Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Christophene Salad

There are lots of mysterious fruits and vegetables here in the Caribbean...

The oranges are green, the limes are yellow and there is something called a sugar apple that looks and tastes nothing like an apple at all (but is delicious).  They have unusual names like jack fruit, shadow benny, star fruit, paw paw, callaloo, soursop, carambola, breadfruit and - my latest fave - christophene.

I have been ever so slowly dipping my toe into these Caribbean staples.  Believe me, it's not easy for someone like me.  Some of this produce looks even funnier than it sounds.  I had seen christophene a hundred times since we got here, I'd even picked it up and examined it at the market a few times...but each time I would put it back wondering "what the heck would I do with that?"  Sure, I could have asked a market lady how to prepare it (as I have many times before) but something about the look and the name was just too intimidating, so I always walked away.

The other week my friend Sharon mentioned a delicious, easy, lettuce-free, salad she had eaten.  Knowing that I love salad and live on a boat with no refrigeration, she told me about it.  "It would be perfect for you!" she began, "It's full of cucumbers, tomatoes and you know what else?  Christophene!  It was delicious".  That was all I needed to break my fear.  I was going to make a christophene and cucumber salad!

The Christopene has the delectable consistency of a crispy green apple without the tart flavor and is actually pretty bland, but makes for an excellent salad addition because it picks up the flavor of whatever  you dress it with.  It also keeps very well and is about as sturdy as a squash, which makes it perfect for boaters like us who live in the dark ages without refrigeration.  Here's what I did - it was wonderful, crispy and fresh!

Caribbean Christophene Salad
Ingredients:
  • 1 Christophene, sliced very thin and halved
  • 1 large cucumber, sliced very thin and halved
  • 10 ripe cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 small red onion, sliced very thin and halved
Dressing:
  • 3/4 cup of white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon of garlic salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon fresh ground pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and mix.  Chill before serving (if you have that luxury, which we do not).  I think adding feta cheese, hearts of palm or artichoke hearts (I had none of these things) would be heavenly as well.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Back in Grenada!

Downtown St. Georges from Fort St. George
After a fantastic whirlwind trip up to Carriacou and Union Island with our guests, we are back in our adoptive home of Grenada! 

Despite a pretty ugly forecast by Chris Parker on the outset of our trip, the weather ended up settling and cooperating so we could enjoy some fantastic sailing and fun in the sun with our new friends.  Check our SPOT track to see exactly where we went, but suffice it to say I think our visitors will be looking for a cruising boat with more urgency in the near future.  They were excellent guests; accommodating, understanding, very helpful and laid back - and we enjoyed every minute of our first "charter".  The best part?  They started out as guests and are leaving as friends.  That is pretty cool.

Today, they are getting the official "Brittany Tour" of downtown St. Georges and, being that they are both excellent cooks, we're going to hit up the spice market so they can go home with some goodies to try out in their kitchen.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Things we DON'T Miss about Land Life

Rasmus, chilling at anchor off Carriacou.
Living on a boat is not without it's challenges, that is for sure.

But you know what?  Living on land isn't all that easy either if you're a dreamer like Scott and I.  While there is no "utopia" and everything has a yin to the yang, here are few of the things we do not miss about life on terra firma...

  1. The busy-ness.  When we lived on land I don't think a day went by when we didn't feel rushed.  We burned the candle at both ends, had plans virtually every night, and never actually sat back and relaxed.  We definitely do not miss this one tiny bit!
  2. Television.  It rots your brain.  Seriously, it does (except Modern Family, that is pure brilliance).  Do you watch Fox News?  There is a very interesting story out about the viewers.  Believe it or not, you are actually learning less than if you watched no news at all.  Yikes.
  3. Fast food.  I'm not just talking about McDonalds and Subway.  I'm talking about the freezer and most of the middle sections of the grocery store.  While I lament about cooking aboard, I do love that we are eating predominately natural and organic foods free of all the crazy ingredients that seem pretty inescapable in so many 'modern' foods these days.  That said, I still love a frozen pizza and turkey sandwiches and will definitely indulge in both when we get home!
  4. The laziness that convenience fosters.  I have this love/hate relationship with modern convenience.  I think on one hand it is incredible, and on the other it is detrimental.  I love doing laundry in a washing machine and love being able to drive to the 24 hour CVS if I need something urgent.  But really, we as a species are getting lazy.  I am guilty of it too.  I've written extensively on this subject before and you can see my thoughts here.  Regardless, this is something we don't miss and we enjoy our little balance of convenience and hard work that a life afloat affords.
  5. The status quo.  I've never been one to go with the masses.  Ever.  Just check out some of the pictures of me when I was a little girl, it began that early.  Nope.  No thanks, I'll pass!  I cannot even begin to imagine what my life would be like if I followed all the rules that I was supposed to.  I certainly wouldnt' be here, that is for sure.
  6. The nagging need for more.  Not going to lie, I have the propensity inside of me to be a material girl.  When we lived on land and I went to Target (for example), it got to the point that Scott made me write a list of exactly what I needed so I didn't show up at home with $250 worth of 'stuff' when I ran out to "get more hangers".  I mean, that little faux leather ottoman was on sale and it looked sooo perfect in the living room...  Yeah - there is literally no room for this mentality on a boat.  If we don't need it, we don't have it.  Period.
  7. The weather.  Sorry to rub it in Northerners, but I don't think there is any place on earth that is as awful as Chicago in the winter.  Dark, gray, dreary, freezing...BLAH.  I have always said my mood directly correlates with sunlight and the Caribbean is suiting me just fine, thank you very much!
  8. Traffic.  I honest to God think traffic is psychologically damaging for most people.  I feel horrible for those individuals who have no other choice but to commute for hours during a day to get to their jobs.  I think we're breeding unhealthy minds on our nation's jammed up highways.  I don't miss it.  One bit.  Speaking of traffic...
  9. Driving.*  I don't miss driving.  Sure, a car would make life easier from time to time - but walking and taking busses is a piece of cake down here.  I probably walk at least two or three miles a day just running errands and, while it does take a little longer, it does a body good. 
  10. Living with more than we need.  As I mentioned, I am a bit more materialistic on land.  I like nice things, a nice place to live, dining out.  It is so easy to get caught up in over-consumption and I think many of us live with significantly more than we need.  Did I need 40 pairs of heels?  No.  But I had them. Does a baby need an entire room full of toys? No.  But many have that and more.  Sure, our boat has some nice things in it and we are by no means living as basic as others, but for the most part - we are living with what we need and life is just so much more simple and clear because of it.
Love,
Brittany & Scott

*I read this list to Scott, who agrees with everything but this one.  He actually does miss driving.  But he's also never been pulled over for "driving with intent to kill" so...(it was reduced to reckless driving).

