Monday, October 31, 2011

Getting Your Captain's License is NOT Easy!

The mountain of paperwork Scott had to submit!
Scott headed to Trinidad last night with our friend, Mike, to complete the criteria needed to work on a passenger-carrying vessel, the STCW course...

While many of you may have thought that completing his USCG captain's license course was enough to become a "captain" - that was only the beginning...it is an incredible the amount of work to get your actual license, and Scott has been filling out, organizing and cross-checking paperwork for weeks in order to make sure he doesn't miss a step.

What does getting your captain's license entail, you wonder?

For starters, you must be 18, pass a drug test and a very difficult maritime exam, have a recent medical physical (within last 6 months), and obtain a TWIC card from the Department of Transportation.  Then, of course, there is the sea time. This is the hardest part by far.  To get a United States Coast Guard 100 ton license (which Scott has completed the course for and is applying for) you must account for 360 days at sea.  You'd think that sailing for a year, more or less non-stop, would have covered that with ease but there is a glitch:  a "day" can be no more than 8 hours in a 24 hour period.  If we spent 24 consecutive hours sailing to a destination (which we did plenty of), that is only considered one day, not three like you might assume.  This meant Scott had to supplement the hours spent on our boat and go back to his racing days to log all the hours he spent on other boats (which were many) in the past ten years.

Scott had to literally go back in time; check dates on races and track down former boat owners in his previous cities of Santa Barbara, Salt Lake City, Detroit and Chicago.  He had to make contact with the captains and have them sign-off on his time with them.  This process took ages.  Between a flurry of emails, phone calls and requests, he finally got his 360 hours more than covered*.  Once your sea time is accounted for and all the subsequent forms are completed, you must send them to the USCG for approval.  The following is a checklist of everything you need to apply for your License: 
  • Coast Guard Application Form (CG-719B)
  • Sea Service Forms (CG-719S)
  • Physical Examination Report (CG-719K)
  • Drug Test Report (5 Substance SAMSHA – CG-719-P)
  • Three Character References
  • Social Security Card
  • Copy of TWIC Card or proof of purchase
  • Proof of Citizenship
  • First Aid/CPR Certification
  • User Fees
  • Training Certificate
(make sure to check them MULTIPLE times to make sure you have everything and that you have completed all forms properly!). Once submitted, their average turn-around time is no more than 15 days.  If Scott has one piece of advice for those of you who are thinking about getting your captain's license, it is to LOG YOUR HOURS AS YOU GO.  The form you need can be found here, and if you fill these out as you go, the arduous process of paperwork will be much, much easier when the time comes.

While all of that will get you a Captain's License, it will not be enough for you to work on a boat.  If you wanted to work on any ship, whether it be a steward on a mega-yacht or an engineer on a cargo ship, you will also need to complete the STCW course.  This course covers the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers and it is mandatory to have this certification to work on pretty much any boat (at least in the US and Caribbean).  The course is an intense five days, and by the time it is over on Friday, Scott will be proficient in these four areas: 
  1. Basic safety, survival, and first aid
  2. Bridge resource management (teamwork/watchkeeping)
  3. Survival craft and rescue boats
  4. Fire safety
Obtaining your STCW supposed to be pretty challenging and it includes a significant amount of playing with fire.  Rest assured, we'll tell you about it when he comes back!

HUGE thank you to those wonderful captains who took the time to respond and help Scott out - your efforts are appreciated!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

VOR

Photo courtesy of VOR website
Yesterday was the official start of the Volvo Ocean Race.  The "VOR" as is has come to be known, is an around the world ocean race that spans about nine months and is an exceptional test of skill and vigor as these elite sailors cross oceans and sail in the famously difficult higher latitudes of the Southern Ocean (appropriately nicknamed the "roaring" forties and "furious" fifties) in order to pass both the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn.  It is, quite literally, the equivalent of climbing Mt. Everest in terms of difficulty and skill, and the "adventure" aspect of the event is always certain.

Follow along if you like - we will be.  It's not cruising in the Caribbean, but it's hard-core performance sailing at it's very best!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Friday, October 28, 2011

Epirb Accident

Our EPIRB, an ACR Global Fix Pro
As I mentioned in an earlier post, tis the season for cruising down here and boats are leaving by the dozens for new adventures, islands and destinations...

The other day, one such boat from our marina started heading North again.  They left quietly for their Virgin Island's destination...quietly, that is, until their EPIRB went off.

For those that don't know - an EPIRB is an emergency position-indicating radio beacon that some boats have on board as a safety device.  Personally, I wouldn't venture offshore without one, but many do.  When disaster strikes, it's your last ditch effort, your 911 call on the water, a final lifeline to the outside world when radio and all else fails you and, if you activate it, it is presumed you are in imminent danger or worse.  Once activated (either manually or when submerged in water, as in a sinking) a signal with GPS position is sent out into the atmosphere.  This signal can be picked up practically any distance from shore, anywhere on the globe.  They are monitored world-wide and taken very, very seriously.  Ships large and small within striking distance are alerted and are expected, by law, to divert and search for the vessel.  The nearest Coast Guard operations are notified and rescue efforts put into effect.  Families are called.  Cruising communities alerted.  In short, it's a big deal.  EPRIBS have saved countless lives that would have otherwise been lost without a trace.

When this particular boat's EPIRB went off, it took all of a few hours for the news to travel back to the Grenada cruising community.  While many of us were certain it had to be a fluke or an accident (there had been no significant weather whatsoever) we all remained quietly mindful that there is always risk out there; collision with another ship, an unfortunate run-in with a rogue container or some other freak accident.  The mind boggles.  The fact is, if their lives were in danger, the word (complete with their last known GPS position) was widely known within a couple hours and people were out looking for them.  Pretty impressive.

