Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Where the heck are we?


We are technically in the what are called the "Windward Islands".  We breezed through the "Leeward Islands" (from Puerto Rico to Dominica ) and we are about to zip on down the Grenadines (which are actually a sub-chain of islands in the "Windward" group).

This whole island chain from the Bahamas  to Grand Cayman to the Turks & Caicos is called the Antilles...When we were in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico we were in the *Greater* Antilles and this particular chain is called the *Lesser* Antilles...

...which is also known as the West Indies.

Sheesh.

You have got to be kidding...We're lucky to even know where we are with all these overlapping island chain names!

We're in the Caribbean.  We know that for sure.

And it is awesome.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

PS.  I had to Wikipedia every single one of those chains to get this post right, they are that confusing.

Monday, May 30, 2011

The Fruit Man


"Grocery Shopping" as we used to know it has come to an end for Scott and I.  Grocery stores like those in the USA are few and far between (in fact, there are about 1,000 nautical miles between each of them if I were to guess) and they almost never have what we really want (bagels, sliced whole wheat bread, and I am about ready to kill for an avocado...etc).  Luckily for us - we provisioned very well back in Ft. Lauderdale and have enough canned and dried goods to feed a small nation.  If you recall, we do not have refrigeration so - in a way - it makes grocery shopping a little easier when coupled with our vegetarian diet.

When we do go shopping, it is usually at a small, local grocery store where we get what is available.  Typically, the items we stock-up on bi-weekly are:  eggs (contrary to popular belief, they do NOT need to be refrigerated), butter (also does not need to be refrigerated), bread, crackers, cheese (if in wax, does not need to be refrigerated) and every now and then something alcoholic. 

What we also need to stock up on regularly (because we don't have refrigeration) is fruits and veggies.  The staples in our diet so far are:  cucumbers, lettuce, arugula, spinach, tomatoes, onions, green and red peppers, zucchini and squash (they keep very well), potatoes (also keep very well), and fruits like apples, oranges, pineapple, mangoes and (wince) bananas*.  Most of the time I try to find a local, road side vendor as opposed to a store front (much cheaper) but sometimes, if we are lucky, they motor right up to our boat like Gregory did the other day.

Gregory gave us not only a warm welome to St. Lucia, but made us a delicious basket of FULL of fresh fruits and vegetables for $15 bucks and a beer.  Can't beat that!  We had literally just been talking about how we needed a fruit basket and voila! one appears.  I seriously love this life!


Love,

Brittany & Scott

*Bananas are rumored to be bad luck on boats, but down here, you just gotta eat 'em!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Marking the Anchor


Remember this post from back in January when we spray painted our anchor chain?  Well, (as expected) it didn't last too long.

A huge part of successful anchoring is knowing how much "scope" (chain or rope) to put out.  In most circumstances (for an all chain rode) this is around 5 to 1 (meaning: 5 feet of chain for every 1 foot of depth*, in strong winds we'll go up to 7 to 1).  If you're chain isn't adequately marked it is really, really hard to measure correctly by eyesight.  The difference between sitting comfortably at anchor and dragging into a reef (or out to sea, or into another boat...) can be in a 10 foot miscalculation so knowing where you are on your chain is kind of a big deal.

The past month or so have proven detrimental to the spray paint on our anchor chain.  I have been Squinty McSquintsalot while dropping the hook trying make out the colors marking various lengths; Wait, was that red that just went by?  Are we at fifty feet or eighty feet? Oh - shoot - that's blue...but is it forty or seventy? 

Not good.

We needed something better.

People suggested zip ties and spinnaker cloth - but neither of those sounded too appealing to me or our windlass gypsy - so I kept my eyes peeled for a better option.

I found this product at Budget marine in St. Maarten and let me tell you - I LOVE it.  Scott just put them on last week (we bought six packets of various colors and mark the chain with four in a row, every twenty feet) so we'll see how they stand the test of time - but so far, so good.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

* Make sure to compensate for the distance of the bow roller off the water...On our boat, it's four feet.  So if the depth is 6 feet - we actually scope out as if it were 10.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Hygiene on the High Seas

You might be interested to know that our boat does not have a shower.

That might lead a lot of you to wonder how (and if?) we ever get clean.

Fear not, my friends!  We do!

One of the best systems we added to our boat was an 'aft deck shower' which is nothing more than a hand held shower head that is hooked up to our pressurized fresh water system on about 8 feet of hose.  Showering inside our boat would be cumbersome anyway considering our bathroom (or "head" as we refer to it out here) is just barely large enough for one person to sit on the toilet.  Showering in there - while we could undertake a project to be able to do it - would be unpleasant, very cramped and mildew producing.  No thanks!  We love showering outdoors in the fresh air anyway.

There are actually several advantages to our system over an in-boat shower:

1)  We can rinse ourselves off immediately after we get out of the water.  Meaning our towels and our boat's interior remain salt water free (once clothes, towels, cushions, etc. get salt water on them - they remain damp forever so every single precaution should be made to make sure salt water stays outside the boat).

2)  We can rinse our snorkel gear immediately - again, preventing our arch enemy - saltwater - from infiltrating the cabin.

3)  We can rinse off the boat with it.  Our boat is pretty immaculate thanks to my mild case of OCD.  I like it that way and (though he hates to admit it while I'm Simple Greening everything), so does Scott.  When we drop anchor after a particularly wet passage, I hose off the boat to rid her of all the nasty salt (it actually dries in crystals all over the boat) that covers everything.  Because the hose is about 8 feet long and in the center of the boat, I can pretty much clean her thoroughly with the shower head and a hefty sponge.

4)  We don't have to deal with a nasty bilge pump or sump pump.  One less system to worry about and clog.  We like simple!

Because we have a watermaker (another one of our best decisions) we can use water regularly and without worry.  We still use it sparingly, so as not to be wasteful, but being able to shower daily has become a priority in this very hot, humid climate where you can go from zero to stink in half a minute.  On average - we use about 3-5 gallons of water a day depending on how much we rinse/shower.

I was told by former and current cruisers that things like wearing makeup, shaving and other womanly rituals would go out the window completely once we got out here.  I definitely don't wear much (if any) makeup (didn't wear much on land though) but shaving has definitely not stopped. In my opinion,  cruising isn't reason to let all one's personal grooming habits go by the wayside.  I still pluck my eyebrows, condition my hair (this product - a gift from a very good friend of mine - is AMAZING for dry, salty hair) and I most certainly still shave my legs.  While some might consider me to have an "inner hippy"; I personally love soft, smooth legs and will continue to shave and groom as long as we have the water to do so.

So - despite what you may have imagined - we are not going sceptic, dousing ourselves in patchouli oil and walking around in a cloud of filth a la Pig Pen.  On the contrary - I am happy to report that we are squeaky clean!