Monday, November 28, 2011

The Grenadian Chocolate Factory

Fresh cocoa beans in the raw.
Who doesn't love chocolate?

Grenada actually produces some of the finest organic dark chocolate in the world and while my brother was here, we decided to go right to the source.  The Belmont Estate here in Grenada is a working 17th century plantation that grows everything from fruit to spices and, of course, cocoa.  They have formed an alliance with the Grenada Chocolate Company and provide them with the cocoa beans for their famous product.

We got a little tour of how chocolate is made "from tree to bar".   Cocoa beans are harvested from the pods of the cocoa tree.  The pods are then split open and the seeds inside (the cocoa beans) are removed and left to ferment in large piles covered with banana tree leaves for about a week.  The beans are then set out in the sun to dry for another week or so.  From their, the dried beans are sent to the chocolate factory (sorry, no Charlie here) where they are roasted then ground and mixed with sugar and cocoa butter and formed into the chocolate bars we all know and love.

We got to sample some of the fine chocolate as well as taste some of the delicious organic hot cocoa.  It's such a treat to eat foods with such simple ingredients; no hydrogenated soy bean oil, monosodium glutamate, or high fructose corn syrup here.  Nope, just cocoa, sugar and natural oil.  Organic and healthy, just the way nature intended!

Cocoa beans drying
All natural hot cocoa.  Delicious!
Love,
Brittany & Scott

Fun Fact:  Dark chocolate is actually good for pregnant women and some studies show it might make for a happier baby.  Looks like I'm in the right place and I'll definitely be indulging in a little square here and there!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Caribbean Plantain Bread


This past Sunday we were out of bread, bagels and scones for breakfast and the grocery stores were closed (everything pretty much closes on Sunday's down here).  "What do eat?", I wondered.  I didn't have much in the way of breakfast food, but I did have four over-ripe plantains.  While plantains and bananas are different, they are still similar so I thought, why not make banana bread and swap out the banana's for plantains?  It worked beautifully.  Here's the recipe I followed (obviously using plantains instead of bananas) if you feel like doing some baking this morning.  I have heard that plantains are "drier" than bananas so some people add pineapple to this recipe, but my bread was not dry at all so I'll leave it up to you.  I also had a friend suggest adding rum and next time I make this - I will definitely add a splash of our very best dark rum to kick it up a notch!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Go Fly a Kite

Kite surfers at dusk off the Tobago Cays
If you've never seen this before, this is called Kite Surfing and it is taking the world by storm...

I first witnessed this sport during a competition in Mombassa, Kenya in 2005 and have been mesmerized by it ever since.  Scott is currently obsessed with it and, despite never having done it (yet), has been researching it for the past ten months or so.  He's going to be getting a kite surfing set up when we are back in the states and, knowing him, he'll be really good at it in no time.  Scott is a natural athlete and there are very few things he doesn't excel at once he puts his mind to it.  I can't wait, because once he's good enough - he'll teach me and we'll do it together!  But for now, the baby and I will be in the "chase" dinghy watching him fly which is just as well because it's almost as exciting (and incredibly beautiful) to watch!

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Boat Yard


I love boat yards...

They're just so...neat.  So many beautiful boats with a thousand different stories in all sorts of conditions.  For some, the smell of fresh baked cookies or home-made muffins conjures up childhood memories, but for me it's the smells of epoxy and fresh varnish, bottom paint and acetone that bring me back...My dad used to take us to the boat yard when we were younger and my brother, sister and I would explore for hours on end while he tinkered away at boat projects.  We'd find all sorts of treasures; old boat parts, giant blocks of wood, old hoses and halyards, broken blocks and small rusty tools, empty paint cans and more.  While this might not seem like good fodder for children's toys, we were in our own little imaginative world and reveled in finding these treasures.  The boats towered over us on their jack-stands, packed in like sardines, creating a maze for us to run around in.  We loved it.

We're exploring boat yards at the moment.  Debating whether or not to haul out here in Grenada or over in Trinidad when we head home in February to have the baby.  There are plusses and minuses to both but so far, Grenada is the top contender.  We'll let you know what we decide and why when we do.  We've got some time.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thankful

Happy and healthy, does it get any better than that?
Today I am thankful for a million things...
I'm thankful for my incredible family, who literally mean the world to me...I am thankful for my wonderful husband, who is the ultimate partner in life and love...I am thankful for my health, the health of my family and the health of this beautiful baby girl growing inside me...I am thankful for our fantastic boat, who has taken such good care of us during this voyage...I am thankful for my friends, all of whom contribute to my life and help make me a better person...I am thankful for all the blessings, lessons, gifts and trials that this journey has bestowed upon us...I am thankful I get to share our lives with all of you...I am thankful that, while this world can be a pretty ugly place, my world is beautiful...I am thankful that I have the means to live my dream, every. single. day.

I am just thankful.  For everything.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Rasmus Guest Experiment

Today, two guests are arriving on Rasmus who we have never met before...

A long time back, we got an email with an offer we couldn't refuse.  It was a win/win situation.  This particular couple had been dreaming about live-aboard cruising and wanted to test the waters in a real-life situation.  Scott and I had the boat and could provide that real-life situation.  So they wrote, telling us about themselves and their proposal.  Their idea was this:  they would join us for a "live-aboard" cruising experience.  Not a fancy charter, not a pampered cruise, but a hands-on experience that would allow them a little taste of the life they so badly want to lead.  In return, they would make a "donation" to our cruising kitty.  Sounded like a plan to us!  After they said "No problem!" when we asked if they minded grilled cheese as a main entre for dinner or sleeping in a cramped aft cabin we wrote back and said, "Why the hell not?".  It doesn't hurt that they're young, seem super cool, have fantastic attitudes (with significant sailing experience) and basically sound like people we'd be friends with anyway.  We know we'll dig 'em.  I have very good instincts about stuff like this.

