantime, life needs to continue while we make a plan moving forward. To anyone that sees us out and about on the streets here, we are just another suburban family living our life. But there is so much more below the surface. It's strange to think about and I am now hyper aware that everyone has a story. How many people do I mindlessly walk past in the grocery store are deep in pain; maybe they are going through a divorce, lost a loved one, suffer depression, or battle addiction...we just never know. This experience has really driven this fact home for me: that life goes on as normal for the people around us even though our lives will never be the same.

As someone who studied theater most of her life and leans toward positive-thinking I can very easily put on a happy face out and about, but the pain of uncertainty, the sting of losing our beloved home and the general feeling of being untethered is always there. I have strange dreams every night. One in which our boat was lifted from the depths of the harbor, in perfect condition and ready to sail again. Another I was making my way across post-apocolyptic Tortola on foot trying desperately to get back to Nanny Cay. The storm and it's effects on us are etched deep within our psyches, obviously. Keeping busy helps, and the kids are great at keeping us busy. Helping where we can is also a boon to the pain. Our fundraising efforts have blown us away and we have all of you to thank for that. At the time of this post we have raised over $160K for relief and rebuilding efforts in the British Virgin Islands. To think that our first "goal" was $10K might illustrate our shock at this large number. Our friends, family and online community is huge and generous and we thank every single one of you. We have spent about $80K so far on tarps, generators and chainsaws and are going to be working closely with other organizations who are on the ground in the BVI to make sure our money goes where it's most needed. This is easier said than done (File this under: lessons learned in disaster relief), which is why it is taking some time, but every penny will get into hands of people and organizations on the ground working to rebuild our beautiful island. If you have not donated and feel the urge to do so, you can here: >>>BVI IMMEDIATE RELIEF FUND<<<.

IN OTHER NEWS: we have been invited to the Annapolis Boat Show next weekend by a couple of very generous souls (Thank you SO MUCH Jeff and Cam Bach!) We are SO excited about this and while it didn't seem like we could make it at first, I felt this deep "need" - almost a calling of sorts - to go, and my gut was telling me it was important... So we have made it happen. We will be joining many blog and vlog friends there; some of whom we already know and love, some of whom we have never yet met in person. I might be speaking on a Cruising World Panel about ways sailors can help and what to expect sailing south. Check in with our Facebook Page for updates on where we will be and when. It will be a very busy weekend for sure but we'd love to meet as many of you as we can... Scott and I, along with others, will be at the BVI Tourism booth selling our #BVISTRONG shirts and all proceeds will be going to the >>>VISAR BVI RELIEF FUND<<<. If you won't be at the show and want to sport some #BVISTRONG gear yourself, you can get tee shirts (men, women, toddler and kids styles available), baby onesies, hoodies and trucker hats >>>HERE<<<. Huge shout out to the awesome folks behind >>> Tight Little Tribe<<< and >>>Remember the Adventure<<< for working with me on this and making it happen so fast. We have raised thousands for VISAR with this initiative while also sporting our pride! Please give them some love. I also want to give a strong shout out to the group >>>Sailors Helping<<<. Aside from housing their newly appointed executive director (and PR evacuee turned pseudo family member and friend) Diana Margarita, we are ambassadors for their great effort as well and if you are a sailor who wants to help - please check them out. This is also great place to donate to if you have no specific affiliation with a particular island and just want to help. They have big plans for long term efforts, and we are excited to be working with them.

I cannot say it enough: the community and solidarity that has emerged from these storms is AMAZING. The other day I wrote that "as my heart breaks, it fills" because the kindness of both strangers and friends and the many people who are stepping up to the plate are astounding. The coming together of people from all different walks of life is humbling and shows me that there is hope in this crazy world. We are shining with silver linings these days, and seeing the positive that has come out of this disaster is a lesson in humanity that I am honored to experience. We cannot thank you all enough...Those of you who have reached out to us - your kindness will not be forgotten.

So life is going on. We are grateful, we are lucky and we are okay. The challenge of moving forward from this storm is a big one, but we are up for it. We are not waving the white flag and - while there are definitely days we feel very defeated and completely lost, and there are moments when I completely break down - we have every intention to emerge from this stronger than before.

"And once the storm is over you won't remember how you made it through, 
how you managed to survive. 
You won't even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. 
But one thing is certain. 
When you come out of the storm you won't be the same person who walked in. 
That's what this storm's all about."
-Haruki Murakami

And now some pics of us back on the water this weekend with our dear friends from >>>Monday Never<<<...our growing friendship with them is one of the many silver linings of #irmaria (they will also be at the boat show with us!) Getting out on the water with them was cathartic.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Hurricane Irma: Reflections on a Life Forever Altered by her Wrath

We were supposed to fly back to Tortola yesterday. Our bags sit in my closet half-way packed with belongings and goodies we were bringing back to our beloved boat. This past weekend was supposed to be full of tearful goodbyes with friends and family. We should be on our boat right now, maybe getting ready for Isla's first day of kindergarten. She was so excited about her new shoes and uniform. Or maybe we'd be at the beach bar at this moment, hanging out with our friends and telling stories from our respective summers, enveloping in hugs, clinking drinks and lamenting how we'd forgotten it could be so damn hot. The post-summer reunions are always so nice...

