Thursday, June 30, 2011

Still Sailing!

Hello friends! Sorry that action has been low around here - I have not forgotten about you but we HAVE been very busy!  My brother's wedding has come and gone ( and we have wedding number two this weekend.  We cannot wait!  It's a weekend long lake side affair with lots of friends, laughter and love to go around, who can beat that?!

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that while things might be slow around here for the moment, they will pick back up.  We even squeezed in a sail last night with two of our very best friends and boy oh boy did it feel good to be on the water again!

Isn't it incredible when you can come back to a place and pick up, literally, right where you left off?  I think it's amazing.  Life is beautiful!

Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sailing isn’t just About Pulling Lines, It’s about Solving Problems Ahead of Time

Not all days on the water are this smooth!
The above is a (probably not direct) quote from Pete Goss, of Vendee Ocean Race fame.

Scott and I both come from sailboat racing backgrounds, which I am now convinced is a fantastic introduction to all elements of boating…the etiquette, the rules, the lingo and, of course, the basics of sail trim and boat handling.

More than any of this, though, is the fact that you learn, very quickly, to always be thinking ahead.  No matter what your position on the boat – be it helmsman, tactician, main trimmer, grinder, pit person or bow - you must be at least two steps ahead of the game.  You must always have your hand ready to pull or release, must always have a maneuver ready to deploy a, a “plan B” on your brain – because, as we all know, things can happen very fast on a boat.  Yes, even a sail boat.  If you don’t believe me, hop on a race boat and see for yourself.
Both Scott and I spent a significant time doing bow on a few boats, large and small – meaning we worked on the “pointy end”. We constantly had to have the sails and lines ready for the next mark rounding – well before we ever got to it.  This involved flaking the sail (to make sure it didn’t hourglass), running the lines (so they don’t snag or jam), and constantly looking up to make sure no lines are crossed.  On top of that – we also had to be prepared for running the sails to the other side of the boat (in case we decided to round on the opposite tack), or doing a fast sail change (in the event the winds went heavy/light).  It’s an exhilarating and very athletic, potentially stressful position on a boat – especially if it’s blowing.  The difference between a race boat and a cruising boat, however, is that a race boat is run by a (usually) well orchestrated crew of 6-10 – a cruising boat by 1-3.  There is comfort and safety in numbers.

The point is, both Scott and I have been pretty adequately trained in thinking ahead.  And yet we still get surprised.  There is an overwhelming amount of things to think about on a sailboat.  There are so many systems, so many moving parts, so many daily checks to make, so many opportunities for failure.  We are getting better at staying on top of this – but still have so much to learn.  Every day we add to our checklist of operating procedures because everyone can get complacent – and if there is one thing we have learned, there is NO ROOM for complacency on a sailboat!

Brittany & Scott

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Second Show Sunday

Because Sunday is the day of rest for so many, and because I am technically on "vacation" for the next few Sundays I am going to post some blogs from long ago.  I realize some of you might have already read them - but most of you probably haven't.  So grab a cup of coffee, kick back, and enjoy this blast from the past...because sometimes, things are better the second time around...


FRIDAY, APRIL 09, 2010

No, I'm not getting all fuzzy and romantic on you.  K.I.S.S is our newest motto.  It stands for "Keep It Simple Stupid" and there is a LOT of wisdom in this snarky little acronym.

We are getting down to the wire.  While we have made headway on a lot of projects (if you count "headway" as having conversations, information gathering, making plans about plans, and lots and lots of flipping through the West Marine catalog), we still have a LOT to do.  We are still expecting to leave in September and when we say this to people we meet around the yard or at West Marine, lots of them raise an eyebrow, shake their head (some even dramatically wipe their foreheads, you know, for impact) and say, "you've got a lot to do in a little time".  Oh, we know...we know.  But (*universe, hear me now!*) we ARE leaving in September...because if we don't, well - we will have to endure another Chicago winter and we just don't want to do that. 

So - what does this mean for us?  We are going to have to prioritize.  We are going to have to choose between the must haves and the wants.  We are going to have to sacrifice.  Luckily for us, we are going to be cruising along the east coast for a while and many of the unfinished projects can be completed as we go.  But we do have a list of essentials.  The least of which to plug the 6 holes in our boat.  A boat's gotta float, you know.

A friend gave me some advice (it's nothing new - but he articulated it in an email so I can directly quote him here):
Focus on some important things, make it sailable, and pretty reliable, and get out there. Otherwise you'll spend tons of money and be sitting at the dock.
In other words, K.I.S.S.  And that is what we are going to do.  We will NOT have refrigeration, we will have simple, straightforward electronics, and we're not going to get caught up in making our boat "perfect" - because we all know that is a loosing battle.

Here is our immediate "punch" list which will make our boat "sailable" and "reliable":

1) Install new engine (in progress - thanks Retner Marine)
2) Replace through-hulls (in progress, old ones are out, new ones bought - just need installation)
3) Replace steering system (in progress, Edson has outfitted several of our style of boat with cable and chain steering and we have the parts list - just need to purchase and install)
4) Update electronics (in progress, we know what we need - have the part numbers - just need to get it ordered and get it all in)

These are the MUST haves.  Yes, we know they are significant. Yes, we know that they will take time. Yes, we know that people usually tackle projects of this magnitude over a couple of seasons.  Luckily for us our boat has "good bones" - she is very solid, structurally sound and impecably well-maintained and we have an incredible support network of family (namely; my dad, my uncle Bob and my uncle Bill) and there is a lot of comfort in that. 

Now that spring has sprung here in Chicago - it's go time!!


Brittany & Scott

PS.  This weekend, we have LOTS of fun projects going on - I'll tell you all about it next week!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Nice Reminder...

It's nice to be home, but what's really nice is that there are so many reminders of our "other" home;  a perk of being from a very nautical family...

It seems there was some confusion about nature of our visit - whether it was permanent or temporary.  It is most definitely temporary.  We are both standing up in my little brother's wedding today (!!) and I am standing up in one of my best girlfriend's wedding next weekend.  From there, we head to Northern Michigan to spend time with Scott's family for a couple of weeks.

Fear not lovely readers and followers, we have only just begun to scratch the surface of our dream and have exiting plans in development when we return to Grenada at the end of July.  Stay tuned!  Lots of good stuff to come...  

Have a great weekend everyone!

Brittany & Scott

Friday, June 24, 2011

Home Sweet Home

A lot of memories in this beautiful house!!  So nice to be home.
Coming home after being gone for nine months is a...whirlwind!  So many people to see, so many things to do; wedding preparation, shopping trips, dining out, meeting friends, and spending time with family are keeping us BUSY.

It's funny, a friend asked me what it is like to be home, insinuating that it might be a difficult adjustment, and after a pause to think I answered that it was "natural".  Because it is.  Despite what some might think, coming back to the "land of plenty" for a visit is not as jarring as it might seem.  My family is very, very close - and when we all get together - it's like no time has passed.  We dive right into the crazy, beautiful, mad-love mayhem that is our home and it is so, so wonderful.

