Saturday, April 30, 2011

Smooth Sailing...



If everything is smooth sailing right from the beginning, we cannot become people of substance and character. By surmounting paining setbacks and obstacles, we can create a brilliant history of triumph that will shine forever. That is what makes life so exciting and enjoyable. In any field of endeavor, those who overcome hardships and grow as human beings are advancing towards success and victory in life. 
- Daisaku Ikeda

A nice reminder that sometimes, it's the bumps in the road that make life interesting.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Friday, April 29, 2011

Passage Making


A lot of you wonder what we do when we sail from place to place.  It's not so much what we do when we are sailing, but what we do before we set sail.  A lot of our preparation has to do with the length of the journey (anywhere from 6 to 48 hours, so far) but in general, we adhere to standard procedures that have become almost second nature to us.   Our next passage will, mostly likely, be a long one (48+ hours) - so we will prepare in the following ways:

1.  We check the weather:  Weather is the single most important aspect of passage making.  We learned this lesson the hard way.  It can, literally, make or break your trip.  If you plan on doing a passage that is 24 hours or longer - it becomes even more critical that you find an adequate "weather window", or a few days of decent seas and favorable winds, in which to move.  We get our weather a variety of ways - via websites (when we have internet), and through our SSB (single side band long range radio) where we are able to download detailed weather maps or "Grib" files and interpret them.  Thanks to our latest sponsor, Chris Parker of the Marine Weather Center, this is going to be much easier for us now!

2.  We prepare meals:  Even the slightest wave action can make cooking down below a real chore, so prior to weighing anchor, I create a meal plan and get everything ready.  I chop the vegetables, cook the rice, get snack foods handy and try to get meals arranged to that all I need to do is warm them up over the stove.  Not having to chop, rinse, clean, get ingredients, open cupboards and lift seat cushions makes life at a 20 degree angle while pounding into a head sea much more pleasant.  I boil water and fill our thermos so we always have hot water available for tea and I pull out a few Red Bulls so that they are within arms reach.  Popcorn has become a recent snack of choice, so we'll make this as well.

3.  We spot check the boat:  Prior to leaving on any passage, we go through the entire boat and check the gear.  We check lines for chafe, we inspect our shrouds and chainplates for any cracks or loose cotter pins, our boom vang fittings and shackles for any wear and tear...The sea is an unforgiving place and if you don't monitor your gear it can (and most likely will) fail you when you need it most.  Hearing a "snap" in the middle of the night in the pitch black darkness is not something we want to experience.

4.  We spot check the engine:  After having transmission problems back in the beginning of our trip, Scott and I have become pretty ridiculous about maintaining our engine.  Before every passage we check the transmission fluid and the oil, check the belt tension and coolant and generally, just investigate our pretty iron jenny for anything that looks amiss.  We are sticklers about regularly scheduled maintenance and perform all the required oil and filter changes as needed.  While we are a sailboat, our 53 hp engine is one of our greatest safety features.

5.  We ready the inside of the boat:  Because we are going "the wrong way" south we are, more often than not, pounding into some pretty serious waves that can be anywhere from five to twelve feet.  While our boat can handle this no problem, we need to make sure all her insides can as well.  We are very good about keeping our boat "ship shape" most of the time anyway, but prior to leaving we make sure that nothing below can become a projectile; we stow all our loose gear and make our home nice and tidy so nothing crashes, falls and/or breaks.  Cleaning up a pound of flour that has found its way from the counter to the floor, for example, would be hell underway.

6.  We make sure all our head lamps and spotlights are charged:  As much as I don't enjoy pointing out the blatantly obvious, night sailing is very dark.  Unless there is a full moon, typically you can see nothing beyond the bow of your boat.  Lights are necessary to see what is around you and check the sail trim.  We have two very powerful LED spotlights that we use (one is back-up) and we have learned (also the hard way) that we must make sure they are charged prior to leaving.  I also make sure our personal head lamps have batteries and are good to go.

7.  Lay out all necessary clothing:  You may or may not have gathered that getting items from down below while underway can be difficult.  It is for this reason we try to have everything out that we will need.  We ready our foul weather gear and have a few layers of clothes handy.  Typically, we won't change clothes the entire time we are out - but we will add or remove layers.  This makes the shower upon arrival all the more gratifying.  Sigh.

8.  Prepare the lee cloths:  On our boat we have what are called "lee cloths" or swaths of fabric that you can clip up alongside a bunk so that you don't roll out of bed when the boat is at an angle.  We have several good sea berths on the boat, and depending on our point of sail - I will set up that bunk so that whom ever is "off watch" can easily climb in and hit the hay.

9.  Get out safety gear:  Our jack-lines (webbed lines that run from the front to the back of the boat, on either side, onto which we "clip in" whenever one of us goes forward of the cockpit) are always run, so all we need to do is get out our inflatable PFD's (life jackets) and tethers (we use these).  We wear our PFD's without exception during night sailing.  Each of them have a harness, a whistle, as well as a mini strobe light.