This next season held so much promise; best business year yet, travel plans, family visits, rendezvous with new friends...there was so much we were looking forward to.

Irma took all that away from us.

It is hard to put into words how I am feeling. I don't even really think I know how I am feeling because the magnitude of the situation is, quite frankly, hard to grasp. It's surreal and, like so many of our friends, I feel numb. We are not unique in our position right now, not by a long shot. I'm often at a loss for words when people ask me about it. There's a constant little ache in my heart that I carry with me all day long and each time my brain reminds me that this is really happening, I get that a tiny sensation of free-falling in my belly. Life as we knew it is over, and we need to begin again. And while there is a glimmer of excitement in a clean slate and having the ability to "chose your own adventure" (this is how I am framing it for the girls), there is also a tremendous amount of pain and grief because - as most of you know - we really, really loved our life. Our boat, our community, our island...We didn't want it to change. There is no where else we'd rather be. But we don't always get what we want, and sometimes something unexpected happens that shakes your world to the core.

On September 6th, Hurricane Irma ripped across our little island showing no mercy. We were hit square on and - at one point as we abroad watched in horror - all of Tortola was visible in her eye. We held our breath. But we knew...we had seen the footage coming out of St. Maarten just hours earlier The devastation...we knew it was going to be beyond what any of us could possibly fathom...And she was. Her wrath was catastrophic. Biblical. Unimaginable. The scope of her destruction was beyond anyone's wildest dreams. I keep throwing around the unofficial statistic 90%. "90% of the houses are destroyed." "90% of the boats are destroyed." "90% of our island is destroyed." Ninety percent. Again, it's not an official number - but I can tell you it's close. It doesn't take a genius to scan the images and videos come to that ball park number. There is hardly a single palm frond left. She raked our island clean of all foliage. It looks like a nuclear bomb was dropped and friends on the ground are describing the scene as "post-apocalyptic".

She took our boat, she lies now at the muddy bottom of our marina. She took our business, stripping our boats from their hurricane hole and hurling them into a twisted pile of hundreds of others. She took the homes and businesses of many others and nearly all of our friends. She took beaches and trees and animals and landmarks. And she took lives. We are grateful and lucky to have been spared. Lucky to be alive...we know this, and we are grateful. But that doesn't mean we still cannot feel the pain of losing so much. It doesn't mean we don't grieve for the life that we knew and our uncertain future. We will be okay, we know that. And, yes, we still have each other. But we grieve. A death has still occurred. And, to be quite honest, I think I haven't even truly begin to process it. This is not the loss of a loved one - far greater to be sure - but it is a loss, and one that so many cannot even begin to fathom. But we are lucky, we had insurance and, hopefully, we will one day be able to recover our great losses.

In the wake of Irma, however, some magic has occurred. As it happens so often in times of crisis the layers of the onion peel away and people begin to see what is really important. Before Irma hit (and we became aware of her velocity and what it might mean for us) my friend went aboard s/v Legato to gather things off our boat, "What do you want?" She asked. I couldn't think of a single thing that I *needed* to get off because of real value. After Irma hit the only thing  I was concerned about was the safety of our friends. And now, instead of slipping into a depressed funk about what our future holds (I completely reserve the right to do this at a later date, fyi), I - along with most of my friends - am channelling my pain into efforts to help the BVI recover as quickly as it can.

People are pulling up their sleeves and coming together. On the ground, on the front lines and abroad, people are working tirelessly to help in any way they can. From fundraising to donating, from evacuating to offering services, from going to the front lines to getting word out to the media, everyone is doing their part and efforts large and small are being made by everyday people. More and more stories are coming out of people talking about how - despite the horror of their experience - it's been one of the most humbling and positive experiences they've ever been a part of. How grateful they are for their lives. How grateful they are for their friends. How, really, it's the simplest things that matter the most. How everyone came together to help one another. It's a lesson in humanity. Almost every message from those who have survived the greatest storm of the century is: Gratitude. For life, for neighbors, for each other. "It was the most horrific experience of our lives...but we are stronger for it".

The yin and yang of life. Just as our beautiful British Virgin Islands showed nature at her most perfect, Irma reminded us that she can be very, very ugly as well. She giveth and she taketh away.