As it turns out, the boat and it's crew are fine - but this is good reminder as to how effective an EPIRB is in case of emergency.  It's also a good reminder that if you have an EPIRB on board, make sure to keep it in a place that is not only convenient and easy to deploy, but one that is inconspicuous enough so that you won't accidentally activate it.  Not only accidental activation cause your fellow cruisers and family a good amount of worry, but you will potentially rack up a bill of god knows how much after all the resources are put in effect to find you.

The cruising community here and up island collectively breathed a sigh of relief to know our boater friends were safe, and I for one am relieved to have seen first hand just how effective this fantastic safety device is.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dreaming and Scheming...


I love how Scott and I can just scheme and dream about our life, our future and what's next for us...   It seems the possibilities are endless; where to cruise, where we'll end up, businesses we'll start, places we'll see, how we'll show our children the world, the life we will give them...it's incredible really, and the unpredictability of it all fills me with giddy excitement.  We literally have no idea what the future holds for us and that is so totally invigorating.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

A Person's a Person No Matter How Small


The other day, when I went on a hike with friends to Mt. Carmel falls this little guy found a flower and his dad said, "Look Quinn, it's like the flower from Horton Hears a Who".  I had to take a picture because he was 100% correct.  It was exactly like the flower from the classic children's book by the wonderful Dr. Seuss!

For those of you who don't know what I am talking about, treat yourself (and your children, if you have any) to this book about a lovable elephant who saves a tiny planet of people who live on a flower.  I was practically raised on Dr. Seuss books and I swear I can still hear my dad's animated voice reading, "I meant what I said and I said what I meant, an elephant's faithful one hundred percent!!" 

The main theme is one to always be mindful of, and that is the fact that we should always treat others with kindness and respect because, after all, "a person's a person, no matter how small".

Just a nice little story and a pretty little flower to brighten your day.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top Ten Myths About Cruising


If you are anything like I was before we left on this journey, you are almost to the end of the internet when it comes to research on everything 'cruising'.  I believe this is a fantastic way to prepare yourself for a life at sea because not only will you be getting a variety of perspectives (especially if you follow a myriad of sailing blogs) but you will also be getting a lot of great information!  We learned a lot about cruising before we ever left (albeit through the eyes of others) but have learned there are just as many myths circulating out there as there are boats.  This Tuesday we bring you our

Top 10 Myths About Cruising

  1. It's an endless vacation -  I have broached the subject before, but it's worth repeating.  This lifestyle is NOT easy.  It is NOT an 'endless vacation' (as so many landlubbers seem to see it) and it is not glamourous.  It's a lot of hard work and there are a lot of highs and lows associated with it.  To us, it's worth the rewards of living life on our own terms but you must know that it does not come without sacrifices.
  2. The more gadgets, the better -  I've heard the term "gadget-itis" before and a lot of people out here have it, us included probably.  We've got a lot of bells and whistles aboard Rasmus (AIS, autopilot, chart-plotter, SSB, EPIRB, Spot tracker...etc) but we also are competent in navigating without these things and tend not to rely solely on them lest we become dependent.  "Gadget-itis" refers to the belief that you need every little trinket from a foam mug holder (it holds four cups without spilling!) to a specialty sailing tool bag (made specifically for boats!) to outfit your boat properly.  You probably don't need these things.  Save some money for the cruising kitty up front by making sure what you want is also what you need, as there is often a big difference.  
  3. It's a dangerous, risky lifestyle - A lot of people on land ask what I think about the young teens these days - like Abby Sunderland  and Jessica Watson - who have attempted to break records by sailing around the world alone at seemingly ridiculous ages (one succeeded and one did not).  I always say that while I don't think I'd feel comfortable with my 16 year old out on the ocean alone, if these young people are truly the mariners they are said to be, they are probably much safer out there than on the streets of their home towns where the threat of drugs, drunk driving, online bullying, teenage pregnancy and things like that are a real threat every day.  The truth is, the sea is a very safe place if you are diligent.  Sure, there are storms, hurricanes and gear failure, but if you watch weather properly, maintain your boat well and sail conservatively you should be able to avoid the big, catastrophic stuff.
  4. To be a real cruiser, you have to be hardcore - there is sometimes this unspoken notion that to be a "real" cruiser you need to be "hardcore".  What does that mean?  I'm not entirely sure - but the other day we were told we looked "too put together and clean" to be real cruisers.  Kind of funny considering we'd sailed nearly twice the distance these cruisers had.  Cruising is cruising and is what you make it.  Whether you have a tricked out catamaran wired with satellite television or a basic boat with nothing more than a compass and a hand-held GPS - if you are out here, you are a cruiser.  Different experience? Sure.  But you don't have to forego shaving your legs, douse yourself in patchouli oil and live off ramen noodles to be part of the club.  
  5. We're all rich - this is the most annoying misconception of them all.  If I had a dime for every email I got that related to money, I would indeed be rich.  I am here to tell you - all cruisers are not independently wealthy, in fact, most are far from it.  We have made choices and sacrifices to live this life and most of us worked very hard to get here.  Because Scott and I are young, we get a lot of raised eyebrows but the truth is we both work (me remotely, he on a tall ship) and live on the cheap.  We get a lot of cool stuff donated to us because of this blog and get fantastic discounts on everything from boat gear to marina fees.  
  6. You need to have offshore experience - I think I mentioned this in an earlier post, but when we were getting ready to leave one guy who had sailed to the Bahamas and back asked us if we had any "ocean experience" and when we told him no, as a matter of fact, we didn't, he looked at us like we were crazy.  The truth is, we are of the opinion that if you know how to sail a boat on a large lake (like Lake Michigan, as we had), you can sail on the ocean.  Are they exactly the same?  No.  Swell is different, weather patterns are slightly different, and salt water is pretty much your nemesis - but we didn't get swallowed up by the sea like this guy implied, and if we can do it - you probably can too.
  7. You must stock up for months and months at a time - my friend Jaye answered my Facebook inquiry about this and she is completely right.  We fell into this trap before we left and I bought tons and tons and TONS of non-perishables for the boat.  We even got some freeze-dried meals which we have never touched.  Unless you are crossing an ocean, this crazy type of provisioning isn't really necessary in our opinion.  People have to eat to survive everywhere (including far-flung islands!) and while you might not be able to find your favorite brand of cereal in the local stores, you will find food staples and you will not starve.  
  8. The cruising community is one, big, happy family - in general, the cruising community is wonderful, helpful and friendly.  But this is no utopia.  Just like anywhere, there are cruisers that are rude, cruisers that are pompous, some that are bizarre and some that take themselves way too seriously.  A fair amount of drama has ensued during this hurricane season and although we weren't part of any of it, it was odd to see it from a distance.  Overall, the cruising community is a fantastic one - but don't be shocked if you meet a few cruisers that you just don't click with, and that is A-okay.
  9. Sharks are everywhere - we have seen sharks, mostly of the lemon and nurse variety (not exactly 'man eaters'), but I would not say they are a real danger to cruisers, at least not in the Caribbean.  When we saw one while snorkeling in the BVI's I was completely shocked at how calm and totally unfazed I was.  He swam right past me, totally uninterested and it seemed he was more eager to get away from me than I him.
  10. People with more experience know more than you - because we're young there are a lot of people who have been out here a lot longer than we have.  In the beginning we assumed they knew a lot more than we did, but we have learned over time that this is not necessarily true.  We've met cruisers who have been sailing down here for years and years and never lost sight of land or don't know how to tie a bowline.  Everyone has different experiences and different expertise and there is something to be learned from each and every person.  Always be open to the advice of others, but realize that just because they have more time on the water doesn't mean it's the best advice for you (including any advice I give on this blog!).  This is particularly true when talking about weather.  Always make your own decisions!
What myths have you found while cruising?  Was there anything you assumed or read about that you found not to be true?  Share your thoughts!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Monday, October 24, 2011

