Saturday, December 31, 2011

A New Year, Every Day

Time has no divisions to mark its 
passage, there is never a thunder-storm 
or blare of trumpets to announce the 
beginning of a new month or year. Even 
when a new century begins it is only we 
mortals who ring bells and fire off 
pistols.
 ~Thomas Mann

I  cannot believe it is New Years Eve, I only just got used to writing 2011 and lo and behold, 2012 is coming full speed ahead.  Crazy.

I'm not a big "New Years" person.  To me, life is about forging ahead towards goals, dreams, and aspirations every day of every year.  A new year is just that - a new year (and a time for me to spend three to six months trying to remember exactly what year it is).  It doesn't feel any different to me, I don't feel the need to mark it with a special occasion and I'm probably more inclined to spend New Years Eve with a few close friends or family than at a club or a bar (yes, even back in my "party" days).  I've never been huge into "resolutions", I don't think much of "putting another year behind" me, I've never said anything like "this year is going to be different" or "this next year is going to be my year" and the process of my own evolution is something I strive for throughout the year.  If I feel I need to practice my patience - I don't need a resolution to do it.  If I feel I need to work on being more tolerant - I'll start right then and there.  It's a never-ending, constant process for me.  As the writer Anais Nin once said, "I made no resolutions for the New Year.  The habit of making plans, of criticizing, sanctioning, and molding my life, is too much of a daily event for me." I'm with her.

I know many think very differently than I do, and that is fine.  I think it's great that so many people use the New Year as a benchmark for where they are in life and where they want to be in the next year.  I fully support my friends and family who blaze into a New Year full of resolutions and intentions.  I have had my fair share of fun at black tie New Years balls and, truth be told, I do like my bubbly.  I'm just saying that I don't use New Years specifically as a time to reflect and make changes or goals.  To me, every day is the beginning of a new year.  Every day is a chance to wake up and make your life amazing or work toward a particular goal.  Every day is a day to be grateful for.

That said, a new year is upon us and of course I am aware that this year in particular will yield many, many wonderful changes; not the least of which will be a tiny, magical little person who was created by none other than us.  We cannot wait and think that our lives are not only going to change completely for the better, but that the greatest adventure of our life is about to begin.  We have a lot to be thankful for, and believe me - we thank the Universe every day.

I got an email today from "Uncle Al" and it brought a big smile to my face and made me think.  I'm sure he won't mind that I quote him directly:

Without trying to get all gooey, as someone who is nearing the twilight of their life, your thoughts, quotes, and observations are instructive and/or create a longing for what could have been.

To us oldsters, they tell us to stop living according to our ordinary usual day worries, but to recognize the inevitable, and thus, to "live like you were dying" to quote Tim McGraw. To the young people out there, to not compromise too soon, but to grab your dreams and go with it, whether it be your life long passion, whether that is financially lucrative or not, and to go forth and explore the world in any number of ways.


The sentiment that Al echoed made me happy, and drove home the point I'm trying to make.  Though I don't have any "resolutions" set - I do hope with all my heart my life continues on the trajectory I have set it.  I hope that I continue to live like I was dying, this year and every year after.  And I hope the same for you, too.

Happy New Year.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Are You Content?



"The fountain of content must spring up in the mind, and he who hath so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition, will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief he proposes to remove."
-Dr. Samuel Johnson


Just a little food for thought as this year draws to an end, opening the door to another...if change is something you are striving for in the New Year, perhaps it is best to begin with your outlook on life?  Happiness doesn't just happen to you - it's a constant work in progress. 

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Patrick's Restaurant in Grenada

There's this little restaurant outside the marina called "Patrick's"We've seen it a thousand times.  It doesn't look like much at all.  In fact, you'd never know it was a restaurant if not for the signage outside, and even then you're not completely sure.  The "restaurant" itself is nothing more than a little white house with violet trim, a porch and a few tables and mis-matched chairs out front under an awning.  It prides itself on "local" food and for some reason or another (perhaps because it's literally on the side of the road and offers little to no ambience?) we have not felt compelled to try it.  Why sit road side when you can sit beach side, you know?

This changed last week when Scott and I got all dressed up (I blew my hair dry and wore make-up!) for a celebratory Christmas dinner at the marina restaurant, only to find it was closed to the public because of some local company's holiday party.  We were pretty hungry, it was already 7pm and we needed to go somewhere else - STAT.  Going back to the boat and cooking was not an option. "Where should we go?" Scott asked.  As we walked out of the marina to catch a bus to town, there was Patrick's Restaurant all lit up with white Christmas lights and ready for biz-niz.  Urged forward by our gurgling bellies, a love of white Christmas lights and the sheer convenience of being right across the street from the marina, we opted to give it a try.