Scott and I have started a relief fund to help rebuild our beloved British Virgin Islands. He is in Puerto Rico right now working with the amazing group >>>Sailors Helping<<< (set up by the amazing powerhouse of a duo behind Sail Me Om) - along with so many others - (Massive shout out to Puerto Rico and it's people for stepping up to the plate SO BIG for ALL the Virgin Islands and our friends from Three Sheets Sailing for their amazing work!) in an effort to find ways to get our islands back up and running as quickly as possible. And there are so many more I have not mentioned...The road is long, but we are not alone.

If you'd like to help the beautiful Islands that we called home, if you ever vacationed in the BVI and fell in love with it like we did - donate. No amount is too small. Please feel free to share if you are unable to contribute!



Sunday, September 03, 2017

Hurry Up and Wait: The Agony of Watching a Hurricane Barrel Down on Your Island

"What's the most stressful part of living on an island/running an island business/living on a boat?" We get this question a lot. And there are a host of answers to each but one answer crosses all divides is: being right smack dab in the middle of hurricane alley between the months of June and November every year. Our stress is compounded by the fact that both >>>our business<<< and our home are water based, and as such Scott and I currently own four boats in Tortola. There are more than a few people who would look at us and think to themselves (and possibly out loud) what a preposterous position to put ourselves in. And at this particular moment, we might agree.


There is currently a major hurricane barreling down on our little island. Her name is Irma and she is apparently a beast, slated to be a Cat 3 or 4 when she hits our area (for perspective, Katrina was a Cat 5). After a few days of nail-biting monitoring it seems, more than ever, that she will - at best - pass very close to our island, and - at worst - pass directly over us. My days have been a blur of checking weather sites for updates and new storm models with the hopes of positive news, and each day it becomes more and more clear that this storm poses a real threat to our island and island neighbors. People are flying out, stores are selling out of non-perishables and the departments of disaster management are urging people to PREPARE NOW. It's a big deal. And this waiting, this constant refreshing of the news feed to see if a new model shows promise of a turn away from is agonizing. But like watching a train wreck, it is so hard turn away. "Stop watching!" they tell me but it's hard when we have so much at stake; our livelihood, our friends and our home are all there. And so I keep scanning my feed, hoping for positive news while channeling my inner meteorologist and every morning brings news that makes the sickening feeling in my belly deepen: this hurricane is not turning, her path is becoming more defined and our island is very likely in it.

Another agonizing element to this story is the fact that we are not there. Of course this is a blessing, as our most precious cargo is safe from Irma's wrath. However, if we were there, we could at least be doing something proactive to prepare and know we did our best to do what we could...instead we watch with a feeling of helplessness. We monitor the weather sites, we communicate and commiserate with other locals and we hope. Thankfully, we have some amazing friends, neighbors and employees working for us on the home front. Peter from >>>Where the Coconuts Grow<<< has been a lifesaver and is currently prepping our home, >>>s/v Legato<<<, and two of our >>>Aristocat Charters<<< catamarans as well as his own boat (read his wife and my good friend Jody's Hurricane Plan). With the help of our amazing employees Jorn and Brian, I am confident they are doing right by us. But they also have to prepare themselves, their homes and boats as well, and I feel very guilty adding to an already stressful workload for all of them. I cannot adequately express my gratitude for their efforts on our behalf...

Another element of this excruciating waiting game is the simple fact that hurricanes make a rather slow progression forward - about 15 mph to be exact - and that means we watch them for days and days and days before we know with good probability exactly where they will go... The silver lining to this is of course the ability to see them coming (most of the time) and give people ample time to prepare, the hard part is watching a hurricane march ominously toward your island at the pace of a healthy jogging human which, for the record, feels painfully slow. And then there is the fact that we have so much to lose there. The potential loss makes me sick to consider but it's hard not to; our home, our business - all are literal sitting ducks in the water. Yes, we are insured. Yes, these things can be replaced. But the thought of utter devastation - and losing most everything we own - breaks my heart, and even though it feels selfish to be so worried when we are our of harms way and other's will have it way worse than us, tears well up in my eyes at the thought of what could happen and what it means for us.

So we wait.


It is Sunday and it is looking like Irma will pass by or over our rock sometime Tuesday or Wednesday night. The next 48 hours will be crucial and determine with more precision where she will go but hurricanes - like all of mother nature's incredible forces - are wild and unpredictable. We will not have real answers until after she has left us in her wake. Hopefully, with as little damage as possible.

In the words of our Isla, who just a few hours ago looked into my worried eyes and said, "Don't worry mommy. If our stuff tips over it's okay, it's just stuff. The most important things are people." And she is right. Our wise, wonderful child.

Our thoughts are with all our island friends, neighbors, fellow boaters and everyone in Irma's path.