Caribbean Images

Just a few images to show you the world through my eyes these days....

A typical Grenadian Home 

A black sand beach in Grenada
Chillin'
Fish Market in downtown St. Georges, Grenada
Daddy/Daughter 
Just outside the main market in Grenada
Love,
Brittany & Scott

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Coming in from the Sea

The other day, as I waited on the shore waiting anxiously to spot Scott as he sailed in on Diamant,
I felt a bit like an old time merchant marine's wife, gazing out upon the horizon, waiting for her seafaring husband to return from the sea.  Luckily for me, Scott is only gone a week at a time (as opposed to months or even years in some cases) so I'm one of the lucky ones.  But that doesn't mean that I didn't get giddy when I spotted this beautiful boat come from around Fort George Point and start heading into safe harbor!  After a short trip to Trinidad next week to get his STCW, he's back on land for the month of November while we have a whirlwind of visitors aboard Rasmus.  Lots of good stuff to come!

Love,
Brittany

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Spirited Lady


Boy did it feel good to get out on the water yesterday!  

Sometimes, you just have to take opportunities as they come.  My mom and I showed up at the marina pool in the morning thinking we were just heading to aqua aerobics, and next thing we new we we were invited to crew on this incredibly beautiful boat's 3rd birthday sail because they were shorthanded a few crew members.  I wasn't sure if my mom was up for it - but of course she was and next thing we knew we were whisked off to sea and had the most lovely day in the Caribbean sun.  Boy have I missed sailing!!  We had a lovely sail up the coast to Flamingo Bay in a stiff 15-20 knots of breeze aboard the Spirit Yacht "Spirited Lady" (if you knew the owner/skipper, Suzy, the name would instantly make sense - she is a character to say the least!).  It was a wonderful day and ended with a delicious dinner at a fabulous gem of a local restaurant I had never found before (more about it soon!).  We were even treated to a little adventure when our dinghy ran out of gas on the way home at 10:30pm and we had to row, row, row out boat back to the marina (and of course, Suzy led the other three ladies in song while I cursed myself for not filling up the tank last week like I had planned).  My bad.

It's amazing what leaving your plans open can do for a day down here!

When opportunity knocks, open the door.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Little Inspiration from Bob


The other morning Bob Marley's song "War" came on our iPod and even though I know it by heart and have heard it probably 1,000 times - it still moves me.  The lyrics are almost, word for word, a speech by Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie I made before the UN National Assembly in 1963.  I think the words are powerful, incredible, and ring so very true today.  Read them first, then listen to my man Bob sing it.  Amazing.

Until the philosophy which hold one race superior
And another Inferior
Is finally
And permanently
Discredited
And abandoned 
-Everywhere is war -
Me say war.
That until there no longer
First class and second class citizens of any nation
Until the color of a man's skin
Is of no more significance than the color of his eyes 
-Me say war.
That until the basic human rights
Are equally guaranteed to all,
Without regard to race 
-Dis a war.
That until that day
The dream of lasting peace,
World citizenship
Rule of international morality
Will remain in but a fleeting illusion to be pursued,
But never attained 
-Now everywhere is war - war.
And until the ignoble and unhappy regimes
that hold our brothers in Angola,In Mozambique,South Africa
Sub-human bondage
Have been toppled,Utterly destroyed 
-Well, everywhere is war -Me say war.
War in the east,War in the west,War up north,War down south 
-War - War -
Rumors of war.
And until that day,The African continent
Will not know peace,
We Africans will fight - we find it necessary -And we know we shall win
As we are confidentIn the victory
Of good over evil 
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil 
Good over evil, yeah!
Good over evil 
Good over evil, yeah!