...Most of the time.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Friday, May 27, 2011

How Much Experience is Necessary?

Rasmus, on her very first day in the OCEAN!

“Have you ever sailed on the ocean before?” one leery and rather curmudgeonly yachtie asked us, as if the fact that we hadn’t would change what we were about to do.  He wasn’t asking out of curiosity - he was asking in a failed attempt to intimidate us and to make us feel that we weren’t experienced enough to sail on the big, scary ocean. 

And yet here we are, over 4,000 nautical (ocean) miles later...

The topic of “experience” comes up a lot out here.  There are a heck of a lot of people who like to bash folks out here cruising with less experience than they see fit. We have met many people, like our friends Jay and Nicole, who have very limited experience, taking baby steps and are doing just fine and we have met cruisers who were raised on boats and have circumnavigated the globe ten-fold in nautical milage.   Bottom line: they are all doing it.  Sure, it might look different and some are more experienced/equipped/prepared than others - but there is only one way to learn.  This is not a competition.

While I don’t want to advocate that any Tom, Dick or Harry can just buy a boat and hit the high seas (that would be careless, right?) - I sort of do.  Because it’s true; any Tom, Dick or Harry can just buy a boat and hit the high seas...if they really want to and are financially able to, that is.  If they are equipped with a decent amount of common sense and the balls to get out and do it, most will fare just fine.

I guess my point is this - everyone must start somewhere and it doesn’t take long to learn once you untie the dock lines (though you might learn some hard lessons quick if you are truly coming from zero).   The important thing is to get out here.  The learning curve is steep - and, if you are lucky, you will get through it (like the majority of us) without serious damage to you or your boat.

If you lack common sense, however, and take unnecessary risks - you will not only be a danger to yourself, but all of us who are cruising around you.  In the Bahamas, for example, there was a young lad with a large bank account who bought a boat - a steel boat - and didn’t have a clue.  After running aground and sinking (yes, sinking) his boat in the Intracoastal Waterway, (rumor has it) he epoxied the keel back on and continued south. This was after he ordered a slew of solar panels, which, when our friends told him he’d better lash them down because the wind was picking up, he just laughed and said they’d be "fine". The next morning our very kind friends were diving for this kid's solar panels as they ended up in the bottom of the harbor. He then set sail across the gulf stream and ended up anchoring on the Bahama Banks where he dropped the hook in 20 feet of water and went to sleep. Upon hearing his anchor alarm (a GPS alarm that is set to alert you if you drag outside of a certain parameter) he promptly turned it off and went back to sleep...he was in the banks anyway, he could drag 20 miles and not hit anything, right? (This was his rationale). The next morning he found himself drifting aimlessly out to sea, without an anchor. His line had chafed through in the night and away he went. He then felt it "no a big deal" to continue on without an anchor. This guy was, for lack of a better word, an imbecile.  We heard stories about him all through the Bahamian island chain and they were downright scary.  Luckily for the rest of us, he decided to get rid of his boat and head back to land where he’s probably taken up some other sport like rock-climbing or paragliding.  Either way, we’re happy he’s scratched his itch.  This guy wasn’t just a newbie - he was careless, a danger to other boats around him and had little respect for the sea and it’s power.  Do NOT be "that" guy.

So... what sort of experience is necessary?  We are still complete newbies ourselves, but so far I have a few thoughts on this.  This list is compiled of things we are either happy we did or wish we knew before shoving off - hopefully they might be of help or guidance to you:

1)  Have a can-do attitude! Just like the Little Engine That Could you need to think you can before you can.   I know I have said it a million times before, but where there is a will, there IS a way.

2)  Get on someone else’s boat and CREW! Scott and I grew up sailing but the bulk of what we learned was racing on other people’s sailboats.  If your local yacht club has Wednesday night races or a fleet of dinghies that race regularly - get yourself on one!  You will learn a ton about teamwork, about sail trim, and about the different points of sail (all of which I think would be essential before shoving off).  In addition, you will also gain an appreciation for how quickly the "bleep" can hit the fan on a boat.

3)  Read a book or take a course on NAVIGATION. You don’t need to know celestial navigation - heck, you barely need to know how to plot a course on a paper chart if you have a good chart plotter - but you should know.  Having a chart plotter (electronic chart and GPS) is a great luxury and convenience but it should never be your only mode of navigating.  Scott and I always have paper charts on deck with us and we know how to use them if (and when?) our chart plotter decides to go kaput. Learn the basics, you can tinker with celestial navigation when you are out here.  Make sure you understand basic navigation rules and lights as well.  We came into a LOT of harbors in the dark when we started and understanding nautical lights helped us tremendously.

4)  Learn how to anchor. Scott and I really didn’t know how to anchor when we left (surprised?) and it ended up costing us a lot more money on docking and marinas because we (well, really, me) were too chicken to try early on.  It’s actually not that hard if you have the right ground tackle - and practice makes perfect! 

5)  Understand a bit about weather. Scott and I knew squat about weather when we left which is why we got caught in not one, not two, but three gales.  This was not fun.  We had no idea about Chris Parker and his marine weather reports on SSB and didn’t know about all the great weather sites out there.  You don’t need to be a meteorologist, but knowing how to interpret a basic weather report will help keep you out of trouble.

6)  Sail overnight. Before shoving off I would do at least one overnight sail just to get acquainted with sailing in the dark. It can be scary at first - but if you plan on voyaging, you’re going to have to sail overnight at some point and better to do it closer to home than not. Sailing overnight will also force you to adhere to some sort of watch schedule which is also an essential part of voyaging and takes some getting used to.

These six elements will teach you enough to be dangerous.  You will still be very naive, and you will still make a ton of mistakes (as we did...and continue to do) but if you stick to safe waters (I wouldn't recommend crossing an ocean just yet) in good conditions - you should come out on top.  It is important to bear in mind, however, that no matter how experienced you are - the sea always has the upper hand and if you get too cocky, she will promptly deal you a lesson or two.  While experience helps you to quickly asses situation and act accordingly, it will never immunize you from ‘bad luck’ at sea.  Bernard Moitessier, arguably one of the greatest sailors to have ever lived, lost three boats to the ocean.  Sailing as a lifestyle is always a challenge and, like golf, it is never mastered.  But...you’ve got to start somewhere, and if that is from zero, so be it.  More power to you!

It is important to remember that there will be people, many of them, who will try to discourage you. They will come up with a never-ending list of reasons why you can’t or shouldn’t do this.  They’re the same people who call what we are doing silly, dangerous, irresponsible and selfish.   Scott and I are a couple of the lucky ones, despite the naysayers, we have full support from our friends and family.  They are actually proud of what we are doing. Very proud.