Anne and Justin arrive tonight and after months and months of emails, we are so excited to meet them and give them a taste of the life that, at the moment, is just a tiny bit out of their reach.

We're going to cruise up to the Grenadines with them and have some fun in the sun.  Keep abreast of our activities real time by visiting our Facebook page!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top Ten Reasons We LOVE Guests

Scott's lovely mom, Sue, sunning herself on the deck of Rasmus at Union Island.
Having guests aboard can be tricky when you live on a small boat...

Lucky for us, we have a great little aft cabin which makes having guests a breeze and we have been blessed with some pretty fantastic and adaptable guests who make having them oh-so easy.  Our experiences with guests aboard Rasmus have been nothing short of positive and here are the reasons we love having them:

Top 10 Reasons We Love Having Guests
  1. They force us out of our routine.  I'm not going to lie, even living on a boat in the Caribbean can get a little...monotonous from time to time.  Having guests forces us to get up off our butts and explore the places we haven't, do the activities we've been putting off and just get out there and enjoy this beautiful place a little bit more.  It's wonderful.
  2. We get to see the world through their eyes.  I love seeing what our guests take note of; the sound of the tree frogs at night, the sorry state of the street dogs, the deliciousness of the local cuisine, the beauty of the landscape, the color of the water, how fun it can be to do laundry by hand...our guests see our life with fresh eyes and it's always interesting to see what they pick up on, because often it's things that we take for granted or overlook.
  3. It's a great excuse to tidy up.  Not that I need an excuse to be tidy (as you all know by now, I'm slightly OCD about it), but having guests always forces us to do some real get-down-and-dirty cleaning.  Re-organizing lockers, making more space, a good deck scrub and general tidying up is always on the agenda when we have a visitor and our boat is always better for it.
  4. It's a great excuse to finish all those unfinished projects.  Replacing fans, changing out light bulbs, fixing that spinnaker halyard...all these little projects that aren't that big of a deal add up.  When we have guests - they tend to light a little fire under our butts and we just get stuff done.  It feels great!
  5. It's an exercise in appreciation.  Like I mentioned earlier, our guests see things with fresh eyes and are almost always coming from a very different perspective.  Living on a boat has become the 'norm' to us and to see how our guests marvel at how we live makes us take a little step back and say, "You know what, we do live a pretty cool life!".  Not that we ever really forget that!
  6. They love to help.  It's wonderful to have another set of arms to help out in the galley or on deck.  Scott's mom, the consumate helper-outer, was always ready to chop garlic and onions for me, always ready to dry the dishes or clean up.  It was wonderful.  While we do have a little routine and do things pretty specifically, it sure is nice to have a helping hand from time to time!
  7. They spoil us a little.  It's true, they do.  My mom, Scott's mom and my brother took us out for meals and treated us to lunches and drinks on more than one occasion.  It's so kind and generous of them and even makes us feel a little like we're on vacation!
  8. It offers more variety.  While Scott and I love each other a lot and obviously enjoy spending a LOT of time together (try 24 hours a day!), it's nice to have another person or two in the mix to change things up a little.  Conversation is always different and interesting and we enjoy the change in dynamic.
  9. We get to play "tour guide".  If there is anything I've learned this past few weeks of having guests it's that a) there is a lot to do in Grenada and b) I'm not such a bad tour guide!  It's so fun to take our guests around and show them this place we call home.  At first I thought filling their days would be a challenge but in reality, there was no way to fit everything in for each of them! 
  10. We get to share our lives with the ones we love and it feels so good when they "get it".  We are a couple of the lucky ones in that our families are not only supportive of what we are doing, but they get genuinely excited about it.  All of our guests loved the time they spent out here with us and were completely taken by the cruising life.  Each one of them left "getting it" and that just feels good.
Love, 
Brittany & Scott

PS.  Want to enjoy all the recent pictures of our guests' visits?  Check out our new albums on Facebook!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Why DO Sailors Like Their Rum? A Visit to a Rum Distillery...

Do you know how rum is made?

We didn't. We sure have drank enough of it though!  So, in an effort to educate ourselves - last week we decided to head to one of the oldest working rum distilleries in the Caribbean the River Antoine Estate.  Ever heard of it?  Probably not - because it is only sold in Grenada.  The rum produced by this distillery is rumored to be the strongest in the Caribbean.  So strong, in fact, that it is actually illegal to export via airplane due to the fact that it is HIGHLY flammable at over 75% alcohol (that is over 150 proof for those of you that care).  My brother, Scott and I hopped into the taxi of our tour guide for the day, "Cat Eye" and made the two hour drive up north to see what the fuss was about.

Driving up to the estate, you are immediately greeted by the distinctly damp and sweet odor of fermenting sugarcane, which is the main ingredient in the making of Caribbean rum.  Mountains of crushed sugar cane surround the 300 year old estate and you feel like you are stepping back in time.  The building doesn't look like much more than a relic of time gone by, but upon closer inspection - it is still working in it's incredibly simple and antiquated way.  Central to the rum-making process is the water wheel, which was brought to the estate by ship from England in 1785 and has been working slowly and steadily, crushing bushels of sugar cane, ever since.


To make a long story short, the sugar cane juice is filtered, fermented and boiled and, believe it or not, it is the steam that is the rum.  The steam, or condensation is then collected, tested and - if it's strong enough - bottled.  If not, it goes through the boiler again.  The rum produced is crystal clear (Fun fact: "dark" rum is aged and gets its color from the wooden barrels where it's stored) and VERY strong.  These people don't mess around, they have no time for "aging" and can barely keep up with the demand of just Grenada.  Judging by the contorted faces made by Kevin and Scott upon their complimentary shot, it really is that strong.  Scott felt the 'burn' in his chest for the rest of the day and Kevin honored it with the moniker "white lightening" and thought he might possibly go blind.  I am in the process of editing a video which will give you the entire tour, so stay tuned for that.

The tour was well worth it and very informative, and though we didn't learn exactly why sailors like their rum, we did get a little closer...