I believe that true relationships are the ones that time cannot tarnish.  They are the ones that, no matter what, it's as if no time has passed.  Relationships like those are the ones that make a visit home nothing short of lovely.  Seeing my best friend of 25 years is as effortless as putting on shoes.  We just pick up where we left off and the hands of time only bring us closer.  Last night for example - I went out with three very dear friends who I have not seen in over a year.  The minute we sat down (after hugs and squeals and oh my gosh you look so lovely's) we did not stop talking for a solid 3.5 hours as if no time had passed.  That sort of closeness and connectedness is a gift.  Friendships like that make the whirlwind more like a super-fun carnival ride that you never want to end.

Not to mention we are enjoying a bed with a pillow top, air conditioning, refrigeration, spas, salons, restaurants and all the other perks and conveniences that this land life affords.  It takes about .2 seconds for us to slip right back into it, of course now we appreciate it all that much more...

The only difficult part about being home is trying to fit everything in!  We have so many friends we want to see and only so many days; it's going to be challenging to squeeze everything and everyone in. Phones are ringing, plans are being made, dates are getting set and our social calendar is booking up!  I guess that's a pretty good problem to have...

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pure Energy

When you're living out here, power management is key!
Energy management is one aspect of life on a boat that very few boaters have mastered.  After living the cruising lifestyle for over nine months I think we might have met one boat who has their energy situation perfectly worked out.   After my post about our favorite systems on our boat, we got a few comments and several emails asking about our energy situation. One of the greatest challenges of living on a boat is living "off the grid".   Our power doesn't come from a company and it can and will run out if improperly managed.  Because of this, we strive to be energy efficient and we are hyper aware of our carbon footprint; we catch wind in our sails to propel us forward, we capture the sun's light to charge our batteries, all of our appliances are energy efficient, and so on.

We have two six volt deep cycle AGM marine batteries in series for our "house" battery bank (this is the 'bank' that runs all our systems; lights, electronics, fans..etc.) and one 12 volt deep cycle AGM for our dedicated starter battery (that way, in the very unlikely event that we run our house battery bank down to zero - we will always be able to start our engine, which, in turn, will charge those batteries back up).  This means we have about 220 amp hours to work with.  Before you go building your battery bank, however, you first need to know what your energy needs will be.  Without getting too technical, you must calculate how much power you consume and thus begin a balancing act with your batteries (we have a Victron battery monitor so we can always see what we are pulling out of our batteries, how much life is left in them, or what we are putting back in).  There is a good worksheet here if you are interested in doing some math.

When we are at anchor, we are usually "balanced"; meaning what we take out of our batteries, our 65 watt (4 amps) solar panel can usually put back in.  When we are sailing, however, we draw much more power than we can replenish (chartplotter and autopilot are the main drainers) and after 24 hours, we typically need to run the engine for a few hours to put some juice back in (we have an alternator that puts power back into our batteries, much like a car would do).

One thing we did NOT want to have aboard is a generator.  Not only are they messy and noisy - they take up a fair amount of space that we would rather use for other things.  In addition, we've found that we motorsail enough that we don't need one.  This is one (of the many) reasons we selected our Village Tec Little Wonder Watermaker.  It runs right off our batteries and draws 11 amps.  We don't need to start our engine, we don't need to fire up a clunky generator and, after one (quiet) hour - we have added our daily 4-5 gallons to top off our water tank and taken precious little out of our batteries.  Obviously, if we are motor sailing - we try to make water then so as not to drain out of our batteries - but knowing that we don't have to is nice.

What is also nice is the fact that we are a very low amperage boat.  If you, for example, have refrigeration/air conditioning/television/Sony Playstation (?!) - you will need significantly more amp hours than we have.  Despite the fact that our energy demands are low - we need more power to stay ahead of the game!  Solar power, while great, is not very efficient.  The sun doesn't always shine, night falls, and if there is a shadow on the panel the amperage drops considerably.  We think a wind/solar combination is ideal and are currently in the market for a wind generator and we'll be adding at least one more solar panel by the end of hurricane season.  We have also been looking into this gadget but the jury is still out on whether the pros outweigh the cons...

The battery balancing act is complicated and, to be quite honest, can make your head spin.  We are by no means experts - but, like everything when it comes to cruising, you live and you learn!

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Black Box Theory

We put lots of points into our black box to keep Rasmus ship shape!
If there is anything that sums up safety at sea and why it is critically important to be prudent and diligent when it comes to maintaining your boat and making decisions it is John Vigor's "Black Box Theory".  With no further adieu I have reposted it here:

There is no such thing as fortuitous luck at sea. The reason why some boaters survive storms and have fewer accidents than others is that they earn their luck by diligent and constant acts of seamanship.

Aboard every boat there is a black box. Every time the skipper takes the time to consult the chart, inspect the filters, go forward on a rainy night to check the running lights or take any other proper seamanlike precaution, he or she earns a point that goes into the black box. In times of stress, in heavy weather or other threatening circumstances where human skill and effort can accomplish no more, the points are cashed in for protection. Those skippers with no points in the box are the ones that are later described as unlucky.

The skipper has no control over the withdrawal of points and, once the points have been removed, the the skipper must immediately start to replenish their savings, for the sea offers no credit.

Which begs the question; how full is your boat's black box?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Systems on our Boat

While this is a very simple set-up, you wouldn't want to live aboard!
We love our boat.  LOVE her.  There are a million reasons why she is perfect for us and we feel so lucky to have found her.  We've met so many people who's boats are no where near as reliable as our Rasmus and I honestly believe that if you can't trust your boat 100%, you will be missing out significantly on the enjoyment of the cruising lifestyle.  Whether it be a leaky deck, lack of storage, dysfunctional instruments or poor sails - "small" problems like these on a boat can be detrimental to your happiness.  Unless you are a sado-masochist, if you are not comfortable on your boat you will not like cruising.  That said, there are a few systems that make ours extra special and extra user-friendly.  While they are by no means "essential" to the function of a boat, they make life a lot easier.  Here they are, in no particular order:

Top 10 Systems on Rasmus

1)  Chartplotter.  We love our Simrad chartplotter with AIS (we both receive and transmit).  Three words: peace. of. mind.  Scott and I ALWAYS have paper charts on deck with us, and we have several back-up GPS units (and a sextant, though - truth be told - we have no clue how to use it yet) in the event of failure.    But our chartplotter is incredibly accurate (down to coral heads!) and having AIS is something that I am 100% sure will be mandatory on all boats in the near future.  The fact that ours is on deck is a major bonus.  No having to run up and down to check our position.

2) Doyle Stackpack.  We got new sails when we left and our sailmaker suggested a "stackpack" - having come from a racing background where all things cruiser meant slow, we weren't familiar with this great system for storing a mainsail - but boy are we glad we have it.  Not having to wrestle a sail down, deal with a sail cover and always having our main fall down right into a nice pocket on the boom makes life...easier.  Having new sails is also a major bonus - old sails are not only slow, but they are often times very difficult (if not impossible) to trim properly.  Good sails + good trim = good sailing.

3) Autopilot.  I cannot imagine having to hand steer for 24 hours a day on a long passage.  Being able to be on a three hour watch and never touch the wheel is a huge perk.  You are free to make a sandwich, read a book, listen to music, write...etc.  While an autopilot is obviously not essential, it gets major points for the comfort factor and makes life a lot nicer.