And remember, “The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you can not do”.  So cast off your bow lines with a beaming smile, enthusiastically wave goodbye - and sail right on past them.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ship (in) Shape

A lot of you have asked how we stay in shape.

Scott and I led very (some might say "hyper") active lives when we were landlubbers.  I worked out every day at lunch and did Bikram Yoga four times a week after work.  Scott biked to work every day and either ran or biked several times during the week.  We are both triathletes and marathoners and Scott is even an Ironman.  Staying in shape was a big deal to us.  It made us happy.

I am here to tell you our "shape" is suffering. Ugh.  It pains me to type that.

While we don't have a scale and can't say for sure - Scott and I both feel a little softer in the middle than we are used to.

Life on a boat is active - we are constantly engaging our core muscles to counter act the heeling of the boat, we're pulling lines to raise and trim sails, and getting the flour out from under the settee actually causes me to break a sweat.  We get exercise, it's just different than what we're used to.  For the most part we eat light and healthy and, despite what it might look like according our Facebook photos, we are not drowning in a bottle of rum every night.  What is missing, however, is cardio.

We have run ashore a few times - but lately we have been moving so much that running ashore is not a priority.  We also both have foldable bicycles - but getting them to and from shore is a production and not usually worth it for a day's ride.  Swimming is something we both love but the anchorage and water quality are not always up to par (our last anchorage in St. Maarten tested positive for staph and all sorts of icky stuff and today I saw a shoe, a plastic bag, and a Styrofoam cup float by our boat right before I was about to jump in).  We do sit ups and push ups from time to time, but our regime is inconsistent.  It's gotten very hot down here, we're sticky and sweaty and the idea of working up more of a sweat kinda makes us want to puke.  Yesterday we spent the bulk of the afternoon laying below deck in the shade, barely able to move, with two fans blowing directly on us.  It is that hot.

BUT - we are looking forward to getting to Grenada where we will be staying put for five months.  We're hoping to get into more of a routine where exercise is a consistent part of our life!

Until then - we'll just let it all hang out.  Ha!

PS.  I will tell you - one pose that I love and I try to do a minute each day is this one.  Very good for the body!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Imagine...

Scott actually took this photo through our binoculars!
We saw this beautiful boat sailing along towards us yesterday and she captured our imaginations.

She looked incredibly majestic - almost ghostlike with her eighteen sails flying - a relic of days gone by.  It was impossible not to think back to the reign of pirates and buccaneers in these waters.

"Can you imagine being a boat like that two hundred years ago?" I wondered aloud.

In so many ways, we have come a long way since then.  It's incredible to think of what those sailors accomplished with so little.  They had rudimentary charts, navigated only by the sun and the stars, pioneered foreign territories and - to make matters worse - at any given time there might be a pirate ship lurking around the corner in some hidden bay with cannons locked and loaded and full of gnarly, greedy pirates chomping at the bit to pillage and plunder...the mind boggles.

And yet, there we were - two passing ships from two very different eras - both propelled by only the wind.  Some things never change, and for that we are grateful.


While she is truly a looker and a breathtaking sight to behold - we are certainly thankful that we don't have to raise and lower all those sails!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Simple Life


Bernard Moitessier once said that "A sailor's joys are as simple as a child's". It's so true. Obviously living on a boat leads to a more pared down, simpler life - but I hadn't thought much of how living on a boat simplifies one's joys as well...

A little wind shift in the right direction, full sails, topping off your batteries with only solar power, a smooth running water pump, flat seas, a fresh breeze, getting to a destination without running the engine, a glorious sunrise and it's equally impressive sunset, free wifi, a quick fresh rain squall to rinse the deck of salt water, dolphins in your bow wave, cheap laundry, making landfall after a twenty-four hour sail, a solved problem, a simple solution...all of these things can just about make a day out here.

But why? Why is it so much easier to find joy in very simple details when at sea?

I think the answer lies in several conditions that are inherent to life on a boat:  time for reflection (we have lots of that when sailing), living intimately with nature and viewing first hand the 'circle of life' on a daily basis, and the constant, cautionary reminder that we are so small and so insignificant to name a few...

Moitissier gives this advice to sailors:

“Don't needlessly complicate your life. Give top priority to the essentials. Firmly put aside anything superfluous. Given a choice between something simple and something complicated, choose what is simple without hesitation: sooner or later, what is complicated will almost always lead to problems - needless expense, loss of time and waste of energy.” 

While he is saying those words to sailors - I think they can be beneficial to ocean voyagers and landlubbers alike. Really think about that advice - literally and metaphorically - it can be applied to anything from buying a house to choosing a spouse!  I’m pretty certain we all have room for improvement.

Bottom line:  Take time - make time - to de-clutter, to simplify, to tread lightly and to stop and smell the roses.

* We have many friends who live “simply” on land as well - in fact, many probably lead “greener” lives than we do. But I think - in general - on land it takes much more effort to live simply. At least it did for us.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Carelessness and the Sea


I am currently reading A Sea Vagabond's World by Bernard Moitessier. This is the third book I have ready by this fantastically poetic and gifted author. He was truly a man of the sea and reading him is not only a great pleasure - but a learning experience. This particular book is more of a "how to" than his other books - but just as gripping nonetheless.

A great reminder he gave me today that I would like to share:

"The sea and the gods do not like excessive haste, lack of preparation, or a casual or careless attitude - especially concerning the really important things."

- Bernard Moitessier, A Sea Vagabond's World

Don't worry friends!  We will continue to be safe, prudent, and (most importantly) respectful of the sea!

Love,

Brittany & Scott

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Topper's


Those of you who read this blog regularly know full well how much I believe in the power of the Universe and how, if you listen closely, it can guide you and lead you to the most interesting people and places.

Take the other day, for example, we had just left the grocery store with our friends Andy and Sharon (m/v Finally Fun) when it started to POUR. We needed cover - and fast. There was a restaurant/bar across the street that we were just about to run for when a smaller, more nondescript bar down the road, about 100 yards behind us caught my eye.

“Lets got to that one!” I suggested, “It looks cool”.

We made a run for it as the downpour continued. Already soaked, I decided to wash off all the dirt and sand my flip-flops had kicked up the back of my legs in the run-off from the roof. As I scrubbed the back of my legs I heard a bellowing laugh, “You want some soap?” I looked up and a tan man with shocking blue eyes and a huge smile was holding court at the bar. I smiled back and continued cleaning off my legs.



Our soggy foursome pulled up to the bar to order some lunch. It didn’t take too long to meet the laughing man at the bar - his name was Topper and this was his place. We were lucky it was low season, apparently during high season there’s an hour wait outside the door every night. We never would’ve met him. But today was our lucky day.