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bye, Bye Brother Kevin!

Kevy, taking in the view on our sunset booze cruise to Gouyave.  LOVE HIM!
Today my brother is leaving Grenada.  This makes me sad.

We have had SO MUCH fun during his visit and I think we gave him an excellent taste of Grenada.  I get sad when our visitors leave - it has been so nice having guests.  Not only does it force us to get out and enjoy a few of the things we haven't taken advantage of because we "live" here and have "all the time in the world", it's so wonderful to see our life through their eyes.  We have grown so accustomed to living on a boat that we tend to overlook some of the tiny things that make it so special and neat.  Waking up with the sun on your face, the intricacies of cooking, the extra effort it takes to do the most mundane of tasks, and of course - the sheer uniqueness of life in the Caribbean; the people, the music, the culture.  My brother (like my mom and mother-in-law before him) really, really loved it here.  Every visit was unique, each time we did something a little different, saw something new.  It's funny how, despite being on a small boat, you develop a little routine, a little groove that becomes so natural no matter if you've lived aboard for a week or a year.  Last night before my brother went to bed, he told us his little back cabin actually feels like "home" and how much he would miss it.  That warmed my heart.

I am going to miss him so much (he is the best), but I am so glad that a) he got to experience a taste of our life down here (and loved it!) and b) I get to see him (and the rest of my family!!) at Christmas when I go home for the holidays.  I will be counting down the days!

For now, we'll prep the boat for our next visitors who arrive in T minus four days!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

PS.  To see the fantastic array of photos of Kevy's visit, be sure to stop by our Facebook Page.  That is where I upload the majority of our pictures!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Fishing vs. Catching

He who loves fishing more than my brother is a rare man, sorry Kevy!
I guess they don't call it 'catching' for a reason...
Despite high spirits and slightly inflated expectations (my brother was hoping to join the "Grander" club by catching a 1,000lb marlin), we went out on a professional fishing boat yesterday for eight (count that, eight) hours and have nothing to show for it besides slightly better tans and a distinct diesel odor in our clothes.  We were very unlucky. We had seven lines out the entire time and used every type of lure from Ballyhoos to Squids to Skirts and got...nothin'.  I've personally seen this fishing boat bring in a 600 lb marlin (and he has caught and released a bunch of others), hundreds of mahi mahi, loads of wahoo and more.  The fish just weren't biting on this day.  Was it due to a cold front that blew through?  Did it have to do with the current?  Was it the recent wind shift?  Or did we break some unspoken fishing code that exists out there in the Universe and curse ourselves (there *was* talk of the "black cloud" that has been following my brother this year in his fishing exploits)? We'll never know.

We did get two hits from sailfish though, which offered a little excitement to the day. Someone said it best when they described the sport of fishing as "Bobbing around on the water bored stiff for hours on end when all of a sudden, all hell breaks loose."

Despite the lack of 'action', we had a great day on the water with some great folks.  Like they say, a bad day on the water still beats a good day at the office!  Despite this, Scott and I will stick to sailing, that is for sure!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Swimming with Sea Turtles


“The beach is in our blood. Everyone in our family returns to the beach instinctively, just like the sea turtles.”
-Sandy Archibald

One of the highlights of the Tobago Cays in the Grenadines is the opportunity to swim with sea turtles in the wild.  They, like dolphins, epitomize the beauty of nature and the magic of the sea.  They are such gentle and peaceful creatures; they glide effortlessly along sea floor, slowly nibbling turtle grass, swimming up to the surface every few minutes to pop up their heads and catch a breath of fresh air before diving down again.   There's no rush, no hurry and their movements are slow and methodical.  On this particular day the water was pretty churned up from some weather, but on a clear day you'll see as many as twelve to twenty turtles feeding here.  It's incredible and a must visit if you ever find yourself in the Grenadines.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Caribbean Squall

A typical Caribbean squall off St. Maarten
We knew we shouldn't have been out...
The forecast called for a huge wall of heavy squalls associated with a tropical WAVE from Trinidad to the Grenadines and 20-25 knots of wind.  But, we weighed our options and knowing we had to be back in Grenada in two days to drop off Scott's lovely mom - and seeing that the forecast wasn't getting any better - we decided to go for it.

I prepped the boat with extra care, checking to make sure everything was lashed down, dogging down items that might fall, bungeeing our veggie hammocks so they didn't swing and turn our produce into mash...the usual procedure when you have the small luxury of knowing what you are in for.

We headed out in 19-20 knots under full jib and a double-reefed main.  We have learned that sailing conservatively and shortening sail early is never, ever a bad thing.

While in the lee of Carriacou - we could see the squall line approaching.  The sky was a uniform grey and the dark, flat bottomed clouds that loomed just to the east of us were approaching.  "We're going to be getting wet soon" Scott warned.  But he didn't have to tell us, we knew.  That's the thing about squalls at sea; you can see them as clear as day.  More often than not, you can even see the rain literally approaching your boat like the front line of a Calvary.  If you are lucky you can actually steer your boat around them and avoid them, if you are unlucky, they engulf you.

The wind kicked up to a steady 25 as we left the lee of land and entered the passage of open water between Carriacou and Grenada.  It's incredible what a difference sailing in the lee of an island is.  The seas doubled in size and grew to 8-10 foot rollers having nothing to block them between us and Africa.  We told Scott's mom to sit tight and hold on, that we were in for a wild ride.

The first squall literally seemed to swallow us whole.  Usually, when you are in a squall you can see out the other side so you know then end is near, which is very reassuring.  This particular squall was so large and powerful we saw nothing.  Within one minute driving rain was upon us, visibility was reduced to zero, the seas grew angrier still and we had our starboard rail under water.  Scott was silenced by his concentration, and there was nothing Sue or I could do but hold on tight with a white knuckle grip.

The wind kicked up to about 35, and by then, the sea almost flattened...it was so bizarre.  The tops of the waves were blowing right off and all we could see around us was a wall of white and grey.  "Turn on the radar" Scott directed.  If another boat was bearing down on us, we would have had no clue until it was too late.   Luckily, we were clear.

After about 20 minutes that at the time, seemed an eternity, the winds dropped to the low 20's, our boat righted herself and we were on our way again, but not out of the woods.  Scott and I saw the next one coming and there was nothing we could do but sail on and wait.