10.  Secure the dinghy and dinghy motor:  Trailing a dinghy behind the boat is not a very wise thing to do when passage making, so we raise ours onto the davits and secure it with a web of ratchet straps and lines for minor passages - for longer passages, however, (like an ocean crossing) - we will deflate it and bring it on deck.  In addition, we remove our outboard and lash it to a motor mount on our push-pit so that it won't go anywhere either.

11.  Get rest:  Long passages can be very, very tiring for two people.  Scott and I maintain a three hour watch schedule at all times, meaning someone is on deck and "on watch" 24 hours a day - for three hours at a time.  This sort of schedule, despite what it might seem, is very exhausting, so Scott and I try to get as much rest as possible before setting off.  We also mentally prepare ourselves for how ever long our passage will be.  There is nothing worse than thinking you are shoving off on a "three hour tour" only to end up bashing to windward for two days.  Ask Gilligan, mental prep is key.

The theme here is preparation.  You must always be ready for anything when heading out to sea.  Making sure we have all of the above taken care of prior to leaving means we are better equipped if and when the unexpected rears it's (usually ugly) head.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Motorcycle Diaries


Many people make the analogy that a dinghy is like the family car - and it is.  It just can't take you past the shore.  From there you walk, you bike, you take busses and taxis - OR - if you are like us...you rent a motorcycle.

The motorcycle is the primary mode of transportation in Luperon; they zip here and there, dodging pot holes and kicking up dust.  It is not unusual to see a family of 5 on one bike.  Babies in the front, dad in the middle, child and mamma on the back.  This is completely normal and accepted.  They are everywhere.

Scott (who has his motorcycle endorsement and has been riding since he was 10) has wanted to rent one since we arrived - but the timing just wasn't right.  Until this morning, that is, when - out of the blue and unprovoked - a guy approached us and offered us the use of his bike for half the day for 300 pesos.  We figured it was a sign.  It was definitely not on our "agenda" for the day, we had just come ashore to do a little laundry and pick up some produce, but we looked at each other, shrugged and figured "why not?".  We hopped on and away we went.  No map.  No plan.  Just took off.

I now understand why people tour on motorcycles.  There is something so exhilarating about seing the world from a bike - out in the open air with just open road in front of you.  It must be something with the feeling of wind in your hair and the sun on your skin- because riding a motorcycle - like sailing - is just so...freeing, almost meditative.  We zipped along wide open roads where we were greeted by smiling, waving children and cattle grazing lazily along the shoulder.  We passed village after village, each no longer than a city block.  The modest little homes, with their brightly colored paint jobs in hues of pink, blue and yellow stood in stark contrast to the green, rolling hills in the background.  Their beautifully maintained little yards, full of bright red bougainvillea and tropical flowers alongside humble, manicured gardens where they cultivate their produce.  We whizzed up hills, through valleys and all the while - beautiful panoramas filled our eyes as aromas filled our senses:  freshly cut grass,  fragrant plumeria, burning garbage and simmering food.  We saw so much from the back of that bike:  Donkeys, horses, and a man taking siesta under a tree...women cooking in an outdoor kitchen, butterflies, birds and a farmer tending to his crop with a machete...children playing tag, a young lady washing her friend's hair, an old woman gazing out her window and a hefty shopkeeper laughing with her patron...every day life going on as we passed through.

Che Guevara definitely had the right idea;  there is something, someone inside everyone that longs for the open road...to feel the wind in their hair and the sun on their face and to move forward towards a destination unknown.  To be completely, and utterly free...

"..we understood that our vocation, our true vocation, was to move for eternity along the roads and seas of the world. Always curious, looking into everything that came before our eyes, sniffing out each corner but only very faintly – not setting down roots in any land or staying long enough to see the substratum of things; the outer limits would suffice."
- Ernesto "Che" Guevara, The Motorcycle Diaries


Love,

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Going to Market


I love farmers' markets.  There is something so refreshing about buying produce, all dirty and imperfect, directly from the source.  This particular market was small - but the people here were lovely.  They simply gave you a plastic bag and you selected what you wanted - every now and then one of them would grab a particularly nice piece of produce and thrust it into your hand with a beaming smile as if to say: "This one is the best!".  I am constantly amazed by the kindness and generosity of the Dominican people - and the deliciousness of their produce.  For the first time in ages we ate delicious, sweet, juicy pineapple for breakfast...and not from a can!  Heaven.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bigger, Faster, Stronger


A lot of people ask us if we'd like a bigger boat.