Topper is not your usual restauranteur. This man is different. We got to talking to him and learned that he has a home and family in Chicago and, being from Boston, has an affinity for old ball parks (Scott and I used to live right next to one of them, Wrigley Field in Chicago). We liked him immediately. Apparently the feeling was mutual because before we knew it - he was plying us with shots of his delicious home-made "rhum". Apple spice, white-chocolate raspberry, mojito, banana and even mocha mama...rum so good you don’t even need a mixer.

As we sipped his rum he wove his stories around us. Tales of rounds of golf with George Bush Sr., the celebrity clientele he entertains; the time when he shared jokes with Sean Connery, how he gave Bruce Willis a hard time for wearing his hat backwards...Topper graduated Boston College a year early, made his first million by 21, and came to St. Maarten in 1959 and fell in love with it. We heard about hurricane Luis and how it wiped out his investment properties, how afterwards he led a rescue effort and helped rebuild the community, how he is a major patron and purveyor of the arts in St. Maarten and how much he gives back to this community and these islands. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.

But what makes this man great isn’t how successful he is - it is his attitude about life.

“I don’t even see failure” he said, stern faced (which is rare, because this man is always smiling!), “If King Kong comes - call me. I’ll figure out a way to get him down. All you need is knowledge - with knowledge you can do anything. Fear is useless”.


I was captivated by this man - he was speaking my language!

"I love my life” he continued, “I am the luckiest guy in the world - I love what I do. I love my kids, I love my wife. I love coming to work.” He shook his head and shrugged flashing his signature toothy grin, “I am thankful every single day”.

But” he added, “I haven’t been all lucky. You’ve got to take the good with the bad. I have had a lot of bad luck too...” He told us how one of his sons, a Yale educated PhD passed from cancer not six months after getting his first job.

You know what though?” he finished, “What is a life if you don’t have any struggles? If you have it easy your whole life all you are in the end is a baloney sandwich” he shook his head in disgust and then finished off with a burst of new vigor, “You gotta put a little hot sauce or mayonnaise on that sandwich and the only way to do that is to go through some shit!”

And just like that, he let out a booming laugh like the one he did when we entered three hours prior (thanks to that fateful sudden downpour). You can’t keep a good man down.

Hot sauce and mayonnaise, indeed.

If you ever find yourself in St. Maarten (the Dutch side) pop on in to Topper’s and tell him we sent you. You might even find my picture on the wall! If it’s high season he’ll probably be busy as all heck - but if you are lucky and catch him on an off night - kick back with a shot of one of his rhums and listen to him. He’s got the right idea, for sure.

Love,

Brittany & Scott

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Juice Man

Didn't get a pic of the juice guy - but this here is a passion fruit flower!
Scott and I were walking along the streets of Sint Maarten (the Dutch side), just wandering and exploring, looking for a place to get a bite to eat and scoping the lay of the land.

Unfortunately, sidewalks are not to be found here so we took a short cut through a parking lot to avoid the wet streets (it has been raining, off and on, a LOT).  We passed by a large, black man who appeared to be getting into his car.

"Heya" he said with a nod.

Thinking this was just a passing greeting we replied "Hello" as we walked past the trunk of his car.

This was not your standard greeting.

"You guys want some juice?" we heard him ask from behind us. We turned on our heels as he popped open his hatchback and made a sweeping motion with his arm to show us his bounty which was, much to our amazement, coolers full of home-made juice and little plastic tasting cups.

"Yeah - come try my juice.  No acid.  No additives.  All natural".  There were a few hand-scribbled signs reading "Home-made Juice" dangling off the coolers inside the truck.

This guy was a traveling juice salesman.  Weird.

We were still in awe of this strange set up as he rattled off his different flavors and produced each of them in recycled water bottles.  He poured us tastes of fresh passion fruit juice ("No acid - all natural"), mavi juice ("Good for da blood"), and a bizarre peanut-fruit drink which tasted exactly as it sounds ("Good for da love").

While some might scoff at drinking strange, home-made juice out of the back of some random man's trunk in a parking lot - Scott and I just went with it.  And I am here to tell you it was delicious.

After we licked our lips of the last taste - he went in for the kill.

"What'll it be?  Which one you want?"

We haggled for a liter of the cold passion fruit juice and drank every last drop as we continued down the road under the hot Caribbean sun.

Moral of the story:  Never underestimate the power of a man in a car with a bunch of home-made juice.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Friday, May 20, 2011

Guest Post: DR to PR


Fishing on Rasmus!
Sometimes, one has to act without plans, even if it is into the unknown. As a frequent reader of Windtraveler, I noticed on April 29th that Brittany and Scott were about to leave Luperon, DR for staging for the Mona Crossing to Puerto Rico. Having read their description of traversing the north shore of the DR and the Mona Crossing, and then looking elsewhere at what they faced, I sent them a short email - Subject: "Wild Idea".

Having been on the Rasmus for an earlier "exciting" night at sea going from Hilton Head to ST. Augustine back in December, I thought - well, why not the Mona? I also thought I might be a little help as the Mona crossing was going to be a two-night trip. Much to my delight, back came a message - "we'll meet you in Samana - day after tomorrow". A couple of hours later, I bought a ticket to Santa Domingo, DR and got a hotel reservation in Samana to await Scott and Brittany's arrival from Luperon.

As you read in the post "The Thorny Path" - while they had a challenging trip along the North Coast of the DR to Samana, they did it with only one five hour stop thereby arriving in Samana ahead of me by a half day. Upon check-in, there were Scott and Brittany, in the lobby relaxing, and both on their computers - Windtraveler does not hot happen by accident.

Scott and Brittany had read the books on how to best do the Mona Crossing, and Scott, with guidance from the weather guru, Chris Parker, plotted the weather, particularly how to play the night lees of the coastline of Samana Bay and eastern DR concluding we should leave after nightfall on Tuesday, May 3rd - which we did.

My first watch was the second watch of the trip - midnight to 3 am. I was fully instructed by Scott (aka Captain Bligh and my God son) and Brittany, that: a) no one leaves the cockpit without another person present, b) one must wear a PFD unless below deck, and most important, c) if the watch person sees, feels, hears or otherwise senses anything strange, wake someone up. I took these "orders" to heart, when at about 2 am, I woke Scott to the sight of very unusual light - out there in the water ahead of us. After our conversation about what it was, Brittany woke too and joined us, promptly dubbing it a UFO - Unidentified Floating Object . For more on the UFO, this post on Windtraveler.

I also enjoyed a "Columbus" experience when, 23 hours later while on watch at 5 am Thursday morning, I sited "land ho" - the first sighting of Puerto Rico - 33 hours after leaving Samana.

The conditions going across were almost exactly as predicted by Chris Parker. Seas were 4-6 with a few higher waves, and winds were mostly 15-20 except for a couple of squalls that came off the Puerto Rican coast which Brittany steered us around.