No more than six or seven minutes later the big sister to our previous squall was upon us.  Again, the sky seemed to engulf us and the former pitter-patter of rain on deck turned into a loud, constant downpour which left pock marks in the water.  The wind picked up and the rigging began to scream and vibrate.  Thunder, a rarity in a Caribbean squall, boomed behind us. Please don't let there be any lightening I silently wished.  Another gust piped up and we were nearly on our side again, with a fair amount of sea water washing into the cockpit from the rail.  We were soaking wet, despite our full enclosure and hard dodger.

The wind was rounding us way up and at one point we were headed for shore.  Scott asked me if I though we should tack away and I agreed.  We did and, while still careening along at a steady seven knots, we weren't in danger of land.  The gusts were intense and sporadic, and with each one I would pray that nothing would break.  The squall we could handle, but something breaking in those conditions - well, that would have been another story.  Scott, my incredible captain, was cool, calm and in control.  He was very serious, and concentrating very hard and none of us made a sound.  I could see he was struggling with the helm through the gusts and after one particularly large one almost put us on our ear completely he yelled, "We're going to heave-to".

While we knew this storm tactic in theory, we had never actually done it.  Scott turned the wheel hard to port, back winded the jib and eased the main slightly to stall our forward motion.  Our speed plummeted from seven knots to about a half of a knot and our boat was more or less stalled in the storm.  "Well, at least we know our boat heaves-to" I nervously quipped, cracking the only joke that I could muster at the time.

After another 25 minutes or so, the squall passed and within another 40 minutes we were back in the lee of Grenada, which made for a much smoother ride and gentler seas.  While we would never wish to go through squalls like that again, we know we will - it is par for the course in order to live the life we do.  We are so happy to know that our boat is strong enough to handle just about anything nature throws at her and I am forever grateful to have Scott as my Captain - if I am a good sailor, he is incredible, and I feel totally safe when he is in control.

Scott's mom, Sue, was such a trooper.  She never got faltered or panicked at all, having total trust in us and our boat and when it was all said and done asked me, "Were you scared?"

Fear has no place on a boat.  Sure, it creeps up from time to time - but like other emotions like jealousy, insecurity and worry it offers absolutely no benefit to the beholder.  I told her I wasn't "scared" per say, but definitely concerned.  No one in their right mind wants to bring their boat out in that sort of situation, because it's pushing limits and putting a huge amount of stress on the rig and the crew.  If and when something goes wrong in a situation like that (a broken stay, a severed halyard, a blown-out sail, a snapped shackle...etc), consequences can be dire.  So no, I told her, I wasn't scared - but Scott and I were both very serious and making sure we stayed one or two steps ahead of the game.  When it comes to boating and living life in the hands of nature, if you are not a step or two ahead - you are falling behind.

"I am not afeard, my Heart's-delight," resumed the Captain. "There's been most uncommon bad weather in them latitudes, there's no denyin', and they have drove and drove and been beat off, may be t'other side the world. But the ship's a good ship, and the lad's a good lad; and it ain't easy, thank the Lord," the Captain made a little bow, "to break up hearts of oak, whether they're in brigs or buzzums."
- Charles Dickens, Dombey and Son

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Lessons Learned during our first BIG Caribbean Squall

Not "our" squall, but a squall - just off St. Georges, Grenada
Scott and I have sailed in our fair share of nasty weather - if you want to live at sea, it is nearly impossible to avoid completely and knowing that we will have to weather a few storms is the price we pay for a life less ordinary.  This past week we think we might have sailed in our nastiest weather yet when we got completely clobbered by two monster squalls on our return trip home between Carriacou and Grenada.  Luckily, we are both much better sailors than we were even a year ago, and we took it in stride, largely because of our solid boat and Scott's expert boat handling skills (and -okay - I'm not too shabby myself).  A separate post will be up tomorrow morning describing the squall in greater detail, but for now - here are some things we learned:

Top 10 Lessons Learned During our Worst Caribbean Squall

  1. The old adage of "don't be on a schedule" still rings true!  ...but sadly, when it comes to having guests it doesn't always work to abide by this rule.  Scott's Mom had to fly out Monday and Sunday's forecast was the same as Saturday's so we decided to go for it on Saturday.  We knew we were taking a risk, and prepped the boat accordingly.
  2. Caribbean Squalls come up on you fast and don't always blow right over.  We have been through a bunch of squalls over the course of this last year, some last 5 minutes some last 25 minutes.  This particular one seemed never ending and I recall thinking at the apex of it, "later tonight, this will just be a story when we are at our slip, this will end...later tonight this will just be a story..."  but 25 minutes of really nasty weather is like an eternity!
  3. Prepping the boat for heavy weather is important.  Like I mentioned, we knew we were heading into some weather so our boat was stored with extra care.  Everything battened down, any items that might fall in an extreme heel were pulled down and put away, our veggie hammocks were bungeed securely so they didn't swing wildly and so on.  We checked all items on deck and made sure they were lashed down properly.  The last thing you want when you are going through a hellish squall is to have your boat become a disaster area when all of your belongings go flying.
  4. Having safety gear within arms reach of the cockpit should be a necessity.  We put on our life vests after we realized the severity of the first squall and we have all our safety gear right in the cockpit, within arms reach of the helm.  Trust me, the last thing you are going to want to do in a nasty squall is go down below and rifle through a locker to get what you need.  Better to have it near, better yet to have it ready ahead of time.
  5. Shorten sail early.  Again, because we have the luxury of forecasting assistance from Chris Parker  we had a good idea of what we were in for and went out with our main double-reefed (our main has two very deep reefs, not three like some other sail plans).  It would have been near impossible and INCREDIBLY dangerous for us to reef when that storm hit us (our lines do not run aft, meaning one of us has to go forward to the mast to reef).
  6. Driving rain can be blinding.  We experienced almost total white-out conditions.  The tops of the waves were blown right off and, at one point, the sea went almost flat.  We were SO thankful to have AIS and radar to know that we were not in the traffic line of any other boats.  If we had been, there would have been no way to see them until it was too late.  Not to mention in those conditions, controlling the boat becomes difficult at best.
  7. Heaving-to works.  Though I hate to admit this, we had actually never done this drill until we had to.  This is not ideal as some boats do not heave-to well and it can actually take quite a bit of practice to master.  During a squall like the one we were in is no time to practice, but luckily for us it worked perfectly and our boat speed was reduced from 7 knots to about a half of a knot (which is more or less the point of heaving-to, for more information check this out).
  8. Severe squalls are scary, no matter how good of a sailor you are.  They just are.  And it's not scary because of what is happening, necessarily, but because of what could happen.  A boat in winds of 30 knots and over is under an incredible amount of stress.  You pray that you don't lose your main sheet, that your jib car doesn't give, that your stays don't snap, that someone doesn't slip overboard...in a situation like we were in, any of those circumstances could be dire.  A squall we can handle, but a squall with a boom wildly swinging in the wind or a line wrapped in the propellor is another story all together.  If you aren't concerned with any of these things in a severe weather situation, you are either more confident than I am or stupid.
  9. A boat really can lay on her ear.  At several points we had our entire railing in the water with salt water gushing into the cockpit and, while we were not completely on our ear, we were closer than we've ever been before.  I think it was at this point that Scott made the call to heave-to.  The next morning, Scott's arms actually felt a little sore from the workout he got to keep the boat in control.  
  10. Having a crew who knows what they're doing and a boat you can trust is everything.  The fact that our boat has proven herself again and again, and the fact that we put so much TLC into her and maintain her with such care really pays off in a rough weather situation.  In addition, I trust Scott implicitly and he is truly a fantastic sea captain - I cannot imagine being at sea in a severe weather situation with someone with less expertise.  We work very well together as a team and as long as we are in our sturdy little boat, we feel confident and safe.  I've said it again and again, but take care of your boat - and she will take care of you!
Love,
Brittany & Scott