While our boat is by far not the smallest boat we've seen on our trip, it is by no means the largest either.  When guests come aboard for the first time they often say with a cocked head, "It's... cozy".  "Cozy" being a really cute word for "small".  We don't begrudge this term - because it's true.  Our boat is cozy.  It's packed neatly and tightly, it's tidy and homey, and there is nary a space unused.  To use a phrase made famous by my British mum - you could not, quite literally, "swing a cat" in our boat.  A kitten, perhaps.  But definitely not a cat.

Despite this fact, we have actually never lamented that we want a bigger boat.  We've talked about how we would like to add another solar panel, maybe install a wind generator, and -in general - dreamt up ways to make her work better (and more efficiently) for us - but we've never wished for bigger.  The bottom line is the simple fact that she works for us.  We have no need for more space.  Could we use it?  Sure.  Would another locker be helpful?  Of course.  But, as cruisers, we are not living in a world where more is better.  We live in a world where less is more.  A bigger boat, to us means more expenses, more potential problems, and - more importantly - more space to put more stuff (i.e. "crap").

We've met a lot of cruisers who are always on the hunt for their next boat, forever dreaming of something bigger, something better.  Maybe we just got lucky with our Rasmus?  Maybe, like Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade, we chose wisely?  It's no secret that our boat has served us incredibly well.  The work we put into her, her sailing performance, her beauty, her bones, her pedigree and heritage all combine to make her exactly what we need.  A bigger boat just isn't in the budget for us (at least not in the foreseeable future) - so we remain happy with what we have.

After all, don't they say happiness is not having what you want, but wanting what you have?

If that is the case, we're right where we need to be.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

PS.  Any would-be cruisers looking for a boat like ours - you are in luck!  There is a sister ship to Rasmus for sale in Traverse City, MI.  Check her out!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Traveler vs. Tourist

Broken down in a little village in Southern Tanzania.  Just another adventure! Photo circa 2007.
One of the greatest gift of cruising to a place via sailboat is the fact that you are - almost always - viewed as a traveler, and not a tourist.  The other night our new friend Dee made this distinction - and I thought it interesting enough to share...

What's the difference?

The tourist can be found at the all-inclusive resort.  The traveler will be found at the local coffe shop.  The tourist will emerge from an air-conditioned tour bus where they will frantically snap a bunch of photos and rush back into the bus to head to the next site.  The traveler will be jam-packed into public transportation, potentially alongside live animals and might even have someone else's child thrust into their arms...

The tourist will only eat at the 'white' establishments deemed "safe" by their resort.  The traveler will dine on local cuisine, in local cafeterias among local people (Montezuma be damned!).  The tourist complains in a nasally voice that no one speaks English.  The traveler tries to communicate in the local dialect (mostly unsuccessfully (wince) - but not for want of trying!)...

The tourist bounces from trinket shop to trinket shop buying shell boxes, woven wallets, and little shot glasses that say "Viva la ____" while the traveler collects momentos from the beach or from the locals' whom they have befriended.  The tourist has a detailed agenda and schedule, the traveler has intentions and flexible plans...

What the tourist despises, the traveler loves:  Broken down busses, roadside riots, sudden strikes, flat tires, wrong turns, flash floods, taking the wrong train to the wrong town (whoopsie!)..etc...  To the tourist these are major inconveniences (even catastrophes) - to the traveler they are recipes for adventure...

Where the tourist sees an obstacle, the traveler sees an opportunity...
Where the tourist sees dirt and disgust, the traveler sees a simple beauty...

The difference is in the mindset.  The traveler seeks to learn more about the world around him, whereas the tourist is looking for an escape.  The traveler tries to understand a new culture, the tourist prefers to see only what is appealing...

For the traveler - it's the journey that counts, for the tourist it's the destination...

While both Scott and I have had moments where we have been both tourists and travelers - we have learned that being a traveler provides a much richer experience.  Locals have more respect for you, they're more likely to view you as equals and see you as people and not just dollar signs.  Yesterday I hitched a ride to shore on a local fishing boat who's friendship we have made here in Luperon;  I offered him a few pesos as a "thank you".  He simply looked at me with a beaming smile, closed my fingers over my open palm and said, "I like you more than I like money".

You won't be hearing that at the local Sandals resort.

The traveler sees what he sees.  
The tourist sees what he has come to see.  
~G.K. Chesterton

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Wine Crisis!


Well, it happend.  We never thought it would.  We thought we had prepared.  We didn't want to admit that this day was going to come sooner than we thought...

We have run out of wine.

Looks like we're going to be drinking a lot more rum until we can re-provision.

Sigh.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Change of Pace and...CHOICES?!