Having crossed fairly quickly, rather than stopping in Mayaguez or Boquerón as planned, we continued around the southwest coast of Puerto Rico rounding Cabo Rojo, and sailed another dozen miles or so on the southern coast to a fishing village - La Parguara. We anchored in the lagoon in front of the village, ready to go ashore - in my case for a burger and a cold beer. However, we were not permitted to check in with Customs there, and thus, were confined to the boat. I settled for a warm beer and one of Brittany's wonderful grilled cheese sandwiches - followed by wine and cheese as we had movie night on the Rasmus. I also experienced my first harbor/deck shower where you jump in the salt water, suds up with soap - and get a fresh water rinse.  Different, but good.

Because of the fast crossing, I then got to sail the entire south coast of Puerto Rico stopping at Ponce, Salinas and finally at Palma del Mar on the eastern Puerto Rico coast, where I unfortunately had to depart. Some of the highlights of the trip for me included:

Samana
  • Seeing Scott and Brittany already there when I arrived. 
  • Eating goat for the first time. 
  • Almost killing my horse on the visit to the El Limón waterfalls. 
  • Al on a Moto-taxi!  Does he look scared?
  • Almost killing myself when Brittany insisted on returning to the marina during a rainstorm in a motor scooter pulled rickshaw, rather than a real taxi, on rain slickened streets in a place with no traffic rules and of course, they have never heard of seat belts (pictures on Facebook). 
Mona Passage
  • Getting across without getting sick - aided by a diet of saltines and lollipops. 
  • The Unidentified Floating Object in the middle of the first night. 
  • Sighting a beautiful double-tailed comet, but when I said "WOW", the sound brought Scott out of a deep sleep in three seconds to see what was the matter with the boat. 
  • Being on watch for the first land sighting. 
Puerto Rico south coast
  • My first "harbor/boat deck" shower. 
  • Guavete- where I was offered a taste of a roasting pig, only to be given a large piece of pig skin. I tasted it, then not knowing it was the best part, gave the rest to a street dog, hoping I did not offend anyone. For more details, see the Windtraveler blog post "Puerto Rican Pig Roasts". 
  • Al eating fried pig skin!  YUMMY!
  • Salinas - a wonderful town with lots of cruisers and truly warm and welcoming local people. It was here where one evening, that Brittany fell in love with a dog, a local 3 year old boy and Scott beat all the locals at the pool table. 
All in all, a great 260 nm trip on the Rasmus with two great people. If anyone out there in Windtraveler land ever has a chance to sail with Scott and Brittany, do everything you can to do so. Do not wait for it to fit your schedule (they essentially have none), and while it might not be luxurious, a trip with them on the Rasmus is far better than luxury - it will be a trip to remember forever.

Uncle Al

Now known as "Juan Valdez. "

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Killing Two Birds With One Island


We are in Sint Maarten.  Or, Saint Martin if you are French.  That's right - there are actually two countries on this one island - the south belongs to the Netherlands, the north to France.  This morning, we had breakfast in the Netherlands - and then decided to enjoy some French cuisine for lunch.  We are staying on the Dutch side, but I've got to tell you - I keep feeling lured to the French side.  The wine, the cheese, the bread.  It's magnificent.  A perfect meal to me is a fresh baguette with a hunk of the smelliest cheese you can find inside, topped with a slice of tomato enjoyed in some piazza or park somewhere with a bottle of wine.  Anyone know anything about French wines who can suggest decent, cheap brands to try? The cheese I have down pat, but I've been addicted to Chilean and New Zealand wines in the past and have no clue when it comes to French wine.  Thanks!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Going with the Flow...


Or the not-so flow, that is.

It happened while I was brushing my teeth. The water was only trickling out of the faucet so I yelled to Scott with mouth full of toothpaste to turn on the water pump.

"It is on", he replied.

Uh oh.

That's right, our fresh water pump decided to say farewell. Adios! Adieu!

What does that mean, you ask? Well - imagine not having any running water in your home.  It's like that.  Luckily, living on a boat means you assume situations like these - so there are built-in redundancies like solar showers and hand pumps and jerry cans to get you by in the interim.  But not having running water sure makes life different.

Try washing your face, for example, with one hand while you operate a hand pump with the other.  One little hand does not hold a lot of water and the whole ordeal is reminiscent of an Abbot and Costello sketch.  Brushing teeth is not so bad - but washing your sticky, drippy hands after devouring a delicious, juicy mango becomes a comedy of errors as well.  Showers are a little more tricky too - instead of just holding a wonderful nozzle over our heads, we must fill and hoist our solar shower and try to balance it just so with the rocking of the boat while dancing underneath the trickle of water so that none of it gets wasted.  Dishes - ugh - don't even get me started.  Let's just say I'm cooking very clean, simple meals and we're eating off paper towels when we can.  Running water goes right up there with sliced bread in terms of things that made life just a little bit better.

One of the "perks" of living on a boat is that almost always you get to fix problems yourself!  When something goes wrong, you don't just call the electrician, the plumber or the serviceman.  Oh no!  It's not that easy!  There are no 800 numbers nor is there any directory assistance out here.  Ninety percent of the time - you have to fix things on your own, which is why we carry an arsenal of spares for just about every system we have.  Living on a boat you learn, very quickly, how to become self-sufficient in this regard.

This is what we signed up for.  This is life on a boat.  Things break, parts corrode, sails tear, motors stop and water gets in - the key is to try to stay ahead of it all or, at the very least, be prepared for it when it happens (because if it can, it will happen).  And when it does happen, you need to be ready to go with the flow (or lack thereof) until you can fix whatever it is that went wrong.  If that means looking like a fool while washing your face with one hand or switching up your routine a bit - so be it.

Our poor little solar shower was looking like it was feeling neglected, anyway.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Monday, May 16, 2011

Clearing up some Confusion

Trellis Bay, BVI
Many of you have written, commented or emailed regarding our upcoming plans - so I am taking to the blog to clarify a few things:

1)  We are not "bazillionaires" - we live on a meager budget of about $1000-$1200 per month.  I make about $200 a month writing (hoping to make that more!) and the rest is savings that we acquired during our land lives.  If you enjoy our blog and feel like throwing us a bone, go ahead and click on our "donate" button.  Every little bit helps!

2)  We are headed to Grenada for "hurricane season" - this is, obviously, a period in a year when hurricanes are likely to form.  In this part of the world it is from July to November.  This is not a very good time to be sailing around the Caribbean.  Grenada is far enough south to be out of the main hurricane belt, but there is always a risk of being hit.  We will go back to Chicago for a month to attend a couple of weddings for some very awesome people and visit with our friends and family.  We will return to Grenada in July where we will continue to live aboard and hope to work to replenish the cruising kitty.

4)  I will still be blogging from July to November.  There's adventure around every corner and I'm sure I'll find something to write about!