Monday, November 14, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again!

To say it felt good to be underway again would be an understatement.

Most of you know we spent last week cruising the Grenadines with Scott's wonderful mom, Sue.  It shouldn't be that big of a deal considering we live on our boat, in the Caribbean of all places - but it is.  It marked the first time we really moved our boat since we got here back in June.  That is just insanity.  And we vow never to let it happen again because being out on the water again felt like coming home.  I don't think I stopped smiling once (okay, maybe when we got clobbered by two monster squalls on the way back) and that unique feeling that I cannot quite put my finger on of being free as a bird and one with nature resurfaced.  Scott and I kept talking about how we simply can not wait to come back and start cruising again with our beautiful little sea monkey* next season...both of us think living the gypsy life at sea is going to be better than ever as a little family and to be able to see the world through our child's eyes??...what a gift for all involved.

Rasmus was a happy camper as well and we are thrilled to report that, despite being a "kept woman" for over 5 months, our weekly maintenance paid off and all her systems from her sails to her engine worked like new.  What a relief that was!  Keeping a beautiful sailboat from being out at sea is like clipping the wings of a bird - it's just not natural!  I swear Rasmus skipped along the water with extra pep as if to tell us, "See, I still got it!  Aren't you proud of me?"   Scott's mom had a blast and she was the perfect crew member from helping in the galley to assisting with the sails - having visitors and sharing our life with them is such a pleasure and we were so happy to have her.

We are planning on heading out for at least one more cruise by the end of the month and when we resume full-time cruising again, we don't plan on sitting idle for this long ever again!
We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch - we are going back from whence we came.
- John F. Kennedy
Love,
Brittany & Scott


PS.  It's a girl. And she's already got Scott wrapped around her little finger!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Nautical Terms You Use Every Day

"Jumping" the halyard and "tailing" it on the winch.
Sailing has it's own language...


...any newbie will tell you, and it is extensive.  Ropes are actually not ropes but "lines" and can be halyards, sheets or guys depending on how they are used... Right is starboard and left is port...Cam cleats, blocks, winches, and cleats are all used with those lines...jib, main, genoa, spinnaker and mizzen are all types of sails...topping lift, down haul, shrouds, toe rail....topsides, waterline, keel and mast...I could go on and on and on.  Luckily for Scott and I we were speaking this language early on because we were both raised on or around boats so it is second nature to us, but I don't envy someone who is just starting out - because it can be downright confusing!  BUT - despite this - it is incredible how much we all use phrases derived from nautical terms in every day life...and we don't even know it!

Scott and I began to notice it right when we began this journey when we'd say something like "This locker is now chock-a-block full" (chock-a-block referring to a sail boat's block and tackle system, used to raise sails, when it's raised to fullest extent).  Or every now and then we'd refer to someone who is particularly "Even keeled" (meaning a vessel that doesn't list to one side or another, evolved to mean someone who is calm and steady).  When you say "high and dry" you probably never realized your words once were used to refer to a boat that was beached.  Ever had a "gripe" with anyone?  Has anyone "taken the wind out of your sails"?  Or maybe you feel a little "groggy" this morning?  All these have roots in sailing lingo...

Want to know more everyday terms that actually come from the mariners of yesteryear?  Check them out HERE- you might be surprised at just how many nautical phrases you've been using your entire life!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Making Boat Tank Water Taste GOOD

One thing I remember about cruising with my family when I was a kid was despising the tank water...

My dad would do all sorts of tricks to make the water taste better; and we tried it all from Tang to Crystal Light - but that distinctively pungent "tank" taste would always linger and my brother, sister and I would practically drink with our noses plugged to exaggerate just how bad it was.

When Scott and I decided to live aboard, I figured this taste was something I would just get used to but Scott - oh no - he said if we were going to live on the boat, we were going to be able to drink water out of the tap and, doggone it, it was going to taste normal if it was the last thing he did.

I kept my expectations cautiously low as he installed a generic in-line water filter (you can purchase one at just abou any hardware store) just below our sink, right below our faucet.  We both weren't sure what to expect, as our water tasted very strongly of our 35 year old fiberglass tank, but when Scott ran that tap - it was incredible.  The water tasted like it had come right out of a bottle!  It was clear, crisp and wonderfully tasteless!  I jumped up and down and kissed and hugged Scott with excitement (again, it's the little things that make a day out here!)...this addition to our galley would make life much more comfortable and "normal".