Not too many choices here!
I mentioned previously that a change of pace was a good thing - and it is - but we are now learning that it can also be a bad thing (there's that whole yin/yang theme again!).  Up until now, we have only been experiencing tiny islands with little more to offer than simple, natural beauty, walks on the beach and snorkeling.  Our days were filled with reading in the sun, a dip in the water, and maybe - if we were feeling ambitious - a walk on the beach.  All in all, we've lived a pretty lazy existence.  Suddenly, we find ourselves in the land of excursions.  Gone are the vast beach vistas and crystal clear water.  We are now in a mangrove harbor where we cannot swim (the water here is, famously, disgusting) full of other boats in a place where the land is the main draw.  There are actual tour operators here.  Tour operators!  You can hike, bike, white-water raft, visit other cities, rent motorcycles, share cars, go to museums, join organized tours and who knows what else.  Suddenly we feel like we need to be doing something, save we waste precious time.  It reminds me of Chicago in the summer;  so short, so fleeting (I mean, you can usually count the really good weekends on two hands) and once it arrives everyone is in a tizzy of planning - you feel guilty if you don't "take advantage" of every. single. day.  Your summer weekend calendar is full before Memorial day.  That is just insane.

In thinking about this I am realizing it has to do with choices.  When my sister and I were younger and lamenting what to be when we grew up over cups of tea at the table, my mother used to shake her head at us in wonderment, "I don't envy you girls nowadays...you have so many choices ahead of you!  When I was your age, I could either be a mother or a secretary.  That was it.  There just weren't all these choices to make."  She's right (aren't' they always?).  There is something I don't know...easy about having just a few choices.  When we were in the islands; we could either a) walk on the beach b) snorkel c) go swimming.  That was about it.  Now, there are so many choices that we actually have to do research to find out what it is we actually want to do.  It's actually a little exhausting.  Anyone who doesn't catch my drift here need only go shopping for a box of cereal in an American grocery store.  It, too, is insane.

Don't get me wrong - I am not complaining or saying that having choices is a bad thing.  Having choices separates the have's from the have not's. But I am saying that life was just a little more simple without so many of them.  And we are learning that we like simple.

PS.  I do not want to imply that we are not enjoying ourselves here - because we are LOVING it.  I am just making an observation, as I so often do ;).

PPS.  If you want to see all the fun we have been having - go check out all our pictures on Facebook!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Perspective


A reader told me that this place is often referred to a 'giant, outdoor, insane asylum'.  I'm not sure why - but this lifestyle does tend to breed some, shall we say, interesting characters.  Perhaps it's the fact that we are constantly living on the edge, perhaps it's all those night watches - sailing alone with nothing other than your thoughts to keep you company, perhaps it's just the spirit of the sea that gets into your soul and jumbles things around a bit...who knows?  But a significant portion of the people we have met here could have stepped right out of a Hunter S. Thompson novel.  In fact, I am beginning to think that if   Hunter S. (one of my most favorite authors) had been a cruiser he may not have put a rifle to his head, but that is beside the point...

Our first day in we met one young, we'll call him Johann, who - after seeing me give our friend's hugs - asked if we were giving out free hugs and could he have one?  We laughed.  We got to talking to him and it was then that I took him all in and noticed the odd fact that he was dressed very much like a pirate.  Bandana on his head, rolled up jeans, a skull and cross bones belt buckle, one earring, shark tooth necklace, rings adorning his fingers...the whole bit.  Heck, this guy even talked like a pirate in a sort of sing-song patois accent.  We asked him how long he'd been here and all that, and that is when he told us his story...

He has never sailed a day in his life, has lived in Jamaica for the past five years, just bought a 44 foot sailboat and decided that he's going to sail it - alone - back to Jamaica.  Over the course of a week.

"Really?!" we ask disbelievingly, "Alone?!"

"Yeah mon!" he said with a chuckle, "I got a book.  I figure it out." He shrugs casually. Wow, I think,  This guy's got moxie!

None of us are the types to go shattering people's dreams, so we give him a little advice on making sure to pay very close attention to weather and part ways.

We ruminate on his situation a bit, shaking our heads and thinking "rather him than me!" and duck into Steve's bar for a drink.

We met Johann again today - and he mentions to me that he's got to go home for a few days, to get some "treatments".  Turns out Johann has colon cancer and "probably other cancers" all over his body.  He goes through his wallet and shows us a picture of him taken a year ago.  He is significantly fuller in the face in the headshot.  He doesn't look a day over thirty-five.

"I lost 70 pounds" he says eyeing the picture with a matter of fact look and nodding his head, pausing a little too long, lost in his thoughts.  He snaps back to us and says, "But I'm gonna fight it.  That's why I bought the boat.  It's my last dream.  Gonna be my last house."

It's amazing how different things can look when you change perspective.  Suddenly, his situation doesn't seem so crazy after all.  Getting on a boat out in the middle of the ocean must seem like nothing to a guy whose body is ravaged with cancer.  Sailing a week to Jamaica must seem like a cake walk compared to chemo treatments. Our friend Johann is throwing caution to the wind because he, literally, has nothing to lose - except his dream.

He's going to get on his boat and live.