5)  Come November, we will move back up the Caribbean island chain.  Since we are rushing south this time around, we are going to head back up these islands to catch what we've missed.  Then, we plan to make our way west, transit the Panama Canal, cruise Central America a bit and work our way up to Baja, Mexico where we hope to cruise for a while.

I hope this helps to clarify any confusion!!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Not Always Sunny in Paradise!


Just a reminder that it's not always sunny in Paradise!

We've been in a low pressure system for about a week now - there has been a stationary TROF along most  of the Caribbean island chain making for grey skys and squally weather punctuated by periods of sun.  We are going to wait for better weather before heading south again.  Our only next stop we must make is in St. Lucia at the end of May to pick up our friend, Melissa, who will be joining us for five days.

Until then - we'll just move when and where the weather allows!

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there really is no such thing as bad weather.  Just different kinds of good weather. - John Ruskin

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Saturday, May 14, 2011

True Blue


We’ve done it. We have sailed almost 4,000 nautical miles and we’ve made it to the Virgin Islands. According to many, we are now “officially” blue-water cruisers. We’ve sailed down the East coast, crossed the Gulf Stream, cruised the Bahamas and the Turks & Caicos, traversed the difficult northern coast of the Dominican Republic, crossed the Mona passage, cruised the south coast of Puerto Rico and - eight months after we began - we have made it to the Virgins via the “thorny path”



We have graduated.

It feels good. It feels real good.

Our plan is to continue heading south to Grenada where we will be keeping the boat for hurricane season. We are heading back to Chicago for my brother’s wedding in June, which we are both standing up in, as well as the wedding of one of my best friends.  Next season we plan to head back up the island chain to see more of what we missed.

From there, who knows...but we’re liking the sound of Baja, Mexico a lot.

We shall see!

 Love,

Brittany & Scott

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Mona Passage


Several of you have asked about our passage across the Mona. Before I begin, I would urge you strongly to follow our Facebook page as well - as it is supplemental to the blog, there are pictures, miniature updates and more. I wrote a bit about our crossing there, but I will expand here...

As I mentioned before, the Mona Passage is not to be taken lightly and is one of the most difficult passages in the Caribbean due to currents, shoals and frequent storms spinning off the mountains of Puerto Rico. To say I am relieved it is behind us would be an understatement.  Our crossing was, by all accounts, uneventful, thanks to a great forecast by Chris Parker.

Our strategy was to leave Samana at night fall to sail along the coast of DR in the “night lee” (this is when a land mass causes a sort of bubble of calm weather around itself). As we exited the Bay of Samana, seas had built to about 6 feet and we rolled along the coast with our main reefed.

Due to the north east wind, we headed offshore just north of Cabo Engano to get around the hour glass shoals. We watched as a line of squalls passed to the North - and had to make one tack completely out of our way to avoid them. However, as Bruce van Sant so often says in his book; “sometimes you gotta go north to get south”.

The seas were large for our first 24 hours - so much that it made cooking down below a very unpleasant prospect - so we dined on saltine crackers and lollipops. By 36 hours the seas had calmed and our last 12 hours was spent enjoying a beautiful sail in the lee of Puerto Rico.

One thing that made our passage so wonderful was the fact that we had Scott’s godfather, Al, with us. He’s a former sailor who has been with us before and knowing that we had someone at the helm we could trust for a shift was a huge gift. We maintained a watch schedule of three hours on, six hours off which meant that all of us were fresh and well rested. Any significantly long passages we do from here on out will have at least three aboard, it makes a huge difference.

All in all - it was completely uneventful and - other than this incident - not very interesting which is why I didn’t blog about it. 


Hopefully this satisfies those of you who wondered!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

On Guests

Al, demonstrating the perfect size of paper towel.
Guests on boats are a tricky thing.  They say you can learn a lot about people you travel with - and I have found that to be true.  I have found it to be even MORE true when you are traveling on a 35 foot sailboat.  Lucky for us - we have been blessed with wonderful guests - like our last (and most frequent visitor) - "Uncle Al" who now considers Rasmus his second home.

In case you are chomping at the bit to visit someone who lives on a boat - here are a few ways to tip the odds in your favor - and ensure you get invited back:

  1. Be flexible.  This is the most important aspect.  Those of you who read our blog know that our 'plans' change almost daily.  If you want to visit us, you are most likely going to have to be ready to book a  ticket no more than a few weeks before the intended visit.  "Where will you be next March?" is like asking a baby, "What do you feel about the DOW Jones average?" - we have no clue, and if we do have a clue - it will almost certainly change.  Our last (and one of our most favorite!) visitor, Al, booked his ticket with 36 hours notice.  It was perfect.  And, sometimes you can find a cheaper plane ticket by buying it the day before so keep an eye on ticket prices and our spot tracker and if the price is good and you like where we are, let us know right away!
  2. No rolly bags!  For the love of GOD do not bring any type of hard suitcase or a "it fits in the overhead compartment" rolly bag.  Space is at a premium on a boat and - chances are - there will be absolutely zero room for you to store that bag.  It will be cumbersome and get in the way.  Duffle bags, back-packs, or tote bags that can fold or roll up are the way to go.
  3. Pack light.  Very light.  You will not need the following things unless told otherwise:  any type of high heel, hairdryers, fancy dresses, sportcoats, dive gear (sorry, no room - and we've got 1 extra snorkeling setup), five pairs of sunglasses, sleeping bags (we've got you covered), foul weather gear (we have it), life jackets (we have one for you), any clothes that require hanging (again, no room), sunblock (we have every spectrum)...you get the picture.  If you are not sure whether or not to bring something - ASK!! We will let you know! Things to bring:  A camera, a hat, a couple pairs of shorts, a couple tee shirts, flip flops, one polo or a sundress for the occasional night out, a couple swimsuits, a book, and an open mind!  That's about all you need down here!
  4. Understand that we live "off the grid".  We rely heavily on the sun for our energy and when that isn't enough, we run our engine - which uses diesel, which costs money.  Living on a boat means you can't just plug in your phone, camera, and/or computer whenever you want - I mean, yes, we do have the ability to plug in regular 110v devices but it can throw off our energy balance.  Make sure you have spare batteries and why the heck do you need a computer or phone down here anyway?... vacation is the time to get away from all of your electronic tethers. ;-)
  5. Be ready to eat what we make.  If you go on a diet before coming down, please realize it will probably get thrown out the window once you set foot on our boat.  We have the provisions that we have, and we'll make meals based on those because we have no other choice.  We do not have the luxury of being able to work around "gluten free" and "low carb" diets - in fact, you'll probably go into carb overload on our boat.  Sometimes we eat delicious stir-fries, sometimes it's grilled cheese, sometimes it's lollipops and saltines.  You never know.  There will always be wine and rum... that I can promise you.
  6. Get over yourself.  Here's the deal:  you are going to have go to the bathroom (#1... and #2) in a small boat.  We are all going to know what is going on in there.  Don't be shy - and if you are, get over it or you are going to be very uncomfortable.  We also shower outside on the back deck and, sometimes, wash in salt water first.  Just go with it - it's all part of the experience!  While you won't be able to shower twice a day, you will feel clean and refreshed for at least part of it.
  7. Don't be wasteful.  Living on a boat means limited everything.  Water, electricity, food...etc.  Be thoughtful - when you are brushing your teeth, use only a splash of water and turn the faucet off, don't take long showers, use only the teeniest bit of toilet paper necessary, don't grab full sheets of paper towels...etc.  You get the picture.  You might find you learn something by thinking about what you really need, first.
  8. Keep expectations to a minimum.  I have written about this before - but I think having expectations can be detrimental to an experience.  They must be realistic.  If you think you will come aboard and it will be luxurious and "yacht-like", you will be disappointed.  Be ready for anything and know that, most likely, we live pretty rustically compared to you.  Your cabin will be cramped (but, unlike most boats, you will have your own private cabin, which is a huge bonus!), your personal space will be small, we will - at times - trip over one another (particularly if we are drinking rum!), you will be hot, you will go to bed early and wake up early, agendas will change and weather might not cooperate.  If you prepare yourself properly, you will have a blast.  Most people who spend time with us on our boat would agree that we are of the "fun" variety.
  9. Know that we are on a budget.  We live off a meager income and any money going out is usually staying there.  If you want to visit a marina - be prepared to at least split the cost with us.  If you are dying to eat out at a fancy restaurant, understand that we might not be able to dine with you, unless you're feeling generous ;-).  While you are on vacation, this is our life.  We love to party like rock stars - it's just we usually do it from the comfort of our boat (we have LOTS of rum on board!).  The cheaper, the better and if you can chip in here and there - it is greatly appreciated.
  10. Have fun and keep your mind open.  There is nothing better than sharing our life with our friends.  People tend to blossom with us on our boat and we love to see it.  We've even been told that our boat is a "Fountain of Youth" and could be marketed as a weight loss program - as we tend to eat light and healthy.  The life aquatic, if you let it, will do you good.  We've seen it happen before and it is the number one reason we enjoy having guests.  If you are having fun, we are having fun!!