4)  Watermaker.  First of all, making drinking water from salt water is nothing short of a miracle in my opinion.  It is  If I had a dime for every time we said, "installing this thing was one of our BEST decisions...".  Never having to go ashore to fill jerry jugs is a big perk.  Not having to be a slave to our water usage is a bigger perk.  We can shower liberally, wash our deck, do our dishes and not have to worry that we're going to run out.  Ours is a very simple, energy efficient unit that runs off our batteries and by running it for an hour every other day we top off our tanks to full.  Reverse osmosis is your friend.

5)  Spot Tracker.  We use this little guy every time we move.  It's a great (relatively cheap) way to keep loved ones, friends and followers up to date on where we are despite whether or not we have internet or phone service.  In addition, it has a built in safety feature in the form of an S.O.S button in case of emergency.  While I would never use this in place of an EPRIB, it is an added safety precaution and you can never have too many backups in the event of an emergency.  I will note that the downside is that this little guys eats up (very expensive) lithium batteries and you should be mindful to have extras on board.

6)  Roller furling jib.  One of the things we do not miss from our days as racing sailors are the incalculable headsail changes that occur during a race.  Referred to as "peels" (because, when racing, you want to actually raise the new sail before taking down the old, essentially 'peeling' it away from the new) they can be exhausting.  Wind goes light?  Throw up the genoa.  Changing course to a reach?  Get out the code zero.  Wind picks up big time?  Put up the storm jib.  Sail changes are a thing of our past.  Now, we just roll out the jib when we're ready to sail and roll it back up when we are finished.  Easy peasy.  Also - because we have a reefing roller furling, we can shorten sail as necessary without having to hank on another sail.

7)  Dinghy davits and radar arch.  Our custom built, stainless steel radar arch and davit system (arms off the back of our boat from which to hang our dinghy) make life so much easier.  First of all, towing a dinghy for anything longer than a day sail is not advisable and storing it on deck is a pain in the butt (though for long passages we always stow on deck).  The davits make day to day life much easier - we simply have to clip on and hoist up.  In addition, it provides  a lot of great real estate to lash deck items to and it houses a whole slew of antennas so, in the event that we ever lost our mast (wince), we would not lose all our systems.

8)  Single Side Band Radio.  I said before that none of these items on this list are "essential" but I make an exception for this one.  A single side band (SSB) radio is a long-range radio that is, in my opinion, must-have gear on a cruising sailboat.  We have met very few people without at least a receiver and people who cruise extensively without one are putting themselves at risk.  The regular VHF radio has no where near the range of the SSB and the weather information gathered through SSB is far superior to that of VHF.  Getting weather reports (from our sponsor, Chris Parker) is the primary reason for our SSB but we can also send and receive emails with it from pretty much anywhere on the water.  When there is no VHF signal, no WiFi or cell reception - there is SSB.

9) Windlass.  We LOVE our electric windlass.  It makes anchoring a piece of cake and has probably added a lot of life to our lower backs.  We have 275 feet of all chain rode. That is about 800 pounds of chain.  While we never have quite that much chain out, it is heavy.  There are times we have had to re-set our anchor three or four times and having the windlass means we can re-set our anchor with ease if we are unsure of our holding or position.  We have seen other boats stay in a spot they shouldn't because they don't want to deal with hauling the anchor back up.  Not good.

10)  Solar Panel.  Being energy efficient is key on a sailboat living 'off the grid'.  Though we are looking to increase wattage and add a wind generator, our 65 watt solar panel does a pretty good job at keeping our batteries topped off at anchor.  Not having to run the engine or deal with a noisy generator not only makes our life more comfortable, but the life of our neighbors as well!

So there you have it.  The top ten systems that make life aboard a boat that much nicer!

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dear Dad

Get a load of this guy!
Dear Dad,

Since it's father's day - I just wanted to take a moment and let you know how grateful I am that the Universe gave me you...(or is it the other way around?)  I mean, I did it for mom, right?....anyway...

I don't know if words can express how thankful I am to have you.  You may or may not remember this - but when you bought me that book, Maiden Voyage by Tania Aebi, so many years ago - you set my life's course in motion.  You may not realize it, but when I asked you "Daddy, can I race with you?" and you said "Sure", you changed my life forever.  Quietly and patiently, you let me take the reigns and watched me grow; you let me trip and were always there to help me up after the fall.  You subtly guided me with your wisdom and knowledge, as you continue to do so every single day.

You have selflessly let your dream become mine.  Not only have you given me this gift - you have raised me up to heights I could not have imagined so that I could reach it, you have given me the tools so that I can live it.  Thank you. We would not be where we are today if not for your time, knowledge and experience.  You put so much time, love and energy into our little boat so that it would safely carry your daughter and son-in-law where it may, and for that, I am forever indebted to you.

You have taught me how to be good.  You have taught me how to be strong.  You have shown me what it is to have integrity and character.  Dad, you are the most incredible man I know and I strive to be more like you every day.  I am so proud to be your daughter.  You are my number one counsel, you are my number one fan, and you are the best dad a girl could ever ask for.  Thank you, for everything.

I love you,


Saturday, June 18, 2011

When the Cat's Away...

Leaving your boat for any length of time in an unfamiliar place (during hurricane season, no less) is...daunting.  In order to quell your worries about theft, system failure, and weather (like, say, a hurricane) so you can sleep at night during your land-based vacation, you need to prepare accordingly.  Simply removing pricey items from the deck and locking up the boat isn't going to cut it.

As most of you know by now, Scott and I are heading to Chicago (!!!!!) for a short stint of weddings, family and friends.  Luckily for us - we have lots of great boat neighbors and friends checking in on our boat, and our latest sponsor Island Dreams is a fabulous company that specializes in long or short-term yacht guardianage (a fancy term for "boat babysitting"), project management (so you're varnish doesn't tarnish while you are away!) and much more.  Anita and her husband Mark are former cruisers who know that your boat is not only your home, but your baby - and they treat it as such.  We will sleep much better knowing that Island Dreams is watching our beloved Rasmus!  They will come aboard weekly to inspect Rasmus, flush our watermaker, air out the boat and do a general check of the bilge, head and interior for anything amiss.  They have an online database where they will post pictures and notes so that, at any time, we can log on to see how our baby is doing.

Although we are only leaving our boat for a month, there is much we have to do to make sure she is safe, secure and does't smell like something died in her when we return (boats have a mysterious way of getting stinky when no one is aboard for a while).  People who are leaving their boats for longer must do more than the basics I outline here - but this is a good starting point.

Here are 10 things to prep your boat for an off-boat vacation:

1)  Remove all perishable food and garbage removal.  Just a few weeks ago I had an experience with rotten eggs.  I never understood how strong the gag reflex was until that moment.  I don't ever want to experience it again.  Eggs, cheese, butter, bread, fruit, veggies...all off the boat.  We will also keep the lid off the icebox for circulation.

2)  Pump out the holding tank.  Holding tanks are gross.  No matter what you do they smell bad and, if you leave them full, you are guaranteed to return to a very, very stinky head.  No bueno.  Ours is pumped out, rinsed, and then pumped out again.

3)  Close seacocks.  There are a surprising amount of holes in a boat.  Water intake, sink output, engine cooling, toilet intake...etc.  Seacocks, for those who do not know, are valves at the hull that can be shut off should a hose fail.  Because we are going to be gone it is in our best interest to close them.  That way we KNOW no water will come in through them.