Sometimes, you have to look at the whole picture before you go and hang it on the wall.

So we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? 
- Hunter S. Thompson

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Lively Luperon

As I mentioned yesterday, there is a distinct change of pace here.  The first thing I notice is the music.  Music everywhere.  Latin beats and merengue fill the air from one store front to the next.  The main street is bustling with activity; women sweep their porches, men - huddled in groups - play excited games of dominos.  Women gather in gaggles toting their smiling, chubby babies by their arms, wiping the sweat off their brows with the backs of their hands...

Children shriek and scream as they run down the sidewalk to greet you with wide smiles.  Scooters and dirt bikes zig-zag down the street, their mufflers (or lack of?) grunting and spitting loudly.  Mangy dogs amble lazily down the road - giving little gruff barks every now and then to assert their aggression as they look over their shoulders...

Unlike in the islands where there were typically no more than a few little store fronts to choose from, the main street here is a yellow dirt road whose shoulders are crowded with ramshackle shops and cinderblock homes painted brightly.  Rooster calls sporadically join the cacophony of car horns, music and life...

Women periodically toss buckets of water into the road to limit the dust outside their doors, which are all open to the warm, tropical breeze.  The latin influence here is obvious.  Everyone sits outside their respective little plots in plastic lawn chairs, they settle into their own little spot of shade and watch the world go by.  It's lovely.









We love it here.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Monday, April 18, 2011

We're Not In Kansas Anymore


We could actually smell Luperon before we arrived.  Actually smell it.  The fresh scent of dirt, of earth, of rain, of vegetation...  It was awesome.  Making landfall is always a little exciting, but seeing layers of mountains, cliffs and hills break through the haze on the horizon when all you've seen for the past three months is beaches and palm trees just barely above sea level is...more exiting.

We made great time here.  Too good, actually.  We were counting on a sixteen to twenty-four hour passage.  We left at 4:30 pm from Big Sand Cay and hoped to arrive in Luperon between 9:00am and noon.  We arrived at 5:30...am.  We had forgotten how fast our little beauty sails off the wind!  She was loving the consistent 15-18 knots of breeze (higher than forecasted) and we rarely saw boat speed under 6 knots.  Whoops!  Instead of arriving in this famously difficult harbor in the dark, we opted to tack back (off course) for an hour to buy ourselves some time (and daylight).  We're glad we did.

As we neared the harbor entrance I just inhaled deeply and took in the rocky shoreline.  Waves were breaking powerfully and rhythmically along the jagged coast.  Spurts of water shot up powerfully like spouts of a whales blowhole.  And there were trees.  Lots and lots of leafy, green, tall trees.

"Oh my gosh!" I exclaimed, "I had no idea how much I have missed trees!"

Seeing them again was like seeing old friends.  It's funny how sometimes you don't realize you missed something until you've reunited.  Scott, having lived in California and Utah, has always been a lover of land contour, and his excitement upon seeing hills and mountains was like a sigh.  We both had no idea how refreshed we'd be upon being reaquainted with these simple, natural things.  We are somewhere entirely different - new scenery, new language, new music, new food.  We've been completely re-energized by all this stimuli.  Scott said it best when he said,

"Rasmus, we're not in Kansas anymore".

Nope, we sure aren't.  But, I wonder, were we ever?

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Letter to Ourselves

Dear Future Brittany & Scott -

The uninhabited island to some might be a nightmare, to others it might be a mystery but to you, right now, it is a dream. I want you to remember these feelings, this peace, this calm, this serenity...

You are at Big Sand Cay, your staging point for your hop over to the Dominican Republic. Here, you are bothered by no one and nothing other than the gentle sound of waves crashing to shore, the cries of sea birds in the night, and the breeze as it caresses your beautiful little boat which rocks gently with the swell. I want you to remember the water - the shockingly azure color that it is - and how, in certain light (particularly dusk and dawn) it actually takes your breath away and seems to glow.

Remember how it feels to not have to answer to anyone or anything. To not hear a single voice over the radio, to have no plan and to just be. Remember lying naked on the deck, reading lazily under the hot midday sun and, just when you can't take the heat any more, jumping in the water and the instant relief it brings as it envelops you. You swim like fish around your boat, diving to the bottom and up again. Floating on your backs for minutes at a time without a care in the world. The bottom of the anchorage here is nothing but sand for miles, and looking down at it from above you see nothing but gentle ripples caused by the ocean swell. It was here that Brittany first made bagels - actual home-made bagels - a feat that both of you enjoy tremendously, particularly at breakfast.