Point for serendipity!

Apparently the late Patrick was quite the character in town.  Openly gay and very flamboyant - to say he was an anomaly here among the local populous of Grenada would be an understatement.  He opened his restaurant and his excellent cooking preceded his eccentric reputation and Patrick's enjoyed moderate success.  He passed away recently, but his legacy and his cooking still continue on, lucky for us.

Two things make this a truly unique dining experience:
1) There is no menu
2) There are at least 20 courses

Don't go there in a hurry, because this place is on "island time" and should be savored and enjoyed.  The twenty courses are brought out on small plates in groupings of four to six, and meant to be shared.  A Caribbean "tapas" if you will.  The menu is never exactly the same, and you never know what you might get to try.  One of our friends actually ate iguana here (yes, they will occasionally eat iguana here.  Apparently it tastes like chicken).  While we were not offered iguana (which I was thankful for, since I once had a pet iguana.  RIP Archimedes), we were treated to such Caribbean staples as callaloo soup, Caribbean potato salad, chicken salad, fried breadfruit, green bananas, fish fritters, curried conch and more.  It was not only delicious - but a bonafide dining experience that we would highly recommend to anyone who is visiting the island and wants to sample authentic local fare.  Did I mention it's only $23 US per person?  That's a lot of bang for your buck!




Bottom line:  if you are in Grenada, check out Patrick's Restaurant!  It is as charming and unique as he is rumored to have been, and a true Caribbean culinary tour!

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Thor Heyerdahl

Have you ever read the book Kon Tiki?  If not, you should.  It's an incredible story written by the late Norwegian explorer and writer Thor Heyerdahl about his journey across the Pacific.  On a raft.

Anyway, this post isn't about that book, but about a boat named after the famed seaman.  The "Thor Heyerdahl" pulled into Port Louis last week after crossing the Atlantic and is truly a sight!  I wandered over to snap some photos, when a young German boy asked me if I was interested in a tour.  Well, yeah!  Paulo was lovely and articulate as he explained to me that the ship was a school, and all the passengers were students who worked to keep it running.  The mechanic was a student, the engineer was a student, the cooks were students, the bosuns were students...They mended the sails, tended to the rigging, whipped lines, varnished the rails and everything else that needs to be tended to on a tall ship.  The goal of this "school" is to make these young men and women totally self-sufficient, capable mariners.  They know how to navigate by the stars, they exclusively hand-steer, manually raise the sails and pretty much run every function of the ship, with the guidance of their "teachers".  Aside from the maritime study, they are also studying the regular subjects and have lessons and homework just like any other student.

Something tells me, however, that these students are getting a LOT more out of their school than most of their peers at home and abroad...

Lots going on here! 
Can you jump the halyard please?
I remember looking into a "semester at sea" when I was in college - but this ship seems way cooler than the program I found (which was not on a sailboat, and no where near as involved as this).  For more on the boat and the school, visit this site (it is in English).


One learns more from listening than speaking. And both the wind and the people who continue to live close to nature still have much to tell us which we cannot hear within university walls.

-Thor Heyerdahl


Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

On Bungeeing Halyards and Trespassing

The culprit post bungee-ing.
There is this weather phenomenon that happens here in the Caribbean in the winter months and it's known locally as the "Christmas Winds".  These winds typically kick up in late December (hence the name) and are a result of a dominant high pressure area to the Northeast that is typical this time of year (much like hurricanes are "typical" between June and November).  When the isobars get tight, the wind gets stronger - producing fresh, consistent winds of 25-30 knots here in the Windward and Leeward islands - sometimes for weeks on end.  With wind comes waves and these winds typically kick up a pretty brutal Northern swell that makes many anchorages open to the North untenable when they are honking.

Another thing these winds bring with them?  Well - if you are in a marina - a lot of noise.  Wind generators start whizzing and buzzing, dock lines start squeaking and - this is the very worst - halyards start slapping.  For those of you who are "weekend warrior" sailors - perhaps the sound of clanking halyards is a pleasant one that signifies a good stiff breeze or just awakens a little nostalgia in your soul.  To us live-aboards, however, clanking halyards are a HUGE pain in the ass.  Especially when they clank for days...and days...and days. They bring out the worst in people, much like flying stand-by.

There's this boat across the dock from us that has been here oh, I don't know, since we got here I think. I have never seen a soul on it.  This boat, however, has become the bane of my existence and is the most unfriendly of neighbors.  When the wind kicks up I hear this little boat's halyards clanking and banging away at the mast like a five year old on a drum set.  For a long time I gritted my teeth, turned up my music and just ignored it.  