Listen to Bob sing it here.  God, what I would have done to be able to see this man live. LOVE.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Sarong Blanket

Believe it or not, it can actually get a *teensy* bit chilly here at night.
Granted, it's 80 degrees most nights.  But if there is a stiff breeze and we have our hatch open or if Scott has the fan on him, that little bit of moving air over my skin is enough to give me goosebumps.

We haven't used a blanket or a topsheet for bed since, gosh, the Bahamas maybe but because I'm sensitive to the slightest draft, I knew I needed something.  Something a little more than a sheet, but a lot less than a blanket.  Then it dawned on me!  Why not sew together a few sarongs and make my own blanket?

My friend Sharon from m/v Finally Fun had heard about a store in town that sold beautiful sarongs for $5 USD so off we went.  Sure enough we found them, and after digging through the bin for about thirty minutes we selected our wraps.  I bought four in total.  I figured on two sarongs per side because one isn't long enough to fully cover a person.  I picked out two sets of matching sarongs, the idea being one set per side thus creating a unique reversible blanket!

Sharon, who very well could have a masters degree in Home Economics (and knowing full well my lack of any domestic skills) offered to sew them for me using our friend Laurie's sewing machine.  She ALSO made a lovely curtain for our v-berth to cover the unsightly hawse pipe for our windlass.  It looks lovely.  She went above and beyond, matching seams, making hems and doing a MUCH better job than I would have done! I am so thankful!

The blanket is cozy, soft, and just enough to keep off the chill but not make me hot.  It's a one of a kind Caribbean blanket that can be used in bed, for picnics or on the beach!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

It's (almost) Cruising Season in the Caribbean Again


There used to be three boats here just two days ago...

...and now, they are gone.  It's that time of year again folks:  Cruising season!  The Caribbean hurricane season (roughly June to November) is all but over and boats are headed out to sea again.  Some are headed North, some venturing South, with others trekking East or West.  It's an emotional time for many; not only because so many people must bid farewell to so many wonderful boating friends they have made but because many people are discovering their boats aren't quite as ready to leave as they are.  You see,  after months and months of sitting idle many people rev their engines to head out to that ever-beckoning horizon, only to turn around and limp back to the harbor or anchorage less than 12 hours later when they discover some system isn't working properly.

Scott and I have a saying when it comes to health and fitness, and that is "move it or lose it".  The idea being that if you don't move and use your body (thus staying fit), you'll end up with all sorts of health problems later.  This appears to be true for boats as well.  Many boat's are waking up from their summer hibernations with ceased water pumps, faulty windlasses, impellers that don't impel, depth sounders that don't sound and more.  Because we have been travelling so much since we got here (and not by our boat) and because Scott now is gone all week long with his new job, we too, have neglected to use our little Rasmus.  And boy does she need to get out to sea again!

So...how can you prevent your boat from falling into this trap?  While we are obviously not leading by example - I think the trick is to USE it.  Go for a day sail, run your engine, drop your anchor, service your winches, check your oils, run those halyards, and grease those moving parts!  While this doesn't guarantee you won't have any surprises, it will help to keep you on top of the problems as they arise so you aren't scrambling for parts at the very last minute, desperately trying to fix something so you can get to the BVI's for Christmas or something similar.

We're planning on doing a little cruising in November to the Grenadines when we have a slew of visitors - so we'll let you know how we fare...fingers crossed!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Useful Things You Might Forget

A "boat card" - like a business card, only better!
When you pack a boat to live on it indefinitely, you end up packing a LOT of stuff...

You scour provisioning lists online, you read checklists in sailing books, you read blogs like this one, and you get lots of advice from other cruisers about what you "must" and "need" to have aboard.  Before you know it - you're mind is literally racing with a tangled list of items.  Scott and I packed our boat pretty well.  We certainly brought along things we didn't need, but what's most important are the things we remembered.  We learned a lot along the way and continue to learn (we are by no means experts!) - so take this with a grain of salt.  These are a few items that we have found helpful to have aboard that we think might slip your mind (because many of them slipped ours!).  So, with no further ado, I give you our:

Top 10 Useful Items that Might be Easily Forgotten

  1. Screens - We didn't really experience bugs until we got to the southern Caribbean, but ever since - we have thanked the previous owner over and over for the screens that are fitted for every hatch and companionway (we NEVER would have thought of them).  We love them.  Mosquitos at night are NOT your friends, trust me!
  2. Extra camera battery - This is ironic, because last night I actually ran out my camera battery and cursed myself for not remembering my cardinal rule even after writing this post.  When my camera battery dies, I (usually) always have one charged and ready to go, so in a moment (like last night), when I need it - I can pop it in and keep it going! (IF I remember to bring it...doh!).  My dad taught me this one and it's resulted in many pictures that would not have been otherwise! 
  3. Magnet - we don't have one...yet.  But we have needed one countless times to pick up a stray piece of hardware or help to remove a stripped screw.  A magnet can be very helpful around a boat - just make sure to keep it away from the compass!!
  4. Extendable mirror - We have a little 2x2 mirror on an extending arm and it has been VERY useful in seeing what is going on in the little places our heads can't go (which on a boat, are many).  We have used it to see what is happening behind a control panel, in a corner of the engine, underneath the bottom of our water pump or down in a locker.  Very, very useful.  A pocket mirror won't do, the arm is key.
  5. Umbrella - even though we live in "paradise" doesn't mean it's sunny all the time!  We have been getting a LOT of rain these days and having a nice umbrella makes the trips to the grocery store or market much more pleasant.  Not to mention, we've brought it to the beach for shade and used it to walk under on incredibly hot days.
  6. Floating toys - Sure, fenders will work - but we bought inexpensive pool noodles like these in Puerto Rico for three bucks a piece and never looked back!  They are so much fun to float and drink in.  We have the ones with holes thought the center so we can loop an old halyard through them and toss them behind the boat enabling you to float lazily without drifting out to the ocean.
  7. Work gloves - these are great for actually working of course, but if you are a hiker, you will find them great on hikes as well.  Scrambling up a ridge that is covered in razor grass or grabbing at slippery muddy branches is much easier when you have something to protect and cover your hands!  
  8. Wire Hangers - we had plastic hangers at first, and they all broke pretty quickly.  I bought wire hangers from Walgreens somewhere along the ICW and we've never turned back.  They are sturdy enough for foul weather gear, don't break if you grab something quickly and can be bent and contorted to be used for all sorts of MacGyver-esque functions.  Fun!
  9. Boat Cards - these are basically business cards, for boats!  Most people have a picture of their boat's on theirs - but we have a picture of ourselves (so people can remember our faces).  Other information you might want to include:  Your name, name of your boat, email address, website, radio call sign, and perhaps even a cell phone or sat phone number.  Despite the fact that we forget to bring ours out with us all the time, we have handed out many and received even more!  They are a great, easy way to exchange information and keep in touch.  You can have them made for almost nothing over at vistaprint.com.
  10. Folding Chairs - I bought these while we were in Ft. Lauderdale and I am so glad we did!  There are many beach pot-lucks or cruiser get together's when there is not enough seating for everyone.  Having these little guys makes life a little easier so we don't need to sit in the mud or sand while we have dinner, plus they fold to almost nothing and take up very little room.  Scott however, is less a fan of these and calls them "nut crushers".  TMI?  Sorry.  
So, while we're not trying to confuse you further or add to your never-ending list of things you need, these are items we have found useful that we think might be easily overlooked or forgotten.  What do you think?  Do you have any items that you find incredibly handy that you didn't think you would?  We'd love to know!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thank you to my friend Jessica on SanSan for her insight on this post!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Do You Dance Like No One's Watching?

One of the things I love about life down here is how seemingly unconcerned everyone is with the opinion's of others... 

People dance alone in the street to their headphones, ladies in the market pick out their hair while chatting with their friend... and the singing!  People are ALWAYS singing.  In the grocery store, on the bus, walking down the street...literally marching to the beat of their own drummer.  You'd think we were living in a Caribbean musical down here.  I love it. And the best part?  Not a single bystander will look at any of these random acts of happiness as inappropriate.  No eye rolls, no whispers, no judgement.

Coming from the US, which by European standards must be considered one of the most uptight nations of them all, this is incredibly refreshing.  So many of us Northerners live in fear of what other's will think of us; we send a sidelong glance to the woman singing out loud on a bus and whisper to our children that she is 'crazy', we refrain from really saying what's on our minds at town hall meetings for fear of being 'different', we engage in silent, unspoken competitions with our peers - always judging, forever making comparisons using some sort of measuring stick.  Obviously, I am generalizing - but still, a "status quo" exists and, lets face it, most people aren't the types to rock the boat.   This pervading attitude can most likely be traced back to our rigidly Puritan roots; ethics and morals translated literally from the bible that revolved around abstaining from pleasure.  Can you imagine?  Being taught that pleasure was a bad thing?  Actually believing the dogma that "...blessed are ye who weep now, for ye shall laugh later"?!  Good grief.  Spare me.  I have no doubt I would have been burned at the stake as a heathen.  

I think we, generally speaking, are a nation that does not know our true selves.  We have been taught over and over and over again, to conform, to stay between the lines.  We don't know our gifts, we don't know our passions, we have completely lost touch with the fire within.  Here, it just seems different.  Of course there are Caribbean Islanders who "conform" and of course there are people in the US and elsewhere who don't give a hoot what others think and swim against the current.  But down here, I think there are disproportionately more people singing out loud than I ever heard walking down the street in Chicago, and that tells me something.  Caribbean people just don't seem to care as much.  They talk with animation and passion, they sing from the heart, and they dance from the soul - meanwhile, the whole world outside is watching, and it simply doesn't matter.  It's not a competition, it's life, and down here, they live it up!

I am convinced all of humanity is born with more gifts than we know.  Most are born geniuses and just get de-geniused rapidly.  ~Buckminster Fuller

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Caribbean Coconut Bread

For someone who doesn't like to cook, I sure am whipping up a lot of goodies these days, aren't I?

Truth is, I had some to-die-for coconut bread from a Rasta street vendor a few days ago and despite making forays into town every day since to find him again, I have not.  So I decided to take matters into my own hands.  It doesn't hurt that it's pretty easy* to make and coconut anything is Scott's favorite thing in the world and I wanted to make him a little treat for when he came home.  Plus, coconut bread is quintessentially Caribbean and I'm on a roll with this Caribbean cooking thing...

Here's the recipe if you want a taste of the Caribbean in your home!  This particular recipe yields a dense, DELICIOUS bread.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 6 Tbsps. soft margarine, melted
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1/2 small coconut, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg (optional)

DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven at 350°F/180°C
  2. Sift dry ingredients in a bowl.
  3. Combine sugar, beaten egg, coconut milk, melted margarine, vanilla, and grated coconut.
  4. Scrape mixture into a greased loaf pan and shape as best you can with a spatula.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes or until done (when you can prick it with a toothpick and it comes out clean).