Remember what it is like to walk along an empty, pristine, white sand beach as the waves crash over your feet and your toes sink into the soft, almost porous, sand. You had a lovely run together along this beach and finished it off with a dip in your own private swimming hole. You find and pontificate on all sorts of interesting flotsam that has washed up to shore. An old steel drum, a used pyrotechnic shell, a high heel sandal, a refrigerator door, a hard hat, a buoy, oodles of old line and all sorts of other items whose stories you'll never know. Remember how lovely it was to lay on the bow and dangle one leg over the side and how the sun speckled through the openings in your straw hat. Remember how much time you had to think, to reflect, to read, to dream, to wonder and invent...

Remember how lovely it was to be just the two of you, on your boat, in your own little tropical paradise.

Love,

Present Brittany & Scott
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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Heading to Hispaniola!


Hispaniola - the name of the island that contains the two sovereign states Haiti and the Dominican Republic - rolls off the tongue and just conjures up Caribbean goodness. I don't know too much about this place other than it is the second largest island in the Caribbean (after Cuba), it is incredibly green and lush, was the location of the first of Columbus's colonies in the new world, and is rumored to be wonderfully cheap.

We like cheap.

After spending a week at the dock here in the Turks and Caicos (we spent more here than we have in 3 months combined!) we are ready to continue on our journey south and head out back to sea...

This next passage to Dominican Republic will also mark our official entry into the "thorny path". We will be travelling against currents, against trade winds and against a pretty unforgiving shoreline along the North coast of DR. We are sure to be tried and tested. Our cruising guide has this to say:

From Luperón going East, the north coast is an extremely difficult. The waters of the Atlantic are rough and when the trade winds are blowing or a “norther” comes down from the United States, the North Coast is beyond difficult; it can be outright dangerous. There really is no place to stop east of Luperón that is safe and when the wind is from the NE or from the E with seas from the NE, the entirety of the North Coast is not tenable. You will find yourself riding big seas on a windbound coast. To transit the north coast one needs to be an experienced sailor.

Luckily for us, we have a Lloyds of London rated boat, a sound and experienced crew and a desire to move on, take our beatings, and see what lies ahead! We will be departing our beloved South Side Marina today and will be heading to Luperon tomorrow. We might be out of touch until then (and may or may not blog via our SSB), but we'll try to keep SPOT up and running so you can see where we are!

Love,

Brittany & Scott

Monday, April 11, 2011

Why Are We Doing This?


This past weekend found us at a beautiful beach side wedding here in Provodenciales, TCI.  Scott and I didn't know many people besides the beautiful bride and her family, so we spent a lot of time mingling with their great friends and, inevitably, answering a few questions about our trip.  Apparently our reputations preceded us, what with us sailing to the wedding and all...

One guest asked simply, "Why are you doing this?"

I am sure we've been asked this question a million times, but I was stumped at that moment.  How could I possibly convey to a non-sailor the lure of taking off on your own boat, letting the wind guide you to a new destination, and becoming almost completely self sufficient?  How could I adequately describe the absolute feeling of freedom that follows when you remove yourself from the social strata and extricate yourself from the status quo?  How could I explain the extreme challenges that we face every day - challenges that carry so much more weight and so much more risk than those of our land lives - and how when we get through these we have an even greater appreciation for life, for a simple day, for each other?  How does one describe the magnitude of the Earth's beauty when seen from the deck of your own sailboat; the dolphins, the flying fish, the squalls, the waves, the clouds, the stars, the sun rising and setting?  How could I illustrate the beauty of living such an extreme life - full of storms and calms, highs and lows, fear and elation - and the magic of finding those rare days in the middle?  How could I fully detail how lovely it is to live more with less, to live so simply and yet reap so much?  How do I adequately express what it feels like to live in harmony with nature, to live a life where adventure lurks around every corner?

How do I illuminate those things in a light which everyone can see?  

I was tongue tied.

The truth is, there are a million reasons we are doing this - and each and every day we are learning more.  I don't know if anyone who isn't living this lifestyle can actually grasp it (much like people who don't have children cannot grasp parenthood) - but I do know this:  It is the way we want to live.  It feels right.  We are the masters of our own destiny.  The world is our oyster.  The possibilities are endless and, out here, there seems to be nothing standing in our way and nobody to tell us no.  We find joy in the simple things and we are learning not to sweat the small stuff.  We are discovering that this world is truly a beautiful place full of beautiful people.  We are learning the incalculable value of following dreams.  If I could give a one word answer to describe why we are doing what we are doing, it would be: freedom.

One of my favorite movies of all time is "Dances with Wolves" (if you have never seen it, rent it now).  That movie had a tremendous impact on me and I believe what Scott and I are doing (in spirit) is not unlike what John Dunbar did when he moved out west to live on the American Frontier among the Sioux Indians.  When asked why he was doing what he was, he replied simply:  "Because it's there".