Big shout out to Uncle Al - thank you for EVERYTHING.  For being a wonderful guest, an awesome crew mate, and a SUPER "pseudo" Uncle.  We love you!

PS. To check out pictures of just how much fun we had with Uncle Al, check out our Puerto Rico album on Facebook!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Puerto Rican Pig Roasts


I don't know a lot about Puerto Rico, but I know I like it.  I like it a lot.

I also know Puerto Ricans like their pigs.  They like them a lot.

We stayed in a little town called Salinas for a couple of days (two thumbs up) and from there we took our rental car up into the hills to a town called Guavete.  We had heard from friends that every weekend there's a giant pig roast and that it's a major affair.  So we hopped in our rental car and went winding up the narrow twisty turny mountain roads through the lush green jungle passing through village after village.

We zipped by a million beautiful scenes of mountain life - people dancing in the streets, vendors selling fresh produce on the side of the road, families gathering on their porches, music blasting and horns honking...I love how lively this culture is - they laugh loud and dance freely.  As we drove we passed by probably six or seven pig roasts at various elevations.  It was clear that these roasts were more than a meal, they were a destination - everyone was dressed up, strutting their stuff and filling their bellies with pork and mavi (a type of fermented fruit drink).  The music was loud, the food was plentiful and vendors were selling everything from battery operated bubble machines to jewelry to hammocks to shot glasses that said "Austria".  It was like a scene from the Lionel Ritchie song "All Night Long" except it was "All Day Long".

Highlight of the day:

The scene:


A bustling street.  We - Al, Scott, myself - are walking aimlessly from vendor to vendor, seeing what goods they have available - most have a full pig roasting over a fire...


Vendor(tending to a pig on a spit):  You want to try some pork?
Al (who has been dying for a pork chop):  Yes, please!  (BIG smile on his face!)


The vendor hacks at the pig with his machete and then produces a four by three inch piece of deep fried pig skin which he hands, beaming, to Al. It looks like leather and feels like the bottom of a shoe.


Al's face goes white.  Al is not what you would call an "adventurous eater".


Vendor: Here you go!  Thees is thee best part!
Me (laughing hysterically):  Go on Al, take a bite!! 
Al (trooper that he is) takes a tiny bite (actually it's more like a non-bite), I take a tiny bite. We both smile at the vendor.  Then Al feeds it to the mangy dog in the street, which - in retrospect - was probably highly offensive to the vendor.

Al is still dying for a pork chop, and we continue on our quest.


- Scene-

I can tell you this - it did NOT taste like chicken.




Love,
Brittany & Scott

PS - Want to see more pics?  Go to our Facebook page!!  You don't nee to have an account to view them and there are lots of great pics and fun to be had!

Monday, May 09, 2011

Blast from the Past


I was going through my photos yesterday and came across this beauty from the Chesapeke Bay.  WOW.  Caught my eye and I thought I would share.  Also served as a nice reminder of how far we have come.

Enjoy!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Sunday, May 08, 2011

To My Mom

My mummy in the 70's in Chicago
Happy Mother's Day to my beautiful mother.  

She moved to the US from England when she was nineteen.  Nineteen.  Alone...in the days before cell phones, before internet...in the days when going abroad meant you were really going to some place far away.  

She came from a little place called Blackpool - and in those days, there weren't many choices for a woman.  So - instead of doing what most everyone else was doing, instead of taking the path of least resistance and getting married, settling down and having children, she flew with arms wide open to the land of opportunity. 
Mummy and me circa 1979
She is the most amazing woman I know.  She is the kind of woman who can make you feel like she woke up that morning just to see you...she is the kind of woman who's laugh is loud and contagious...she is the kind of woman who will start a dance floor any time, every time...she is real, she is genuine, she is 100% true...she is caring and kind and selfless...she is the kind of woman who you wish you had as a friend.

She starts every day with a smile, she walks with a spring in her step, she's a heck of a lot of fun and she still - for the love of God - has the body of a 25 year old.  

And she is my mom.
Mum and Dad started us on boats early!
I am so thankful and so lucky to call her mine.

I love you mom.  Thank you - always - for your unconditional love and support throughout the past thirty-two years.  But most importantly, thank you for instilling in me the importance of following dreams and giving me the strength to venture to horizons unknown.

I love you so much!

Love,
Brittany

Saturday, May 07, 2011

There's This Drink...