Things have changed.

The Christmas Winds combined with my pregnancy-induced lowered tolerance for all things that annoy me on top of a sleepless night due to said halyard, however, forced me to take matters into my own hands.  I'd had enough.  I grabbed one of our 300 or so bungee chords, marched over to the boat, boarded the boat and bungeed that damn halyard to a shroud.  And then I smiled and sighed.  All was quiet.  No more banging.  Sweet relief.

The guy on the boat next to me said "Thank you".  Apparently it was bugging him as well.  How could it not?  For those of you who don't know the sound - go to your nearest flag pole on a very windy day.  It's like that.  Really annoying.

I felt a bit odd boarding a total strangers boat and was hesitant to even mention it because - to be honest - I was pretty sure it was illegal.  But being the open and candid person I am, I took to our Facebook page to declare victory over the rogue halyard and lo and behold, it turns out this is a totally acceptable, okay thing to do!  People do it all the time! One reader even pointed out that the wonderful Beth Leonard states in  "The Voyager's Handbook" that: "It is considered exceedingly rude to board another's boat when the owner is not aboard.  The only exceptions are when the boat is in danger or ...you need to secure a slapping halyard" (p. 532). 

Phew.  
See how easy that is?  This is not rocket science!
Moral of the story:  If you don't want strangers boarding your boat and/or want to make friends while at a marina (or anchorage - because sound carries over water!), bungee those halyards!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Hurricane Ivan


The face of Grenada was forever changed when Hurricane Ivan slammed into the island with winds that reached up to 120 mph on September 7, 2004.  Obviously we were not here at that time, but if you ask a local about it - they'll recount it with a sorry shake of their head like it was yesterday.  It absolutely devastated the island - demolishing 90% of homes and leaving most of the population homeless.  It ripped away trees, land, and the livelihoods of even more.  The damage was not only physical, Grenada suffered terrible economic effects as a direct result of Hurricane Ivan as well and still to this day the country, particularly the agricultural sector, is trying to regain it's footing.


Being from the midwest where we don't typically deal with or pay much attention to hurricanes (or tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes or landslides), it is hard to imagine this kind of destruction.  While, on the surface, Grenada has bounced back very well - there are still plenty of reminders of nature's wrath on every street.  Piles of cinderblock rubble where a house once stood, a roofless abandoned store front with blown out windows, the outline of structures that once stood proud now overgrown with foliage. The church pictured here is one of my favorites, proving that there can still be beauty in mayhem and destruction.  Buildings like this are everywhere in downtown St. Georges.  While many think Grenada is far enough south to be considered "safe" from the hurricane belt, Ivan is a solemn reminder that nature doesn't always follow the rules.

The "Hurricane Belt" compliments of The Advanced Aquarist
"Nature understands no jesting. She is always true, always serious, always severe. She is always right, and the errors are always those of man." 
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Saturday, December 24, 2011

It's a Wonderful Life

Was there ever a more lovable character than George Bailey?

Every year the one movie that I cannot do without around Christmas is Frank Capra's "It's a Wonderful Life".  I think it's one of the greatest stories ever told.  A big dreamer in a small town who want's nothing more than to "See the world!", George Bailey is constantly pulled away from his dreams because his sense of duty outweighs his flight of fancy.  His life turns out nothing like the way he had hoped or planned, and at one point - his situation becomes so desperate he contemplates suicide.

That's when the magic happens.

George Bailey is given the ultimate gift of all.

He's given the chance to see what the world would be like had he not been in it.  He gets to see first hand the real and true impact of his life, a life that he had no idea had touched and changed the lives of so many.  Through this gift, he learns that despite not achieving his dreams - his life truly is wonderful..."Strange isn't it.  Each man's life touches so many other lives.  When he isn't around, he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

Maybe some of you can relate to George Bailey.  Perhaps you have sacrificed your dreams and aspirations for some reason or another.  Maybe you feel disappointed that you're life hasn't turned out the way you had hoped.  Maybe you're just feeling blue this holiday season.  To you I would say: watch this movie.

Unfortunately for us who don't live in movie-land, we will never be able to see what the world would be like had we not been born.  We'll never really see just how many lives we have touched, affected or changed.  But it's important to think about, and to appreciate and trust that our lives - whether or not we've climbed the mountains or sailed the seas we had hoped - are wonderful.

Whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the Universe is unfolding as it should. - Max Ehrmann

Life is about human connection, sharing, loving and helping one another out.  It's not just a sum of the dreams you've ticked off of your bucket list.  I've met plenty of cruisers and world travelers who are miserable, sad and alone.  Life is about the gift of friendship, community and the sense of belonging to something bigger than yourself.   In the end, what George truly learns is that "No man is a failure who has friends".  And that is the truth.

Merry Christmas everyone.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Big "G"

He had a pretty good sense of humor.
You've heard of the "Big Kahuna" before, right?  Well - let me introduce you to the "Big G".  My Grandpa, George.  I've written about him before.  He is pretty much the reason I sail because it was his crazy idea to buy a 60 foot boat and sail it from the East Coast to Chicago (with zero experience I might add) and dive in to this whole "sailing" thing.  He figured things out (he was also pretty smart in that fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants kind of way), taught my dad and my uncles to sail, and next thing you know - began what would become a boating family.  Or should I say empire?  He and my amazing grandmother Marge had twelve kids (6 boys, 6 girls).  Can you imagine? Needless to say, family parties are more like conventions and it actually took my brother until he was 13 to get all our aunts and uncles names right.

My Gram and Gramps covered a lot of ground in their day.  From Africa to Antarctica they literally traveled the world together.  Their favorite mode of travel was by boat, of course (they had a total of 6 over course of their life together) and one place they loved more than any other was Staniel Cay in the Bahamas.  It became their playground 'back in the day' and many of my aunts and uncles recount those days vacationing in Staniel Cay as some of the best in their lives.   

My Gramps was a "larger than life" sort of guy.  When he walked in a room, you knew it.  He laughed loud, he partied hard, and had that special je ne se quois that not many people are blessed with.  He became such a mainstay down there in the 60's and 70's that they actually made him the very first commodore of the Staniel Cay Yacht Club.  He took his responsibility very seriously, as evidenced by his Napoleonic hat and sword worn in the photo above.  He was also loved by the locals (particularly the children) because not only did he bring with him an arsenal of Cracker Jacks every time he visited, he also brought down a swingset.  Swingsets in the Bahamas in those days (and still) were about as foreign as astronauts.

The Yacht Club recently contacted me looking for old photos of my Gramps from that time, and I was so pleased when my aunts and uncles obliged.  There's something magical about old photos...I don't know, I just love them and thought I'd share them with you as well - to honor the legacy of my Grandpa, "Big G".
Because who doesn't have a full bather on board?
That's my beautiful Grandma with the headband on, my Gramps is next to her.
"Ya gotta have equipment, baby."  He loved his toys.
Now I know where I get my ability to tan (he's the really tan one, Grams is on his right).
The Staniel Cay Yacht Club, back in the day.
My grandpa is second from left, my Grams is on the far right.  Stunner!
Love,
Brittany & Scott

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Getting Press!

Cruising World has been in our home as long as I can remember...  

It is, in my opinion, the best magazine out there when it comes to all things "cruising" and offers great articles on everything from where to cruise, reviews on boats and products, DIY tips and tricks and great articles that offer insight into the "lifestyle".  From Jimmy Cornell to the Pardey's to Hal Roth, all the "big shots" have graced their pages. We love it.

So... you can imagine our excitement upon hearing we got a little love in their most recent issue (incidentally, they featured us in their "editor's notes" a couple months back as well)!  It is truly an honor and we're grateful for this fantastic partnership with the premier cruising magazine out there.

Whether you are a weekend warrior, a day sailor or a wannabe cruiser - you should be reading this magazine!  If paper subscriptions aren't your thing - you can download a subscription for your iPad, or check them out online (where you will regularly see us featured in the "blogs" section!).

Not the best picture of Scott, but it fit the article.
Love,
Brittany & Scott

*I was not compensated in any way to promote Cruising World.  I just genuinely like the magazine.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

La Cucaracha

The battle has begun.
Somehow, writing it in Spanish while humming this famous tune makes it seem less threatening (go on, open a new window and let that play in the background while you read this, you know you want to). I mean, the fact that someone would make a plucky and up-beat Mariachi song about a cockroach (you did know that that is what that means, right?) which is (ironically) often played in Mexican cantinas somehow makes what I am about to type less disgusting...

Who am I kidding? No, it doesn't.

I think I saw a cockroach the other night.

Actually, after a morning of desperate "Say it ain't so!" interneting on the subject - I am sure I did.

On our boat.

There it is.