So, perhaps we don't need a profound answer to explain why we are doing what we are?  Perhaps it cannot adequately be described? Perhaps it needn't be anything more than the simple fact that we are doing this because we can.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Cruising Friends

Our very good friends aboard s/v Earthling sailing alongside us.
It is no secret that one of the perks of cruising life is the fact that you get to meet some pretty incredible people.  We've shared drinks and meals with poets, writers, eccentrics, enthusiasts, anarchists, intellects and everything in between.  Friendships are born fast out here.  One minute your helping someone with their dock lines or asking them about an anchorage over the VHF, and the next minute you are laughing, hugging and sharing life details over a communal happy hour - calling each other, in earnest, friend

Anyone who has travelled alone out of a backpack knows this as well, there is a mindset among travelers, an understanding.  A shared experience that a sun bleached backpack and tussled head of hair give away.  C.S Lewis once said:  

"Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, 'What, you too?  I thought I was the only one!'".  

Out here we all have the similar experiences, similar stories.  We all have parallel woes.  We all have to fix our engines, we all get slammed by weather, we all revel in the beauty of nature. We all, pun intended, are in the same boat.  Classism and ageism do not exist.  If you were a CEO or a shoe salesman, if your boat is sixty feet or twenty, if you are thirty or sixty-five, it just. doesn't. matter.  The social mores that inhibit us on land disappear.  At the very core of this is the fact that we as cruisers are all dreamers with an unyielding urge for something more - and for that, we respect each other.  I have experienced more kindness, generosity and human goodness on this trip than I have in all my years combined.  In a world that feels very much on the brink of folding to hate and ignorance, this is a wonderful experience to be a part of.

It's a shame that this is not the norm. It's a shame that our vastly different lives, social classes, experiences, religions and customs prevent us from finding common ground and connecting with so many others in life.  That the simple experience of being human is not enough.  We have connected with so many wonderful people on this trip - people that we never would have had we not had this commonality of being "cruisers" - and no matter where the wind or water take us all, we will always call them friends.

Love,
Brittany & Scott


Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Sure of You

Piglet sidled up to Pooh from behind.  
“Pooh!” he whispered.  
“Yes, Piglet?”  
“Nothing,” said Piglet, taking Pooh’s paw.  
“I just wanted to be sure of you.” 

 ~ A.A. Milne.

I read this quote and immediately it warmed my heart and sent my spirit soaring. There can exist the most profound messages in the simplest things. Though Scott and I live a life of relative uncertainty with a touch of the unknown, there are several things we can count on, several things we can be "sure of", as Piglet would say...

Our friends: and how lucky we are to have them and to be able to connect with them with relative frequency. You know who you are - your calls, your emails, your text messages, your pictures, your hacking into accounts to download e-books for us - it all makes you feel so close.

Our family: you are ever supportive and fully enthralled in our dream - knowing you are there is a huge, huge comfort to us. We would not be doing this without your support and unconditional love. You gave us the potential, we made it happen.

Each other: while living on a small boat 24/7 as newlyweds is not without it's, shall we say, moments....we are having the time of our lives and making our dreams come true, together.  We are grateful, every single day!!

Our boat: Rasmus is our home. She is the center of all of this and by far the strongest member of our team. We love her - she is an extension of us; a living, breathing entity. Knowing she 'has our back' makes us feel....safe.  Wherever we go, we are always home.  Everyone should be so lucky.

You, our readers: We started this blog with no audience and no clue what we were doing, but my how we have grown! Your stories and emails of encouragement, support, praise, and joy fill our hearts! It is incredible how small this world can be, and we are glad to know you are here with us.

While we are living a wayward, gypsy life full of unpredictability and ambiguity - a heart-felt thanks to all of you who are our "rocks" - we are better off knowing, for sure, that you are there.

Love,

Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Wind

It's 3:00 am.  I just woke up to the sound of wind.  Really strong wind.

I am lying in the v-berth, somewhere in mid-sleep.  From my slumber I wake to the unnatural feel of the boat as it yanks against our dock lines; pulling and swaying - and suddenly jerking as the lines go taut - while the wind's force presses against the beam of our hull with all it's might.    It's blowing a consistent twenty knots, with gusts up to twenty-six.  I know this because I, always curious to see how my internal anemometer measures up, turned the instruments on to check.  Twenty-six knots and in a fully protected marina, no less.  Pretty impressive.  I would guess it's blowing at least thirty to thirty five out on the water.  Thirty to thirty-five is when things can get pretty interesting on the water, sometimes even scary.  If you have never been on a boat at sea in thirty-five knots, read this to get an idea.

It's gusty, and with every gust - aside from the afore-mentioned relentless jerking and swaying - the halyards are whipped into a frenzy; banging and clanking and vibrating off the aluminum mast sending an echoe all the way down to the deck.  Our bimini, which is fully enclosed at the moment - flaps angrily, slapping against our cockpit combing in defiance.  Our flag flaps so furiously I think it might rip to shreds.  The bucket we have tied to the lifelines drags and flops on the deck.  The entire boat shakes - actually shakes with each blast.  Mother Nature flexing her muscles.  And you wondered what I was doing up at this ungodly hour, psh.