4)  Polish stainless and wipe down all woodwork.  Rust is not our friend.  We have removed all rust from the topsides and polished it up.  In addition I have cleaned all exterior and interior woodwork with a mild vinegar solution (1/2 vinegar, 1/2 water) so that stays nice and pretty as well.

5)  Clean the boat, inside and out.  Who the heck likes coming back to a mess when you return from vacation?  Not me!  She'll be clean and tidy when we leave, and she'll be clean and tidy when we return.  This includes having the carpets cleaned and cleaning underneath all the floorboards.  Not fun to do in a stuffy boat when it's pushing 90 degrees outside, but we'll be glad we did.

6)  Flush watermaker.  Most people in this situation would pickle their watermaker, but - because we have Island Dreams looking after our boat - it is best to keep it as is and flush it once a week with fresh water to preserve the delicate reverse osmosis membrane.

7)  Disconnect shore power, turn off house/engine batteries.  Shut everything OFF.  That way, you have less of a risk of something shorting out and causing a fire and you will not return to an exorbitant power bill. Make sure to TEST the bilge pump before you leave.  This is VERY important.

8)  Lock up topside items, remove valuables from deck and dog down hatches.  They say that most thieves are normal people who saw an opportunity.  Remove the opportunity for those people who might just be tempted.  Put a lock on all valuables that cannot be put down below like jerry jugs, propane tanks, motors...etc.  In addition, we have removed our jack lines, doubled up dock lines, and will close all the curtains.

9)  Set a few ant/bug traps in various locations.  Bugs on boats = bad.  Though I don't like to kill things, I don't like an infestation more.  Nip those nasty pests in the bud.

10)  Dinghy on deck and outboard secured.  Although we really dislike our dinghy and will return to a new one (thanks to Island Water World!!), we need to take it out of the water (because it will certainly sink) and put it on deck.

Like I mentioned - if you are going to store your boat for much longer, and - depending on if you are in or out of the water and/or if you are in a cold or warm climate - your de-commissioning checklist will look different. You might need to do additional things to secure your boat including: removing the sails, removing the dodger, adding chafe gear, removing cushions...etc.  Check with your boat yard and do your homework!

While we are certainly going to miss our boat - we are so excited to visit friends and family and partake in two very awesome weddings!!  Plus, it's the peak of sailing season in Chicago right now so rest assured we'll get some time on the water!

Brittany & Scott

Friday, June 17, 2011

Do One Thing Every Day That Scares You

A typical, Grenada road*.
"Do one thing every day that scares you".  This is a nice quote.  It's simple, good advice to inspire people to get out of their daily grind.  Scared of swimming?  Sign up for swim lessons.  Scared of heights?  Head to a climbing gym.  Scared of singing?  Down few stiff drinks and hit a karaoke bar.  You get the idea.  I think breaking through boundaries is good.  Doing things that scare us teaches us things; we learn in the process that a) it wasn't so bad and b) I can do something I didn't think I could!

The other day I did something that scared me.  Granted, I didn't know it would scare me, but it scared me none the less.

The other day I rode a Grenadian bus.

First of all, let me tell you that the transportation system here is actually really good (from what I know so far).  The 'busses' run all the time, they are super cheap (less than $1.00 US for a ride), can get you just about anywhere, and they run on a high frequency.  Instead of busses as we know them, they consist of minivans that are packed to the gills with people.  Because they are run (I think) by the private sector, they are very efficient and eager to pick up as many people as they can as FAST as they can.

In order to continue this story I must confess something.  Back in the day, I was what some might consider a "crazy" driver.   I drove fast and I may or may not have been on a first name basis with a local police officer when I was in high school.  Once, in college, I was driving down an empty highway with my friend and we were going very, very fast.  I got pulled over.  The friendly officer came up to my window and asked:

Officer: Do you have any idea how fast you were going?
Me (meekly as a last ditch effort to project innocence):
He paused, jotting down a note and gave me a stern look right in the eye...
Officer: Technically, darlin', you were driving with intent to kill.


YES.  You read that correctly. "Driving with intent to kill".  That is actually a classification.  I had no idea either.  I was going something ridiculous like 60 miles over the speed limit.

Luckily, the officer liked me and took pity on me (knowing full well I was not, actually, driving "with intent to kill") and gave me a reckless driving charge instead.  My license was taken away for a while and I went to traffic school.  I learned a lesson and have since slowed down.

My point in telling you this story is to illustrate two points 1) I am not a scary cat behind the wheels and 2) the other day, our bus driver WAS driving with intent to kill*.  I have never been so terrified in a vehicle in my life.  This guy, I swear, had fire in his eyes.   The roads here, while paved, are only about a lane and a half wide and most have very deep gutters along the side.  Once you get up in the hills there are no sidewalks.  Because of this people, dogs, goats and parked cars line the side of the street making the road even narrower.  Combined with oncoming traffic and the fact that the roads here turn and wind like a formula one race track, you have one heck of a ride.  It is insane.

Every turn we took not only did we speed up, but it seemed there was always an innocent bystander walking along who it seemed certain our side mirrors would take out.  Every few seconds we were angrily jerked from one side of the bus to the other as our bat-out-of-hell driver made a turn.  There were even times I thought we were going to clip the corner of a house for crying out loud (some come right up to the road).  I'm fairly certain this guy didn't take his foot off the gas once despite descending inclines that would put San Francisco hills to shame. When most people would be riding the breaks, this guy had the pedal to the metal. I think we might have even gotten on two wheels during one hair pin turn but I cannot be sure.

You know that feeling you get in your tummy when you go down the first drop of a roller coaster?  Yeah.  We got that.  Several times. I don't know if this guy found out his wife was cheating on him or his favorite show got cancelled or what, but I felt compelled to shout "Look out!" to everyone in the street.  Scott and I sat in white knuckled silence as the world whizzed by; wincing each time we turned, gasping every time we had a near miss with a skipping school craziness.  It was the first time I have thought of my "driving with intent to kill" incident in a long time.

Obviously we survived.

But it scared the heck out of us.

I sure hope I don't meet a sociopath at the grocery store tomorrow.

* Photo courtesy of Lorrin Lee's photostream since I, obviously, could not take a picture.
**I have taken several other buses since and this, it seems, was a stand alone incident.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's Time to Give Back

If you wish to experience peace, provide peace for another.
- Dalai Lama

Long ago, when Scott and I were dreaming and scheming about this trip, we said that one of the things we would like to do would be to give back.  Because we have been moving so much this hasn't really been possible - but not anymore!  Now that we are going to call Grenada "home" for the next six months or so we have some time to pay it forward, as it were.

We have been incredibly lucky and fortunate throughout this trip - so many people have contributed to our cause, given us encouragement, kind words, inspiring emails...we have been kept out of harms way and been awed by outpouring of support from our fans and followers.  I have always, always believed that we are given two hands for a reason; one to help ourselves and the other to help another.  It is what we human beings crave; connection, companionship, compassion,

We chose the Queen Elizabeth Home for Children as our cause.  Not only do Scott and I love children - but I think there is nothing more devastating than a child to grow up feeling unwanted and unloved.  Children are so beautiful, innocent and so easily broken.  Far too many children are born into this world without a fighting chance - and it is organizations like the Queen Elizabeth Home for Children (QEHC) that really make a difference.  It's cliche but it is so true, children really are our future.