Thanks to the Caribbean Choice website for this recipe which I altered a bit to suit our tastes!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

* Except grating the coconut!!  That is NOT easy and takes a lot of time.  You will break a sweat and may or may not lose a finger in the process.  Fresh is best, but I'm sure you can buy pre-shaved coconut if time is an issue or you just don't feel up to the chore.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Have the Dream but Need a Boat?

This could be your boat!
While not all of our followers have dreams to sail the seven seas, 

I know a fair amount of you are chomping at the bit to get out here and live the life aquatic.  If you are one of those - I think it goes without saying that you are going to need a boat.  While we are monohull people, we know a lot of you out there are looking for the space and comfort of a catamaran.  To you - I present our friends' Lagoon 380 (owner's version) Tranquila (doesn't that just sound like a little piece of heaven?).

Our friends Bob and Laurie have been living aboard and cruising for the past 20 years and are ready to live on land again.  They maintain their boat impeccably and have been incredibly doting and loving owners.  If you are looking for a boat that is about as "turn key" as one can be, you would be doing yourself a disservice not to take a peek at this one.

They will be leaving Grenada this November (sniffle, sniffle) and will be heading north up the Caribbean island chain and will be passing through the BVI, USVI, Puerto Rico, Bahamas and eventually Florida.  They are willing and able to sell her anywhere in between now and then.  For more photos of this fantastic boat, click here.  And if you or someone you know is looking to "live the dream" and sail off into the sunset, you can contact Bob and Laurie at sv.tranquila(at)gmail.com.

We'll meet you somewhere for happy hour - there will be MUCH more room on your boat!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Friday, October 14, 2011

TGIF

T.G.I.F from the St. George's Caranage in Grenada!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Help Another - Help Yourself

"It is one of the most beautiful compensations of this life that no man can sincerely try to help another without helping himself." 
~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Back in July, when we first arrived in Grenada, Scott and I were looking for a way to give back to the wonderful community here.  We had time, we had resources and we wanted to do something good - no matter how small.  

We found the Queen Elizabeth home for Children and instantly were impressed by their mission, and their cause.  They were grateful for our offer to help and have treated me like a member of their family since day one.  I immediately turned to my extremely large (and incredibly generous) extended family (my father is one of twelve) and raised a whopping $3,000.00 in donations among them.  To say the QEHC was grateful would be a tremendous understatement.

Their needs are great - they have just made an addition to the home and hope to finish the last phase so they can accomodate another 30 children.  They need furniture; desks, beds, tables, chairs as well as second-hand computers for their learning center.  In addition to these tangible goods - they need money.     They need money to pay the salaries of the workers, they need money for student uniforms, for food, and for the day-to-day operation of the home.  If you or someone you know would like to help with any of the above, please email me at windtraveler09(at)gmail.com.

If you would like to donate money, for the next 2 weeks (until October 26th) I will be accepting donations on behalf of the home from our Paypal account.  Any donations that come in between now and then will go directly to the Queen Elizabeth home in the form of a check written by yours truly.  Just click the "donate" button on the right hand side of this page and enter the amount you would like to give.  Easy peasy.  Or, if you don't feel comfortable with that - you can send a check payable to the "Queen Elizabeth Home" to this address: 
Queen Elizabeth Home for Children  
PO Box 1127
St. Georges, Grenada, WI.

These swings need fixin!
I also need to give a shout-out to some great people who have also contributed to this cause.  First - a big thank you to Alex over at Surf Tidal Wave Media for offering his web design expertise, pro-bono, to help the Queen Elizabeth home update their website.  A heartfelt thank you is also due to our friends, Mike and Rebecca, of Zero To Cruising fame who donated two of their spare halyards (and made a radio announcement on our behalf collecting two more, making that four in total) to fix the children's derelict swingsets.  It's amazing what impact tiny gestures can have on the life of a child! Of course, I must also thank my family (you know who you are!!) for their generous donations - you kindness is felt in the hearts of children thousands of miles away!

How far that little candle throws his beams!  So shines a good deed in a weary world.
~ William Shakespeare

Love,
Brittany & Scott

PS.  The Queen Elizabeth Home also has a Facebook Page!  Be sure to stop by and "like" them!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Rastaman Vibration

Selwyn, my beautiful Rasta friend - inside and out.
Rastaman vibration, yeah. Positive! - Bob Marley

I had a completely different article written for today.  Sure, it was on Rastas and a glimpse into the Rastafarian culture, but that all changed when I met this guy, Selwyn.  Sometimes, life puts you in the path of someone on purpose.  Sometimes the Universe works to give you exactly what you need and you just gotta roll with it.   But let me back up...

I went to town the other day with the sole mission of getting a great photo of a rasta for the afore-mentioned article.  That's all.  Just one photo.  I got off my bus and immediately saw this beautiful man.  I walked right up to him and I said, "Excuse me sir, I am writing an article on Rastas and I was wondering, would you mind if I I took your picture?"

He looked at me with this puzzled expression and replied, "Sister, sister...before you take my picture, you need to slow down." He looked at me seriously, "Tell me...why do you want to write about Rasta?"  I smiled, and told him my love of the Rastafarian religion and how I wanted to paint a more realistic picture of the Rasta life - one that went beyond the dreads and the pot smoking.

Selwyn pondered this a moment and said.  "Come, we must talk first.  Please, sit down."  And we went into a little corner bar and had a seat. "Tell me what you know about Rastafari" he asked me as he pensively twirled one of his dreadlocks between two fingers.  I told him what I knew of the culture, the beliefs, lifestyle and - most important - the conviction that we are all One.  "It's more than that sister," he began, "It's about love and faith in the Almighty, our savior".  He began to tell me about his love of Jesus Christ, and how we must all accept a higher power in order to live life and love everlasting (for some Rastas this is Haile Selassie, but as in all religion, there are variations within).