The gusts are so powerful you can hear them all around the boat, howling like a banshee across the land in search of the low pressure zone it seeks.   Like a breaking wave's undertow, the force of this wind is obvious.  This is the sort of wind that reminds you just how powerful Mother Earth is.  Each time she pipes up, so does this cacophony of noise and reverberation.  It is something to behold and it's power impressive.  But, like everything, this too shall pass...

There's a whisper on the night wind, there's a star agleam to guide us...
And the wild is calling, calling....let us go.

Love,
Brittany& Scott

Monday, April 04, 2011

More than a Stopover...

View from the Happy Hour Gazebo at South Side Marina - every day at 5pm!
We are nestled at the lovely, cruiser-run South Side Marina here on the south side of Provo.  Because we haven't treated ourselves to a dock since Florida, we decided the time was nigh to give our boat a scrub, do some laundry and revel in the convenience of being dockside.  The fact that our dinghy motor has gone on the fritz again (wince) also aided in making the decision to stop at a marina an easy choice.  Having no motor makes getting around much more difficult.

We really weren't sure what to expect about the Turks and Caicos...we had heard it's not the best cruising area (due to very shallow water, a mostly "resort" and very touristy community, and a limited number of good anchorages) and most people we spoke to use these beautiful islands as nothing more than a short stopover to wait for a weather window and do some provisioning before heading to the Dominican Republic.

Not us!

We will be here a bit longer because, as luck (or fate?) would have it - one of Scott's good friends from college actually happens to be getting married here this coming weekend and she, being the most gracious and generous bride-to-be that she is - insisted we join in the festivities!  Who the heck can say no to a destination wedding?!  We actually stayed with her lovely parents at the dock behind their house when we sailed through the Detroit area back in October and are looking forward to connecting again.  We are so honored and thrilled to be invited and part the festivities!  It's is a little crazy, however, to think that they'll be traveling the same distance in a few hour plane flight what has taken us seven months!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Sunday, April 03, 2011

One Love

Bob Marley might just be my favorite artist of all time.  He was profound.  His music and his words have always struck a chord in my soul.  This is a rendition of "One Love", one of my personal favorites, by the incredible musical movement Playing for Change.  Scott and I saw them perform back in Chicago a couple of years ago.

Anyway, I'm feeling very "one love" today and want to share it with you!  Please watch, absorb, feel and enjoy!


Life is one big road with lots of signs. So when you riding through the ruts, don't complicate your mind. Flee from hate, mischief and jealousy. Don't bury your thoughts, put your vision to reality. Wake Up and Live!


- Bob Marley


Love,
Brittany & Scott

Saturday, April 02, 2011

The Awakening


The voice of the sea is seductive; never ceasing, whispering, clearing, murmuring, inviting the soul to wander for a spell in the abysses of solitude; to lose itself in mazes of inward contemplation.  The voice of the sea speaks to the soul.  The touch of the sea is sensuous, enfolding the body in its soft, close embrace.

The Awakening, Kate Chopin

Friday, April 01, 2011

Bye Bye Bahamas

The mighty Rasmus anchored in Thompson Bay, Long Island
It's so funny the way things work.  The domino effect of life.  How every step you take can alter your course.  If you would have asked us six months ago where we'd be at this point, I'm sure we would have answered the Virgin Islands, or somewhere in the Caribbean at least.  If you would have asked us if there was even a chance we'd still be in the Bahamas I'm pretty sure we'd give a little innocent chuckle and reply, "not even close!".  Alas, here we still are.

The thing about the Bahamas is this: They are a sailor's paradise.   I am not surprised that many world cruisers regard this little strip of islands to be some of (if not the) best cruising in the world.  The water is amazing, truly breathtaking.  The people are incredible and oh-so welcoming, there are so many places to go - all within a short day sail of each other.  If you want populated, you can get populated.  If you want remote, you can have remote.  The wind (at least this time of year) is consistent and if you keep your plans loose, you can take advantage of it to take you somewhere almost daily.  You could, quite literally, spend a lifetime cruising these waters.  In fact, many people do.

But not us.

Our plans are a bit bigger.  We're young.  We're hungry.  We want to see more...

We are going to continue heading south today or tomorrow (weather permitting, of course) - bound for the Turks and Caicos.  From there we'll head to the Dominican Republic, and from there Puerto Rico where we think we might spend hurricane season and hopefully pick up a job or two to replenish the cruising kitty (anyone know anyone in Puerto Rico that would want to hire us...seriously?!).

We are a little sad to be leaving these lovely islands where we learned so much about ourselves, our boat, and cruising in general but excited to meet the adventures, lessons, people and places that lie ahead!

Bahamas, mark our words - we'll be back.

Love,
Brittany & Scott
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