It is important to note that if you leave the boat for more than 4 days at a time, the stagnant water in the filter will go bad, and you'll return to very sulfur-y smelling water.  Luckily, we left with six spare filters (not to mention you can buy these at just about any hardware store) and with a quick filter change - voila - clean, odorless water again.

When you live on a boat, any little piece of "normalcy" can sometimes be the difference between comfort and misery - especially when it comes to drinking water!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Sky Was On Fire Last Night...

...absolutely beautiful. 

I never tire of watching the sun rise or set, each one is like a snowflake - utterly unique and one of a kind.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

PS.  We're underway again!  Don't forget to check-in on our Facebook Page where we'll be updating real time, and don't forget to Track Us and see where we are at!

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top Ten Things to Do to Prepare your boat After Hurricane Season

Shake the dust off those sails!
Getting a boat ready to cruise if you've been idle for 5 months is work!

If you follow our Facebook page, you know Scott's mom arrived last night and we plan on leaving the dock to cruise in the Grenadines with her for a few days.  We're so excited, because having a guest is great impetus for getting the boat ready to go again, which we have been procrastinating doing for the past month.  Scott and I are pretty meticulous about how we maintain our boat, but when you sit idle for 5 months, there are bound to be some areas that are neglected.  Keep in mind (as in all the "Top 10" series posts), we are NOT experts and this is just what we did...if you have anything to add or notice anything critical we missed, by all means - comment and let us know!

Top 10 Things to Do to Prepare your boat After Hurricane Season
  1. Organize, clean, and tidy up!  It's very easy to forget just how rocky and rolly a life at sea can be when you are tied up nice and cozy in a harbor!  Time to get back into the 'swing' of things and into the habit of securing EVERYTHING.  If it can fall, spill, tip over, or move it probably will at some point.  Put all phones, magazines, fruit baskets, lotions, loose gear and other knick-knacks in their properly stowed places.  In addition - Scott and I do a thorough cleaning.  We want our boat to look good when she makes her debut, so we remove all rust, polish all brass, clean the woodwork (inside and out), vacuum the entire boat and get her all prettied up.
  2. Check all lines and halyards for chafe.  The last thing you want to see when you raise your jib is it falling back to the deck because it was chafing on something for the past "x" months without you knowing.  Scott went up the mast to fix and replace our broken spinnaker block, and while he was up there he checked for any signs of disrepair.  In addition, I checked all our halyards and sheets from on deck, and everything looks ship-shape!
  3. Check engine.  Check the fuel filter, oil level, transmission oil and, in general, look for anything amiss.  We also checked the gear box by putting the engine in forward and reverse.  Obviously, running the engine and make sure the cooling system is working properly.  We have heard of boats raw water intake hoses clogging up due to all the bottom growth and when an engine cannot cool itself, it generally doesn't run very long.
  4. Run/test all systems.  This includes VHF, SSB, chart plotter, navigation lights, wind instruments, water-maker, windlass, BILGE PUMPS and whatever else you have on your boat.  Better to discover issues a few days ahead at the dock/anchor rather than underway! 
  5. Service winches.  Have you ever serviced a winch?  It's incredible how many teeny tiny moving parts are inside those things!  And tiny moving parts like to keep moving or else they have a tendency to cease (and/or rust if yours are old school like ours).  If you have been sitting idle for a long time, it's probably a good time to take apart the winches and lube them up!  Also, don't forget to test the winch handles - ours (again, old school) needed a good soaking in vinegar to remove rust and get parts moving again.
  6. Check all safety gear.  Make sure your flares, life vests, smoke alarms, etc. are all up to par.  Check batteries in headlamps and flashlights and change them if necessary.  Our fire extinguisher is somehow reading "empty".  This is no bueno and we'll have to remedy that sooner than later.
  7. Clean the bottom.  Moss does not grow on a rolling stone, but sea life and barnacles sure build up on an idle boat!  It is actually shocking how much just a little growth can slow you down, so it's very important to scrape your hull clean.  Also, make sure your zincs are in good shape and clean your prop well. 
  8. Exercise seacocks.  We do this from time to time anyway so ours are in good shape, but it's always a good idea to open and close them so they don't cease up (they WILL cease up if you don't do this).  While you're inspecting your seacocks, check the hoses and hose clamps around them to make sure nothing has loosened up, cracked or broken free.
  9. Go for a shakedown sail.  Going out for just an hour or two to raise sails, test the motor under load, drop and raise the anchor before the "big day" can make leaving so much smoother.  We did this yesterday and knowing that all systems are "go" will make leaving tomorrow morning much less nerve-wracking.  On the flip side, if we had discovered problems, we'd have a cushion of time to deal with them.
  10. Top up water tanks, fuel tanks, shut off shore power, untie the dock lines and have fun!
What do you do?  Have we missed anything?

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Monday, November 07, 2011

Pumpkin Soup...From Scratch

One thing I love to eat is soup...

I know it seems counter intuitive living in a tropical climate and all, but there are just so many lovely, organic vegetables here from squash to callaloo to pumpkin - all perfect for soups - but we were missing one key ingredient: a way to blend them.

No more!  When I returned from my short visit home I brought with me a little Magic Bullet blender/food processor that will open up a world of recipes for us.  We had heard about this little guy before from many of our friends, and at just under $50, the price was right.  Now we can make smoothies, salsas, shakes and soups to our heart's content.  It's a great little gadget and, so far, I am so happy we got it.

My first soup (sans recipe!) was an absolute success; it was also super easy (requires a few simple ingredients all of which require zero refrigeration - bonus!), healthy and delicious, here it is:

Ingredients:

  • 2 table spoons of olive oil
  • 1/4 pumpkin, cubed
  • 2 medium white potatoes, cubed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups of vegetable broth
  • 1 1/2 cups of full cream milk (I have this in cans)
  • 2 tablespoons garlic salt
  • Salt/Pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh chopped ginger (optional)*

Directions:
  1. Heat oil in pan, saute onions for about 5 minutes or until clear.
  2. Add garlic, pumpkin and potatoes.  Sautee for another 5 minutes or so.
  3. Add vegetable broth and milk.  Allow to reach a boil then simmer, stirring regularly.
  4. Add garlic salt (and pepper if you wish).  Cook until pumpkin and potatoes are soft and pierced easily with a fork.
  5. Transfer (in portions) to the Magic Bullett blender (or if you have a hand blender or something else, even better) and blend thoroughly.  Have a separate pot ready to put the blended soup in.
  6. Salt/pepper to taste and ENJOY!