We spoke back and forth for a long time, me explaining my beliefs and he articulating his.  He asked me many thoughtful, intent questions and finally he leaned back in his chair and asked with an inquisitive smile, "What made you interested in Rasta?" I explained to him my love of Bob Marley (which began many, many years ago); how I believe he was a true prophet, how his music spoke to me and continues to do so.  He put his hand up in a stopping position.  "No, not his music sister..."  Selwyn smiled kindly as he interjected, "His message." He raised his forefinger,  "His message spoke to you."  He patted his heart with his fingers in a 'peace' sign.  From that moment on, Selwyn and I were on the same page.  Then, he did something really, really cool.  He told me to close my eyes and he gently placed his hand atop my head and said a prayer.  When I opened my eyes Selwyn had tears in his as he took my face in his palms and smiled.  He pointed to his tearing eyes and said, "You see this?  This is love.  We are one."  It was beautiful.  We embraced in a huge hug and our bond was solidified.  "You okay," he said with an approving nod and a smile, "You okay".


The roots of Rastafari (often pronounced Rasta-far-EYE:  this is known as "I" talk and is the accepted lingo among Rastas) began in rebellion in the 1930's and (as a former rebel without a cause) I have always had a place in my heart for those who staunchly reject being told what to do.  More than an African hippe movement, Rastafari was a reaction against colonial rule and more of a lifestyle than organized religion though all Rastas believe in a higher power and one Almighty ruler. 

The culture is one that is often misunderstood and controversial, due in large part to the Rasta belief that 'ganja' (marijuana) is considered the "holy herb" and is smoked openly - often for enlightenment.  What a lot of people don't realize is that in addition to this, many Rastafarian's shun alcohol and other (non-natural) drugs and view them as poison; tools used by society to confuse rather then enhance people.  They believe in eating organically, and many here in the islands have their own little gardens free of chemicals and pesticides*.  They tread lightly on the earth and many adhere to a strictly vegetarian diet.  Of course, the most tell-tale sign of a Rasta is their hair - they do not believe in cutting it and wear it in "dreadlocks" which are often symbolic of a deep, spiritual journey.

There is so much more to this incredible religion - so many variations and nuances.  What I can tell you is - at it's heart - just like at the heart of all of us, it's all about LOVE.  I feel so lucky to be able to interact with these beautiful people, like my friend Selwyn, on a daily basis.  There is so much we can learn from each other and in the words of the prophetic Bob Marley, the most famous Rasta of them all, 

...None but ourselves can free our minds...

Love,
Brittany & Scott

* Incidentally, I always seek out street food sold by a Rasta...always vegetarian, nutritious and delicious! Soya pies, vegetable wraps, organic coconut bread....YUM!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: What do we do to Keep Busy?

Learning an instrument is a great way to pass the time.
People often ask us how we while away the hours living on a small boat...

Truth be told, Scott and I are pretty active people by nature and rarely find ourselves twiddling our thumbs wondering "what to do?".  When we are not busy maintaining the boat or fixing things (which, trust me, is a never-ending story) there are a plethora of ways we tick off hours on the clock.  Here are the

Top 10 Ways we Spend our Free Time: 
  1. Reading.  I love to read.  From "chick lit" to Twain, I'll read it all!  It's not unusual for me to read an entire book a day.  Scott reads quite a bit as well, he just usually cannot do it for five hours on end and usually ends up tinkering with another project or perfecting some system on our boat in between reading stints.
  2. Writing.  Obviously I write, a lot.  Not only do I write for this blog - but I write other articles and missives as well that are not seen here.  It's a rare day that goes by without me spending at least a couple of hours in front of the computer, writing away.
  3. Music.  Scott bought a ukelele before we left.  Luckily for him, he was blessed with musical talent and while he doesn't "play" the uke, all it takes is an hour of practice and he can usually bang out a song.  I love listening to it and, who knows, maybe one day we'll be the next Partridge family (not).
  4. Exercise.  Now that we are in one place and not moving every other day, it's easier to get into a routine.  I run about an hour a day with a friend and have a wonderful loop that takes us up some pretty gnarly hills.  I've run for exercise since I was a young girl so it's not really a chore to me - but a way to invigorate my body and mind (and good for baby too!).
  5. Movies.  We love movies and have a whole slew of them.  On rainy days or lazy evenings we have found movies to be a great way to spend time.  With modern technology movies are easily rented online and cruisers share movies amongst one another so there's always something new to watch (even though it might be a bit outdated!).
  6. Games.  We don't really play games that much, but we have a few aboard and they are a great way to spend an hour or two while still spending "together" time.  Scott's favorite is Bananagrams; it's great for two (but can be played by more), it's small and requires very little 'set up', and he wins just about every time (which, truth be told, is probably why we don't play as much because I am fiercely competitive and hate losing.  Every. Single. Time).  
  7. Editing videos.  Many of you have noticed a new hobby of mine, making videos!  I love it.  Soon I will hopefully be the proud owner of a new HD video camera so they'll get better and better, but this is a great way to pass the time while creating something cool.  I have spent MANY hours editing my movies and putting them together.  I love it.  I also just got some cool photo editing software so I imagine that will also keep my creative juices flowing!
  8. Exploring.  There is nothing I love more than a trip to the market or a dinghy trip or a hike to somewhere new.  We usually make a day of an excursion by walking as much as possible and stopping somewhere local to eat.  We talk with locals, I take lots of pictures, we buy produce and - in general - exploring somewhere new is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.  I could explore the streets of St. George's all day long I think.  
  9. Beach time.  We are so lucky to have a beautiful beach just a short dinghy ride away from where we are.  Scott and I have begun a new tradition of heading to the beach for fruit smoothies every Saturday when he is off work and we love it.  We can't wait till the day when we can bring a big umbrella and our little sea monkey with us.  God help us, this baby is going to LOVE the beach and the water.
  10. Socializing with friends.  There's a LOT going on among the cruisers down here!  Not a week goes by where there isn't some sort of organized party or get-together.  From holiday celebrations to happy hours to pig roasts, cruiser's know how to get it done!  Aside from these larger gatherings, we also have a lot of friends we like to spend time with.  We're never alone for long!
Needless to say, we keep pretty busy around here!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Monday, October 10, 2011

Caribbean Burritos


So cooking isn't really my thing...