We visited the QEHC the other day and they were so grateful for our presence and support.  We were given a tour of their grounds and met with the lovely and regal Marion G. Pierre.  Marion is a force to be reckoned with.  Born in Grenada, she spent most of her life in the USA.  After graduating from Columbia University she went on to an illustrious marketing career with Chase bank and other firms where she climbed the corporate ladder.  She can name-drop with the best of them; her good friends range from international ambassadors to high profile business owners - her peers are all movers and shakers.  When she talks, you listen.  She is highly educated, incredibly well traveled and - most important - has a heart of gold.  When she moved back to Grenada about 8 years ago she became the Executive Trustee of the QEHC and has never looked back...

The home, right now, is undergoing a major expansion project that included more bathrooms, a new therapy room, a large play pavilion and more.  Because of the construction they can only hold 18 children but once completed they hope to house more.  Despite this - they are in dire need of funds.  Not only will Scott and I be donating our time to the home in the form of tutoring, playing with and reading to the children - we will be doing some fundraising for them as well.

The children of the home range in age between 2 and 10.  All are victims of some sort of abuse (sexual and physical) and have been removed from their homes by child protective services.  To hear some of these children's stories is not only heartbreaking but sickening and a powerful reminder of how wicked humans can be.  Our species has the ability to do so much good - and yet we are also capable of the most incredible evil.  The mind boggles.

Anyway - we had a wonderful afternoon meeting the children and playing with them for a bit before heading back to the boat.  My mind is overflowing with ideas on how we can help raise money and support and we are so excited to be able to give back.

This is just the beginning...

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Sailing on Someone Else's Boat

This past weekend was a holiday weekend here in Grenada which meant all the locals came out to play.  Lucky for us - our friend Danny brought his boat out to play in.  Savvy is a beautiful classic; a 40 ft wooden Petite Martinique sloop with a huge cockpit and an open deck plan perfect for packing a picnic, grabbing a bunch of friends, and enjoying the beauty of the shore and sea.  We set out on a last minute sunset cruise on Saturday night and enjoyed some wine and snacks and then set out for a full day of sailing and liming (remember?  the local phrase for hanging out) on Sunday aboard this beautiful sloop. We set out for Hog Island but a large squall deterred us so we anchored right off the most pristine and popular Grand Anse Beach.  Swimming, talking, snacking and napping was the order for the day.  We met some wonderful people and had a fabulous time...on someone else's boat!

Gotta say, it feels good not to have to be in charge!


Brittany & Scott

PS. If you would like to see photos of the day's sail - please visit Facebook photo album!!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Oh Sh** Moments

These are the moments where our hearts skip a beat, the moments when we realize we're in a little deeper than we liked or when we've bitten off more than we can chew.  This list will most certainly grow and change and we continue to cruise - but for now, here it is! Hopefully you can learn a thing or two from our mistakes, or - at the very least - laugh at our expense.  Enjoy!

1)  Our first overnight of the trip when we got caught, totally unprepared, in a gale that lasted over 12 hours. 
Lesson Learned?  Pay close attention to the weather and make sure you can properly interpret a weather map.  This will greatly reduce your chances of getting caught like we were.  The lessons we learned during this storm, however, were critical.

2)  When we hit a rock in the Erie Canal. 
Lesson Learned?  Do not cut the corner.  That buoy is there for a reason.

3) When we stepped into water in our boat in Lake Erie.
Lesson Learned?  No matter how good of a bilge pump you have - it always pays to check the bilge and test the pump from time to time to make sure it's working.

4)  When we pulled into the fuel dock in Annapolis and realized we hadn’t reeled in our fishing line and discovered it was sufficiently wrapped around the prop. 
Lesson Learned?  Do not forget to reel in that line before you come into a dock/mooring/anchorage.

5)  When our engine transmission died. 
Lesson learned?  Your engine won't just keep running if you don't monitor it.  Have a mechanic walk you through the various parts of your engine and how to check them, the oils, the belt....etc. 

6) When we were pinned to a dock in Beaufort, South Carolina and managed to get off anyway ( the skin of our teeth - this one still makes me shudder)
Lesson Learned?  Tides and their associated currents are real and they are dangerous.  If you are pinned to a dock, don't try to fight it - have a beer or take a walk and wait for slack tide.  The only reason we can tell this story is because we have a 53 hp engine.  No joke.

7)  When, in the Erie Canal, we flushed our toilet one too many times only to burst the top off of our holding tank and have the contents overflow into the locker and our bilge.
Lesson Learned?  Make sure you either a) can monitor the fullness of your holding tank or b) you know roughly how much waste it can hold.  When in doubt?  Pump it out!!

8) When, along the East Coast, we found ourselves in a Force 8 Gale with winds blowing a sustained 35 knots for hours. 
Lesson Learned?  The weather people lie.  If they tell you it's going to blow 15 knots, it might just blow 35 knots so it's always best to be prepared.  That - and the East Coast in November/December is gnarly!

9) When we realized the bottom of our dinghy was coming off.
Lesson Learned?  Invest in a decent dinghy (and outboard)!!!  This is the ONE area we completely overlooked and paid little attention to and we are suffering because of it (but, not for long - thanks to our new sponsor Island Water World!!).  Honestly, your dinghy is your freedom and we have been nothing but a slave to ours.

10) When, very early on, we realized during an overnight shakedown cruise (when our old engine surged and died) - that Scott had topped off our fuel tank with GASOLINE and not DIESEL.
Lesson Learned?  We were lucky.  We only topped off the tank with 5 gallons or so.  Much more and you can kill your engine.  Always double check that the attendant has handed you the fuel that you need (we always ask twice) and then smell it to be sure (diesel and gasoline smell different).

So, there you have it folks!  Our learning curve was steep, but looking at it in Top Ten form, it's not so bad, right?  


Brittany & Scott

Thank you to our avid follower and reader, Paul Ouellette for the inspiration for this post.  :)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Turtles, Saltfish and Liming - Oh my!

We weren't so lucky with the turtle sighting, but NatGeo is!
The other night as Scott and I were walking back from customs, Danny, the marketing director here at Port Louis Marina (our latest sponsor and home for the next few months) walked up to us and said, "My friends and I are going to the beach to see the turtles?  Want to join?"

The answer, obviously, was an unequivocal, resounding "yes!!".

We hopped in his open Land Rover (affectionately renamed JahRover - my kind of car!) and off we went.  Unfortunately, we didn't get very far as his beautiful beast wasn't running up to speed.  Luckily for us - his wise friends had seen this coming and brought a bigger car (we should have known when they yelled, "You're taking that?  Has it ever gone more than five miles?").  It was fun while it lasted.

The drive was magnificent and took us through lush, green hills, past sheer rock faces, along the coves of the coast and through vibrant little villages.  The contour of the land here is spectacular and the road dips, winds and hair-pin turns along the earth like roller coaster.

Apparently it's turtle season here and, if you are lucky, you will arrive at the beach where you will see the magnificent, ancient leatherbacks on shore quietly laying eggs or slowly retreating back to the water.  If you are really lucky you might even see baby hatchlings scooting down the beach as they follow their incredible, lunar-lead instincts to the ocean.  While males spend their lives at sea, the female returns to the beach where she was born to reproduce. The female's nesting ritual is arduous - after travelling over 7,000 miles during their "migration" period (the time it takes for them to reach sexual maturity), they mate at sea and journey back to the beach where they come ashore to lay their eighty or so eggs.   The nighttime ritual involves the females excavating a hole in the sand to lay their eggs in, leaving a large, disturbed patch of beach in their wake.