"The most important things are people." Stay safe, everyone. And a heartfelt "thank you" to our amazing >>>Windtraveler Community<<< for all the thoughts, vibes, and prayers. We appreciate your support more than you know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Update from the Blogosphere: How Island Life has Changed Us

I started this post about four weeks ago. It's funny how I always think that coming back to land for a visit will afford me more time to write. We are, after all, living with my mom and there are loads of sitters for me to use. However, it never quite works out like that and I really cannot put my finger on why. So, while the girls nap on this beautiful and sunny 80 degree day - I've popped over here to catch you up on a few things...


As you probably know by our >>>Facebook<<< and >>>Instagram<<< accounts, we are back stateside for a visit. It is wonderful and has been a nice change. It goes without saying that the proximity to friends and family is solid gold. It's also happens to be the best season to be here and the worst time to be there at the moment. Summer in the midwest is pretty clutch, and hurricane season in the Caribbean kind of sucks. The threat of nasty storms is imminent, it's hot as hell and things slow down considerably... Residents travel to places far and wide to stave off island fever and businesses close up for the summer or cut back hours. >>> Our business <<<, however, runs all year round which is why Scott stayed behind the first few weeks we were here to get our new staff up and running and focus on boat repair (both >>> our home boat <<< and our business boats needed a lot of work). After four weeks apart, he re-joined us for a well-deserved break.

The girls and I have been here almost two months now (Scott just nearly three weeks) and one fact has become glaringly clear: Island life has changed us. 

We are currently in the land of all. the. things. I could take the girls to any number of parks, pools, museums, events, indoor gymnasiums, theaters and splash pads. There are probably 100 places within a ten mile radius of us to fill our time. And while you'd think we'd come back and relish in all these activities that are not available to us back on Tortola, we - oddly enough - opt to spend most of our time in my mom's backyard, hanging with family and friends. We make mud pies, create obstacle courses, make fairy houses, and engage in the natural environment. Maybe I've set the "fun" bar really low, but some pots and pans with water in them can entertain our girls for HOURS. And - go ahead and call me lazy - if our kids are happy playing in the backyard, I'd certainly rather that than take them to an amusement park where I'm stressed, they're overstimulated, and sugar consumption is greatly amplified.

And this right here is the privilege of having a foot in both worlds: we get to fully enjoy the beauty of both land life and island life because the novelty of "different" doesn't quite wear off. For example, while - to some - the backyard might seem dull or boring (hence the desire for land parents to take their kids to other places for fun and stimulation which we would for sure do as well if we were full-time landlubbers), to our girls - it's a place of wonder, freedom and endless possibilities. And let me tell you, it is SO nice to be able to open the door and let our girls strip down and play in the water and mud without the threat of drowning. A beach might be a wonder to land-locked children, but to our girls this is a standard daily outing (one that, if I am to be honest, sometimes elicits whines of "Oh! Not the beach agaaain!"...I know -wince-, spoiled.) but the backyard? Complete with tire swing, room to run naked and a sprinkler? Now that is really something! It's wonderful to see our girls so wholly enjoying the simple pleasures I did as a child and the fact the backyard is easy, free and doesn't involve me having to pack a backpack of crap and loading and unloading three kids in a car? WIN.

Don't get me wrong...we have left the backyard from time to time...We've gone to pools and parks and friend's places, and we've done two trips to Northern Michigan where Scott's mom and stepdad live (side note: we are experts now at driving long distances with three kids! more on this to come...), and those trips were incredible. Aside from the fact that Michigan in the summer is absolute magic, seeing our girls genuinely form bonds with their grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins is something that is important to us and a big focus on these visits home. The driving time also allowed for one on one conversation to happen between Scott and I, something that is a bit of a rarity back on our island where he works so much and where we often pass like ships in the night. During these long drives (over 28 hours in total, egad!) back and forth, Scott and I started mapping out dreams and schemes for far-off future adventures (squeee!) and we made some plans for a great year ahead on our boat with lots island hopping to nearby places and slightly longer getaways to Puerto Rico and Dominican Republic. The possibilities for the year ahead are exciting and now that the twins are a more manageable age (well, kind of) and we've got a solidly awesome team helping to run our business so that Scott doesn't need to be working until 1am every night, travel is on the horizon. This excites us to no end.


So I apologize for the lack of communication. It drives me nuts when I go dark on here for too long. But the creative juices are beginning to flow and I can feel the writer's block starting to lift...In the meantime, we're enjoying what I am calling a "slow" summer. One where we don't rush from one place to the next, where we don't feel the pressure to fill every day with something or someone new, and one where we  (try!) keep stress as low as possible (because, lets face it, chaos reigns in a home with three small kiddos in it!)  As such, we'll just keep living life in the slow lane. On "island" time, as it were.

Which, for now, happens to be in my mom's back yard.
Our own little island, away from our rock.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...