...there are just SO many other things I'd rather do with my time, but we gotta eat, right?  Every now and then I make a little something that surprises me and I feel compelled to share for all you other poor souls who feel lost in the galley.  If you're paying close attention you will realize I pretty much use the same few ingredients in every dish I make.  What can I say? Progress is slow around here.

Fancy making Caribbean burritos? Read on!

Ingredients:
  • 1 can of black beans
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 large tomato 
  • 1 large ripe (yellow) plantain (Substitute: 1 ripe banana)
  • 1 small bunch of shadow benny (Substitute: cilantro)
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of butter (to fry plantains)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil (to fry onions, tomatos)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Dash of hot sauce of your choice
  • 2 roti skins (we can buy them pre-made here which is wonderful)
Directions:
  1. Dice onions, tomatos, and cut plantains in slices that are 1/2 inch thick.
  2. Heat oil in skillet, fry onions and tomatos (together) on high for about 8 minutes.
  3. Add black beans, stirring frequently.  Add spices.  Stir.
  4. Chop up a generous amount of shadow benny and add half to the bean mixture, stir.
  5. Heat butter in another skillet, add the sliced plantains.  Fry on either side on med/high heat until browned on both sides (about 4-5 minutes per side, but watch closely).
  6. Heat up the roti skins, and fill with beans, topping with fried plantains and sprinkle with diced shadow benny and a dash of hot sauce.
Bon appetite! Both sweet and savory (and healthy to boot!), Caribbean burritos are DELISH!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Sailing Away

Many of you asked for a video that included more sailing - well, here you go!  I made this little video out of clips I have been taking along the way.  Up until now I haven't been very good at capturing things on video so I was limited, but now that I'm developing a new hobby - that is going to change!  Enjoy!


Love, 
Brittany & Scott

Friday, October 07, 2011

Think Different

In honor of the world losing a true visionary and one of the world's biggest dreamers the other day, I thought I would pay homage to the memory of Steve Jobs by sharing just one of his brilliant ideas.  I hope it inspires you as much as it inspires me.


Think different and live different, today and every day.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Tiny Acts of Kindness


An act of goodness is of itself an act of happiness. No reward coming after the event can compare with the sweet reward that went with it. - Maurice Maeterlinck

Yesterday, I had a friend coming over for lunch (a really sweet Peace Corps volunteer who found our blog looking for a vegetarian callaloo soup recipe - but that's another story!).  I started cooking, when I suddenly realized that I didn't have the onion I needed to make my meal.  Shoot! It was threatening rain, my guest was due in 25 minutes and I didn't have time to run over to the grocery store.  Hmmm....what to do?  I decided I would try my luck at the harbor restaurant and see if I could buy an onion from them.  I scurried over there with my wallet and when I arrived I was greeted by the head chef, who I later learned was called Richard.

"Hi, I am so sorry to bother..." I began.

"No, no!!!" he interrupted with a big smile, "No bother at all sister!!"

"Oh, okay...thank you.  I was just wondering, if - by any chance at all - you might have an onion to spare?  I have started cooking and didn't realize I had run out, and if I could just buy one off you I would really appreciate it."

"No, no, " he started, waving his hands, "...you don't need to buy the onion!  We have no price for it...No problem, I have an onion to spare for you!" he gave me one last big smile before disappearing in the kitchen and when he came back, he had a little bag with not one, but three onions in it.

That little exchange made my day.

Truth be told, Grenada is full of people like that.  Scott and I have met so many locals who have been willing to go above and beyond for us - just because.  They don't ask for anything in return, they're not trying to swindle us, they are just happy to help.

When we first arrived here, Scott and I made the acquaintance of a rasta man named Ashley.  Ashley works around the harbor, asking if he can help with any projects, offering his services to boaters and from the very first time I met him I knew he was good.   He stops by our boat every couple of days to see if we need anything; always offering to clean our waterline or remind us that the bottom of our dinghy is due for a scrub.  Last week he came by just to say hello.  After chatting a bit I noticed he smelled so fragrant and lovely.

 "Ashley - you smell so nice!!  What is it you are wearing?" I asked him with a smile.

Nearly blushing, he replied, "You like it?  It's an oil."

"Well, you smell wonderful!" I told him.

And the next morning, there was a little knock on the boat, and when I came up he extended his palm and in it was a small vile of essential oil. "For you" he said.  He asked for nothing in return and said it was a gift for his friend, me.  This is a man who probably doesn't have money to spare and he could have just skipped it - but he didn't.  He knew I liked it and wanted me to have some for myself.  I gave him a big hug in return.  Because sometimes, a big hug is all people want!

It's no question that this world is a crazy, cruel place full of conflict and turmoil; but there are so many wonderful people out there - like Richard and Ashley - who are just friendly, kind people happy to help others.  Every day, there are people out there in the world doing nothing but spreading a little goodness around and that is beautiful.

Love,

Brittany & Scott
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