We arrived at the beach at 7:45pm under a waxing gibbous moon.  The six of us started walking along the shore, looking for signs of turtles.  While we did not see any turtles - we did see evidence of hatchlings everywhere.  Gaping holes in the sand peppered with the shell remains of baby leatherbacks were every hundred yards or so.  It was incredible to know that out of this nest, tiny turtles fought their way out of their paper-thin shells to begin their journey to the sea.  While didn't see the turtles themselves, we knew they were there.  This alone was beautiful.

We laid on the beach, listening to the waves lap up on shore, digging in the warm sand with our toes as we relaxed under the moonlit night.  The clouds zipped by under the moon's glow and the stars began to dot the sky around us.  After thirty minutes or so we all decided, "Lets eat!".

Back in the car we zipped along the windy road, again passing village after village.  It was Friday night and people were out en-masse having a good time.  Music playing, people liming (local term for "hanging out"), and vendors selling their catch in little stalls along the road.

Not my photo, but this is bake and saltfish
We eventually made it to "Fish Friday" in the town of Gouyave where, every Friday, they close off the main road and vendors set up stalls to sell everything fish.  It's incredible. Saltfish, mahi mahi, fish roti, fried fish, fish name it, they sell it.  Delicious aromas fill the air, music is pumping, and food is everywhere.  For less than $10 US you can get a meal for two.  I finally had 'saltfish and bake' which is a local dish that involves fried bread stuffed with a tuna-fish type filling.  It is delicious.

With full bellies and sleepy eyes, we made our way back to the boat.

We had heard that Grenada - or "spice island" as it is known - was 'special'.  So many cruisers, when they heard of our plans to remain here for hurricane season, told us that we would love it.  That is it different than the other islands.  That it is one of those places.

I think we agree.

Brittany & Scott

Sunday, June 12, 2011

We Have Arrived!

The sun is setting on this phase of the journey - but the fun has just begun!
After nine months of cruising, we have arrived to our "end" destination of sorts.  As I mentioned earlier, it is hurricane season in these parts and cruising around here pretty much comes to a halt as boats either go to the Mediterranean, go back home up North, or hole up in one of the "hurricane holes" down here.  While we are technically not out of the hurricane zone, Grenada is considered 'safe' by many insurance companies and we are far enough south to miss most of the action.  We hope.  If not, we have a contingency plan that will make sure Rasmus is safe and sound.

It feels so bizarre to be here.  On the one hand we are relieved because it means no more waking up at 5 am to ready anchor, no more racing against the clock, no more deadlines and timelines and overnight passages.  On the other hand, however, it feels odd.  Living like nomads has become our life, we love moving somewhere new every other day - and to imagine being in one place for five months - well, it seems almost impossible!  We will, of course, explore this exotic "Spice Island" and we plan to move around to check out different coves and anchorages - so we're not completely "stuck"!

Luckily for us we have a new sponsor in Port Louis Marina and they have made us feel right at home.  From their excellent staff to their personal warm welcome - we know we are right where we belong!  This marina is first rate and it shows in everything from the rain showers in the bathroom (yay!) to the private pool (double yay!).  Scott and Danny Donelson (the wonderful man in charge of marketing here) have also discovered a mutual love of tennis, mountain biking, triathlon and pretty much all things active.  I think they'll be good friends.  He has also offered us a personal tour of his beautiful island as well as a sail on his personal boat - so rest assured we'll tell you about that.

So - while we have reached the "destination" of this phase of our trip - we are by no means finished with the journey!  I have exciting plans to grow the blog, to grow Windtraveler and to keep you reading!

For now, thanks so much for your support, prayers, kind words, emails, advice, and loyalty!  It's been a pleasure to have you!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Incredible, Beautiful Dolphin Video

I told you all earlier on Facebook that we got the most amazing dolphin footage when we were off the coast of St. Lucia, right off the Pitons.  At first, we thought it was some sort of fish feeding frenzy - and you'll see by the video my excitement when I realize it's dolphins.  It was truly magical.  The sun was setting, the light was phenomenal, and they surrounded our boat with happiness.  I wrote a post about the magic of the dolphin when we first entered the ocean way back when in November.  Since then, we have met with countless dolphins and still they make our hearts sing every time they visit.  They truly are magic.  I can't even really describe it - but I 100% believe they are 'elevated' beings.  Maybe this video will give you the idea.  While I am by no means a videographer (and please excuse the excited squeals and babble) I think I captured them pretty well.  And the scenery?  Amazing.  Enjoy!


Brittany & Scott

Friday, June 10, 2011

What to Pack?

I would not consider myself a “good packer”. Despite having backpacked through Europe, South East Asia, and Argentina...despite having lived abroad in Rome and Africa...despite having taken countless vacations from Ibiza to Yellowstone... despite all this - I would still consider myself a terrible packer. 

When we were preparing for this trip I did a lot of thinking about what to pack. It was a little trickier for us because we were leaving the Midwest on the brink of winter, so we needed cold weather clothes, but we were headed to the Caribbean, which meant we needed warm (nay, HOT) weather clothes as well.  Luckily for us, my parents met us for Thanksgiving in North Carolina and we off-loaded a bunch of bulky winter clothes that we no longer needed with them. 

The issue is real estate; on a boat you have very little room for clothes - there are no dressers or closets, no armoires or under bed storage boxes,  in fact - each of mine and Scott's wardrobes fit compactly on two shelves that measure six feet long by eleven inches tall that run along either side of our v-berth.  Go ahead, measure that out and try to see how much of your closet you fit in that space.  Keeping this in mind, clothes should not only serve multiple purposes - but they should be able to pack very small and compact.

If you are preparing for a trip like this, mark my words. You will overpack. I think it might be impossible not to. But, in an effort to help you out - here are some tips from yours truly and what works for me (and may or may not work for you): 

1)  Say bye bye to cotton - something I read before we set sail told me that “cotton is your friend”. Those people were lying.  I am here to tell you that it is NOT your friend. It is, quite possibly, the worst hot weather fabric I have found. Once it’s wet, it stays wet; it’s heavy, hot and - in general - anything that I brought that is 100% cotton is not used. Instead, we love wicking fabrics. Luckily for us - we are both former athletes and yogis who had a ton of this stuff. A few brands I love? Lululemon, Athleta, Moosejaw and Patagonia.  I should mention that Scott lives in cotton tee shirts, and I have no idea how.

2) Skirts are better than shorts (for girls, that is).  I love, love, LOVE these skirts from Columbia (I have the black and the turquoise). They are comfortable, not restrictive and dry up a bad case of “dinghy butt” really fast. Plus, they look cute and have built-in underwear which means a) no Paris Hilton flashing moments and b) one less piece of laundry you have to do. They can be hand washed and dried in no time and are about as low maintenance as a bikini. I also have a lot of shorts (about 10 pairs in total), I love this particular style from Lululemon and wear them almost daily (I have 4 pairs - they also have built in underwear). I should make note that Scott and I have not worn a single pair of pants since the Bahamas - but you should probably bring a couple of pairs, just in case.  When we are sailing overnight I do wear yoga pants or leggings and I have found those to be worth their space on the boat.