* I had bought what I thought was ginger to add to my soup, but turned out to be saffron.  Whoops!  So our soup was sans ginger, but I think it would add a nice flavor to it.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Oh Caribbean, How I Love Thee...

I have a confession to make...

I went back to the states with my mom when she left last week for a very quick and very incognito visit.  My doctor there wanted to perform a 20 week (half way there, can you believe it?) ultrasound (everything perfect!) and so I hopped a plane and braved the Chicago cold.

To be fair, it's not even that cold yet.  It was about 50 degrees on average which is nothing when it comes to the brutal Chicago winter (shudder).  BUT... when you have been living in a climate where 80 degrees is considered "cool", well, 50 is downright freezing.  I was dressed like Nanook from the North the entire time.

My body rejected it in a MAJOR way.  My nose stuffed up, my skin started flaking, itching and drying out... I had permanent goosebumps and a constant, dull headache the entire time (sinus pressure)?  Turns out, my body really prefers the sun drenched skies and the humid, moisture-rich air of the Caribbean.  And I am okay with that.  Despite these minor maladies, I had a blast.  Home is always home, isn't it?  Well, it is for me at least.  Family, love and laughter.  Lots of it.

On the flight back I grabbed a Caribbean Travel + Life Magazine and was tickled pink when just about every three pages featured some place we've voyaged to or some bar we've bellied up at during this trip.  It's so easy to forget sometimes that we really have come a long way.

And boy is it good to be back!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

PS.  Scott is back from Trinidad as well and is now STCW certified!

Friday, November 04, 2011

Somewhere over the Rainbow...


...the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true...

Happy Friday friends!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Month Of Visitors

The view of St. Georges from the Aquarium Restaurant at sunset
November marks what will go down in history as the "month of visitors" on Rasmus...

My mom kicked off the gravy train last week (though it wasn't technically November, it was close enough to qualify) and we had a BLAST.  I loved showing her Grenada through my eyes, and though we couldn't do it all - we saw a lot and she had the best time.  Scott's mom arrives this coming Monday for a week - and we plan on actually cruising with her (three cheers!) and doing a little island-hopping in the Grenadines.  Then, the very day she flies out - my wonderful little brother flies in!  We'll stay put in Grenada while Kevin is here, since his visit is a short 4 days (he's looking very forward to a rum tour) and then he ships out and a week later, we have two friends from Florida flying in to get a "taste" of the cruising life and again, we'll explore the Grenadines a bit with them.

Phew.  When it rains, it pours right?  We're looking forward to all our visitors, giving them a taste of the Caribbean life we love so much and shaking the dust off our little boat and filling her sails with wind again.  Blog posts might thin out for a bit, but I'll try to keep you abreast of what we're doing and where we're headed as I know it's getting pretty chilly up North and most of you could use a little sunshine!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Fighting Fire

Scott being backed up by our friend Mike.  Thanks Mike for the great pics!
It is well known in the seafaring community that a fire on a boat is just about the worst thing that can happen when out at sea...  On land, when a fire erupts people can safely evacuate - but on a boat at sea things work a little differently.  Evacuating is not really an option and there is no fire department or 911 to come to the rescue.  If a fire gets out of control it can lead to a pretty bleak situation for those on board, which is why fire safety is something that should be taken very seriously, especially on a boat.

Good thing Scott is now equipped with some basic fire-fighting know-how.  This component is a large part of his STCW course and he and our friend Mike worked up quite a sweat yesterday.  If you want to know more about what they did and learned, check out the post Mike wrote about it.

You must admit, they look pretty good in uniform, don't they?

Love,
Brittany & Scott

PS.  I have and will continue to be uploading more pics to our Facebook Page.  Lots of good stuff over there!

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

How to get Sponsors

Our latest toy from our friends over at Sea Eagle Kayaks!
We recently announced our newest sponsor, Sea Eagle Kayaks on our Facebook page, which brought in a slew of email inquiries as to how to go about getting sponsors.  I will write more on our latest sponsor soon (insert happy dance!!), but for now I'll focus on sponsorship and how we go about getting it...

While we are not experts on "sponsorship packages", this notion of getting "sponsors" has saved us thousands and thousands of dollars in the past year, not to mention gotten us some super cool products and services.  I must admit, when Scott first broached the subject of getting sponsors to me I laughed and thought, "yeah, whatever..." but now, anytime we want/need anything for the boat - we write a company that has that particular product or service, and ask for it.  Which brings me to my first rule:  ASK.  The worst they can do is say no!

BUT...and this is a big 'but': you must have a blog/website that gets seen.  What makes us attractive to sponsors is the fact that we get over 1,000 people visiting this blog every single day, and over 100,000 page views a month.  That's not huge in the blog world, but those numbers are not to shabby in the sailing blog world.  The fact that we are and/or have been featured in Cruising World Magazine Online, North American Sailor, Women and Cruising and a whole slew of other online sailing publications doesn't hurt either.  In addition, lots of potential sponsors like the fact that we have about 4,500 targeted "fans" on our very interactive Facebook Page, which is also pretty impressive for a personal blog (if you have lots of fans but no interaction, these are not quality fans, the key is interactive).  Segway to rule number two for sponsorship:  HAVE TRAFFIC.  If you don't have the stats and the followers, the sponsors are less likely to bite.

In return for sponsorship, we agree to write a post about the company, an honest review of the product, inclusion on our static Sponsor Page, as well as Tweet and Facebook about that product or service.  Which is rule number three:  GIVE THEM SOMETHING IN RETURN.

That's our formula, and it has worked very well for us thus far.  In addition to asking outright for sponsors, we are also approached by companies, but have found that more often than not we don't really use what they offer and it is not in our interest to plug products we don't use or need.  We've found it much more beneficial to approach those companies who do offer something we need.  It should be known that we get turned down as well, but you can't win them all, right?  It's a numbers game and if someone says 'no', just move on to the next one!

Good luck!
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