Sip, sip GIVE my friend!
Scott and I were perusing a little trinket shop in Luperon when the sales lady came up to us and said, "Can I help you?  You need necklace, ring?  We have many beautiful things...we have shells, marijuana..."

Scott and I stopped in our tracks and looked up at the smiling sales clerk, then at each other.  She had this big smile on her face, as if she had no idea she just offered us illegal drugs.  We had heard Luperon was different, but we didn't realize your run of the mill sales girl could openly pimp pot.  That was too weird.

"Excuse me?" Scott said.

"We have shells, mamajuana..." she repeated, still beaming.

Oh!  MAMAjuana.  Not marijuana.  She walked over to a shelf and procured a recycled wine bottle with a bunch of bark in it, soaking in a deep, burgundy colored liquid.

"Dees is mamajuana" she told us as she grabbed a shot glass off the shelf and poured us some, "eets good for love...ees an aphrodisiac.  Pour rum or wine in the bottle and drink".  Scott took the glass, shrugged, took a sip and handed the latter half to me.  We know the drill.

I am telling you - with the number of aphrodisiacs in the islands - lotions, potions, flowers, drinks, roots - it's a wonder why the whole world is not populated by Bahamians and Caribbean Islanders.

The mixture is one of bark, herbs, and honey soaked in rum and red wine.  The drink is thick and the taste is very similar to a port.  Dominicans use mamajuana for everything from colds, to digestion, to...er...love issues.

While we didn't buy any - we enjoyed our little taste.  As for it's aphrodisiac qualities - well, we'll never tell.  You'll just have to get some yourself.  But remember, if you can smoke it - you got the wrong stuff.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Friday, May 06, 2011

Canon in D



When I was little my mom and dad had a beautiful Pretorian 35.  We’d spend a few weeks every summer cruising on that boat - my dad, mom, brother, sister and I.  Some of my fondest memories from childhood take place on that boat and I credit the Lancashire Lass and those vacations for instilling a sense of wanderlust and adventure in all of us.  There were no televisions, no handheld gaming devices...we had books and our imaginations.  That 35 foot boat became a place of endless opportunity for my brother, sister and I - we’d make forts, dangle our feet in the water, swing from the halyards, sit on the bow and make up songs as we bounced up and down with the waves, sit in the dinghy and be towed astern...it was wonderful.

At night - as my dad tucked us all in our bunks - he would play music.  And it was always Pachelbel.  That beautiful music would lull me to a dreamy sleep as waves lapped gently against the hull.  To this day, when so many hear Canon in D and think wedding*, I hear it and think boats.  Of being on the water.  Of drifting to sleep.  Of dreams.  I know that piece of music so well I am convinced I could conduct it.

When we are on watch during the night, Scott and I do little to distract ourselves.  We’ve heard of cruisers who watch movies,  sleep on deck with alarms, and basically do anything to busy themselves for three hours.  Sometimes I read, but my new love is listening to music on my iPod as I scan the horizon.  I am still totally in tune with what is around me, but my ears and mind are occupied.  During one particular watch of the Mona Passage I listened to my old friend Pachelbel and let me tell you, there is little else more soul calming than sailing along the ocean in the solitude of night, listening to the sound of a magnificent orchestra.  It was so beautiful and powerful and nostalgic it almost moved me to tears.

If you have never heard this version** of Pachelbel’s Canon in D, please do yourself a favor and treat yourself to it.  Curl up on the couch, sit on your porch, or lounge in your hammock, open your imagination and let it take you away.  You’ll know what I mean.

Love,

Brittany & Scott
*I did, also, walk down the isle to this.
**  The entire album is amazing - it’s the Paillard Chamber Orchestra Works from Pachelbel and Fasch

Thursday, May 05, 2011

UFO Sighting

I mentioned in a previous post about the beauty and magic of sailing through the night.  Despite the darkness - there is a lot to be seen amidst all that black.  All one needs to do is look up and worlds upon worlds open up...Shooting stars with magnificent tails that slice across the darkness, tiny satellites that move so fast (seventeen thousand miles an hour!) you can actually follow them across the solar system, blinking planes, twinkling constellations...they are all there for your eyes to devour.

Even the water can provide ample entertainment if you watch it closely...unmarked buoys, tires, sea life, bioluminescence, fishing nets, and general flotsam and jetsam are always there...but every now and then you see something you have never seen before...something that you can't quite put your finger on...We call those: UFO's.  That's right, unidentified FLOATING objects (you thought I was going somewhere else with that, didn't you?).

It was around 2am and was down below sleeping when I heard Scott and Al talking about a "mysterious light" in the water.  I heard them rustle through the charts as they tried to identify it, "That is definitely not on the chart" I heard Al say.  "What the heck is that?" Scott continued, "It's, like, glowing...".  And that is when I had to come up and see for myself.

Just as I popped through the companionway hatch Scott made the decision to tack away from it - whatever it was.  And good thing he did.  Because that's when I saw it.  A distinct, huge (bigger than the boat), neon green something floating just under the surface of the water.  It was creepy and it was weird.  The three of us strained our eyes as we ghosted past it trying to catch a glimpse of any telltale feature that would give it away.  There was none.  Finally, I came up with what we think is the only plausible explanation:  a whale sleeping just under the surface, surrounded (thankfully!) by the phosphorescent light of the tiny sea creatures around it.  Whatever it was, we are glad we didn't hit it!

So - moral of the story is this:  while you can look up into the sky and look for unidentified flying objects, don't forget to look down at the water once in a while as well - lest you meet with an unidentified floating object!

Love,

Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Living the Good Life


I wrote a post earlier about the differences between a traveler and a tourist.  While I realize this post was more pro-traveler than tourist - I should have made a note that there are always exceptions and I was, for literary reasons, making generalizations.  One reader pointed out that there are travelers who are tourists, and tourists who are travelers - and I wholeheartedly agree.  The point that I made that was overlooked was that the main difference was in the mindset.

Anyway...

Here in Samana we have been tourists.  Slushy rum drink sipping, pool side dipping and hotel-restaurant dwelling tourists. And it has been heaven.

Entrance to Puerto Bahia Marina


When your life is one of a traveler, it sure feels good to be a tourist.  In fact, it actually feels like a vacation.  Showers with unlimited hot water, wine with dinner and infinity pools sure can make a girl feel good!  There is nothing wrong with enjoying a little luxury once in a while, though we did take a motorcycle-driven rickshaw back from town.  Judging by the looks we got as we peeled into the development in a loud, rickety, cart - I'm pretty sure we are the only people who have arrived that way...ever.

Thank you Bannister Hotel, Puerto Bahia Marina*, and (especially) Uncle Al for this wonderful, rejuvenating break from real life!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

* We did not stay at the hotel, but the marina is only $1 a foot and if you stay here on your boat, you have access to all the services this beautiful hotel has to offer!
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