3) Shoes.  I packed about 10 pairs of shoes from my rubber sailing boots (worn: only on the east coast in winter), to my sailing shoes (worn: never), to fancy flip flops (worn: twice) to my Havaianas (worn: every single day). In the past three months all I have worn are my Havaianas. They are amazing. Not only are they cheap, but they are 100% rubber and do not absorb water (when you are stepping in and out of a wet dinghy, for example) like the foamy Reefs do. When a shoe absorbs water (particularly salt water) it is not good. We learned this lesson when we thought something had died in our boat and learned that it was just Scott’s Reefs. Disgusting. Scott now wears Havaianas. They can be worn every day, day after day, and will never smell. You will also definitely want one pair of (comfortable, broken in) hiking shoes or hiking sandals. I have these Chacos and they work well for me. 

4) Bathing suits.  We live in these. I brought about 5 and am constantly pining for more. But 5 is probably plenty. I try to wear a different one every day so as to avoid hard-core tan lines. Scott, unfortunately, brought only 2 pairs of board shorts and also wishes he brought a couple more.

5) Foul weather gear. Though we have not used this since the east coast, it’s probably good to have on board. If you plan on staying in the Caribbean, however,  I wouldn’t say it is necessary so if you don’t already own it, do not run out and spend $500 on a set*. Instead, invest in a good, light-weight rain parka. You will get MUCH more use out of that. I have this one and it’s great, it folds up, it’s easy to carry and keeps me dry. For really wet days we’ll throw light-weight rain pants on over our shorts as well. 

6) Nice outfits. Though it is rare, there has been the occasional time when we need to dress up. Scott and I did not prepare for this before we left and when we were invited to the South Carolina Yacht Club we actually had to go to the Gap outlet and buy khakis. I would have at least 2 easy “nice” outfits on hand for those rare occasions. It also helps to wear a nice outfit when you go to customs to clear in (not fancy, just presentable). For women, a skirt and a nice dress or two, for men, khakis and a couple of polos. That should cover it - unless, of course, you are of the jet-setting variety and plan on wining and dining with the creme de la creme...if that is the case, I cannot help you.

7) Sun protection. While we love the sun and our golden hues, it should be treated with respect. When you see what the sun has done to some of the fabrics/materials on our boat - you’d shudder to think what it is doing to your skin.  We cover up every day with SPF 30-50 and wear sunglasses and hats for extra protection. Make sure to bring spares of these as well because you will lose them.  Another great piece of clothing?  A sarong.  It makes a great beach towel (super light, dries fast, doesn't absorb sand), takes up almost no room, and it's great to wrap yourself in post shower to cool down.  Scott and I each have one.

8) Work Clothes. As you all know full well by now, cruising is nothing more than "doing boat work in exotic locations" so be sure to have at least one shoddy outfit that you wouldn’t mind getting bleached, stained, caulked and torn. 

9) Layers. On the rare occasion that it gets cool in the evening (or, more likely, you are in an uber-air conditioned internet cafe or something) you’ll want a long sleeve shirt. I have about 6. I really love my Lululemon jackets (I have 5 and they were great for the cooler weather in the Bahamas) but they are a little heavier than I’d like down here - so when I just need something light I wear my Nike dry fit shirt. I love it and again, it's self wicking, light, and doesn't stay wet.

10) The magical tank top with built in bra. Luckily for me I am not well endowed. I despise wearing a bra and, when you’re in weather that is pushing 90 degrees with high humidity, they are soooo uncomfortable.  TMI?  Sorry - but you asked, and I'm telling.  Tanks with built in bras are the way to go.  Though they do not have the built in bra - I wear these Lululemon tanks pretty much every single day (have about 8 in total, they are amazing) and love them to no end.

In addition, we keep all of our clothes in oversized ziplock bags labeled "tee shirts", "long sleeve shirts", "underwear"...etc.  The bags are great because they not only keep clothes dry from dampness and rogue waves, but if you stick a dryer sheet in them, they keep them smelling nice and fresh as well.

In my opinion packing is an art.  You have to learn what works for you.  It's going to be very hard to take your wardrobe and cut it by 80-90%.  You will question every shoe, scarf, tank and tee.  I don't know your particular style - but me?  I don't wear jewelry and I don't dress up much.  I like to look nice, I like flattering, functional clothes and I like bright colors.  Your style might (and most likely does) differ from mine.  You'll figure it out though.  Just lay it out and start making piles.

What do I wish I had more of?  Not much - but I am really liking these dresses from Athleta and think I might buy one or two for next season...  

*It might be that we haven't used our foul weather gear because we have a totally en-closable cockpit so we are totally out of the elements.  If you're cockpit is not 100% protected you might need more gear than we do.

Note:  I did not suggest any of these brands based on sponsorship and I have not been compensated in any way for recommending them.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Fish Tales

Fishing. When we began our trip we had dreams of all the fresh fish we would eat. Tuna, mahi, grouper, snapper...the bounty of the sea would sustain us. We would drop a lure in the water, fish would bite it, we’d reel them in, slap them on the grill and enjoy a free feast from the sea. We laughed that we’d get sick of fish...dreamed of the gazillions of ways to cook fish.  We bought the filet knife, the cutting board, the net, the gaff, the gloves... Lures and poles were donated to us as gifts. We were ready to slay the beasts of the sea.

At least, that’s what we thought.

Unfortunately, that is not the reality.

The last notable fish we caught (and ate) was the mahi mahi we got back in the Bahamas, which seems a lifetime ago. This is not for lack of trying, mind you. We throw a line out pretty much every day. We try all sorts of lures from the cedar plug to the squid to the skirt. At anchor Scott even throws out the cuban yoyo. You know what we have caught in the last two months?

Nada. Zip. Zilch.

Well, except for seaweed, that is. Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to hear the tell-tale vvvvvvvvzzzzzzzzzzzzz of the line only to reel in a chunk of seaweed? Once - no big deal. But when it happens over, and over, and over again, you might just look up at the sky, lure in hand, shake your fists at the sky and cry “Whyyyyyyyyy???!!!!”. You get a little loopy.

We’re beginning to think we are doing something wrong.

Do you have any idea how complicated fishing can be?! Do you have any idea how many lures there are?  Jigs, skirts, plugs, spoons, flies and squids...there are swimmers, divers, and surface trollers...And that’s just the beginning! Go into a fishing store and prepare to have your mind blown. Gone are the days where you rigged your Snoopy pole with an earthworm on a hook and pulled out a perch. Nope. Nowadays you actually need to put on a "ballyhoo" with a "skirt" (at least that is what one angler swears by) to get a nibble. Who would have thought that the best lure to catch a fish is another (fake) fish wearing a skirt?! Crazy.

Don’t get me wrong - we have caught a mahi, a skipjack, a tunney, a spanish mackerel and a barracuda - but if we were playing baseball, we’d be in the tee-ball league. Our batting average is that low. We get bites too. The other day Scott reeled in the cedar plug and pulled a tooth out of the dang thing. A teeny tiny sharp-as-a-knife tooth. From a fish. Imbedded in the plug like a splinter. All of our lures, in fact, have the tell-tale dings and gashes of a fish bite - we just haven’t hooked them. So we keep throwing lines back out...

I read somewhere that a woman’s spit on a lure is good luck, so Scott just tossed out the cedar plug with a wad of my saliva on it. How appetizing. Can’t wait to see what we catch...


Brittany & Scott

Post Script:  My spit did not work.  Sigh.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Just a little view for you...

...and I think to myself, what a wonderful world...

Brittany & Scott

Image taken at the Ladera Resort

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Falling Apart at the Seams

Something was wrong with our dinghy.  Very wrong.  Every time we got in it we had to pump out at least three inches of water and by the time we got to our destination (usually no farther than a 5 minute ride - we've never *really* trusted her) we would be ankle deep in seawater.  Luckily, we have this handy little pump which is incredibly efficient (and arm toning all in one!) at removing water.

We've been going along like this for months.  Scott tried to silicone the bottom back in the Bahamas (on the recommendation from the man we bought it from), but it did little to quell the flow.  We knew the leaking problem was getting worse, but neither Scott nor I really wanted to address it.  We happily kept pumping like mad, accepting the ritual as normal, and joking ourselves into thinking this was something we could live with.  It wasn't that bad, after all (yes, it was).

"How's the dinghy look?" Scott would yell from down below as I gingerly moved in the sloshing mess to get to the pump.

"Ya know...not so bad...I think maybe it rained more than we thought last night",  I'd reply with a hopeful, feigned smile - knowing full well that I was lying to myself as I vigorously pumped out six inches of water.

We tap danced around our little dinghy issue like this until the other day when Scott and I were swimming in the water.  We were floating along in the midday sun, enjoying our recently purchased foam noodles and having doggy paddle races (don't knock 'em till you try 'em!), when Scott caught a glimpse of a flap hanging off the bottom of the dinghy.  He swam over to investigate.

"Uh...Britt.." he said as he cautiously lifted the flap, "I can see through to the other side".  I extricated myself from my comfy noodle position and swam over.  It was true.  We had a giant hole.  Right in the bottom of our dinghy.  So that was where all that water had been coming from!  We both spontaneously smiled (even chuckled!) at the relief of knowing where the heck all the water had been coming from - mystery solved! - and then groaned at the realization that it was a much, much bigger problem than we thought.

Adding insult to injury Scott added, "Oh...and the pontoons are leaking" - he splashed a little water on an old patch to show me where the precious air was evacuating, "see?"  I put my ear to where he indicated and sure enough, I heard the telltale "ffffffffffffsssssssssssss" of a pinhole leak.


You know you're dinghy has had it when it's the first thing you check when you wake up in the morning.  Not because you think it might have been stolen, but because you think it might have sunk.

We took our boat out of the water the other day to assess the damage and discovered, much to our dismay, that the bottom of the dinghy is just a party barge's wake away from peeling completely off.  Our dinghy is literally falling apart at the seams!

Luckily for us we a) can laugh at this (because, looking back on all the dinghy rides where our feet were submerged, it *is* pretty funny) and b) we are very close to our "end" destination of Grenada where we will be at a marina for at least a month and where we will be able to buy a new dinghy*.


Scott and I are literally having conversations nowadays that sound like this:
"Oh my god - you know how great life will be when we get a RIB?"
"The possibilities will be endless..."
"No more soaking wet feet!!"
"We'll be able to put things on the floor!"...
"What will we do with all the time saved not pumping out water?!"
"Imagine not having to worry every morning that it has sunk!"
"We can go more than a half mile away!"
"Hard bottom!"...
"Planing hull!"...

At least we have something to look forward to!

Brittany & Scott

*Right now we are looking at either this dinghy or this dinghy.  And before you tell us to get a bigger one - please keep in mind it will not fit on our bow!

Monday, June 06, 2011

Beach Boys

Our favorite 'beach boy' - Syricus who toured us around St. Lucia
No, I am not talking about the plucky surfer boys from California who had a penchant for harmonizing...I am referring to boys who work the beach down here.

...And everything else between your boat and land.

When a boat sails or motors into an anchorage - it sticks out like a sore thumb (or, more likely, a big glowing dollar sign on the water).  There is no avoiding these guys - they spot you a mile away and you'll hear their engines revving long before you see them.  As soon as you enter the harbor they pull up alongside you in their pirougues and dive into their well rehearsed spiels.  There is nowhere to run and nowhere to hide.

"Yeah mon.  Welcome to paradise! How is it?  Good?  I have mooring for you.  Local price.  Real cheap.  Follow me..."  all of this is rattled off with nary a word from Scott or I.

"Thanks man, it's okay - we're just going to go ahead and anchor.  We're broke.  We don't need a mooring, but thanks." Scott counters.

We smile, we nod, we wave thanks and goodbye.  It's awkward.  Not because we said no - but because after we say no they stay right alongside the boat, continuing to pitch their "services" with sales skills that would impress even Ari Gold.

It doesn't stop there.  Once we finally do anchor and settle in, they start rowing up from all directions.  Some on old patched-up kayaks, some on derelict surfboards, a few in wooden boats and a lucky one or two in fancy RIB inflatables.  Some come up singing, some whistling, some as silent as Viet Kong whose presence you don't know until they're right there alongside your boat and whistle up at you.  They sell bananas, mangoes, pineapples, vegetables, straw baskets, jewelry, and just about everything in between.

We buy things when we genuinely need them - if we gave in and bought something each time we were pitched by a beach/boat boy, we'd be broke.  Unfortunately, some of these guys get really agressive when you give them a friendly "no thanks".  The other day, when we didn't by one menacing fellow's bananas after a few minutes of fruitless persuasion (like that?), he paddled away mumbling and cussing angrily while glaring back at us with a look that harbored in it so much hate we were uncertain whether to leave the boat for dinner (we did, figuring an old, probably schizophrenic dude on a mangled surfboard was probably not too big a threat).

The majority of these "beach boys", however, are wonderful, kind and just trying to make a buck.  If you chat with them, hold your ground, and be friendly - most will paddle off with a nod and a smile.  Some you might even befriend -  our buddy Syricus - who we met at a karaoke bar* in Rodney Bay, ended up taking us on a guided tour of this beautiful island the next morning.  He and his dreadlocked friend, Future, drove us all around, to waterfalls and mud baths, for a song.  It was authentic and it was awesome.  Check our Facebook page for pics.

Down here it is virtually impossible to avoid these wily salesmen - they are at the dinghy dock ready to grab your line (and take it anyway when you tell them no, after which they tell you they are in 'charge' of the dock and will watch your boat for you), they are on the street ready to take you to the "best" restaurant (where they obviously get a finders fee) and they are always there - waiting, hovering and ready to pounce on your every need (or non-need for that matter).  For the most part - their attitudes and services are genuine and, if you give them a chance, they might even teach you a thing or two.

As someone who previously made a living recruiting and hiring sales people - I am impressed by the consistency and dogged persistence with which these guys work.  If I could have had a dozen of them hitting the phones for my clients, I could have made a killing!  For now, I am learning the art of the tactful no and developing LOTS of "allergies"!



Brittany & Scott

* TOTALLY obsessed with karaoke.  I know most people think it was invented by the devil but I love singing my heart out when you can't flub up the words.  I can't get enough of it.
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