Now that I have gone and admitted that, please don't hate us and think we are disgusting people, because I assure you - we are not! "But only dirty people have cockroaches, Brittany" you might say and yes, up until now, I would have agreed with you. However, now I am singing a different tune. Now, to you I'd say "I'll let my OCD take on your OCD any day!" Bring it. Seriously. When it comes to being clean, I would be in the "anal" category.  Our boat is immaculate and pretty much anyone who comes aboard takes note of it. You know my favorite aisle in the grocery store? Yeah, the cleaning products. I love me a good "all purpose" cleaner and our head actually smells good. This is the truth people.

I have read a lot about cockroaches on boats (namely how to keep them off) and have been following all the rules to keep these beasts at bay; we don’t allow cardboard of any kind on the boat, I thoroughly and immediately clean all produce that comes on the boat with a vinegar and water solution (if it’s particularly suspect, I use diluted bleach), we never leave food out, I clean the counters with Simple Green a minimum of 3 times a day, I dust-bust crumbs from our carpets with our little DC-powered hand-held vacuum, I take garbage out daily, clean the sink after we do dishes, wipe down the stove and oven after each use, bathe daily...I even sprayed all our dock lines with anti-roach spray (granted, that was 5 months ago), and yet - it seems they have arrived.  Probably via our no-longer-toxic dock lines.  Another point for anchoring out (but - they are known to fly - so no one is immune)!

It happened the other night when I was enjoying The Muppets Christmas Carol in the saloon. The lights were out and it was theater dark in the boat minus the glow of light from my computer screen. Somewhere between the ghost of Christmas past and the ghost of Christmas present was when I saw it: the distinct silhouette of a roach (granted, a small one) marching confidently over my keyboard, as if he was coming back to his seat after hitting the concession stand. I gasped. I froze. I watched him move in total disbelief. Was this my ghost of Christmas present? Surely this had to be an apparition, right? We have never, ever seen a roach on Rasmus and I had all intentions of keeping it that way.

I got up, left the lights off and walked over to take a closer look. And that’s when he stopped, turned around slowly on his spindly little legs, looked me in the eye and laughed - I swear to God he laughed in my face. I grabbed the flashlight, grabbed a paper towel and came down on him with a thud. I picked up the paper towel and...nada. In an instant he had all but disappeared in some crevice near the nav station. I have no idea where, because not only was it dark, but there was not a single opening that seemed big enough to accommodate him. Was it possible that he literally slipped through a crack? Apparently, yes. I have since learned that cockroaches are the original "shape-shifters" and very wily in their ways. Now you see ‘em, now you don’t.

Did you know that cockroaches date back to the dinosaurs? Yeah. They are one of the very few creatures to have survived the epic whatever it was that pretty much killed everything else on earth except for a handful of bizarre mollusks, a few bacteria, and some single cell organisms. This is what I am dealing with, people. These little bastards are NOT easy to kill.  They mean business and once they are on the boat - immediate action must be taken to get them off because - as much as I hate to admit -  where there is one, there are many.  They breed faster than the Duggar Family and getting rid of them (and their eggs, which can lay dormant for a LONG time) can take months.  This should be fun.

Luckily for me - I am going home tomorrow and I have already ordered an arsenal of wonderfully toxic products (from Boric acid* to Raid Bombs) to use when I return (If an asteroid or an ice age won't kill these bastards - I'm going to bring out the big guns).  We'll stay off the boat for a few days while these poisons work their magic and then do it all over again.  We will also be fumigating the boat when we haul out and I figure between two solid blasts of insecticides - we should be able to return to a roach-free boat next year.  That's the hope, at least.  We'll keep you posted.  War has been waged.  It's on like Donkey-Kong over here.

In the meantime, I'm going to clean the boat...again.

Love,
Brittany & Scott

* One of the less-toxic (keep away pets though!) and reportedly successful roach killers is Boric Acid mixed with jam and/or sugar and placed strategically throughout the boat.  I will be trying this.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Worst Nightmares of Cruising Sailors

A run-in with one of these is definitely something you want to avoid at all costs.
It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle. - Sun Tzu

As I've mentioned on this blog before, I've read my fair share of "disaster at sea" books.  You name it - I've probably read a book about it: dismasting, sudden sinking, slow sinking, losing power, losing crew members, losing limbs, hurricanes, rogue waves, and more.  More than anything, I think I learn from books like these.  I think they give me that very healthy, very necessary respect for the sea and what it is we are doing.  I think that respect is vital to successful cruising.

These books also made me wonder, "What are the very worst things that could happen at sea?"

This question, coupled with a little help from John Vigor, brought me to today's Top 10 List:

Top 10 Worst Nightmares of Sailors

  1. Dismasting - losing the mast on a sailboat is bad.  Very bad.  It usually occurs in inclement weather and usually due to rigging failure (which is why it is so very important to spot check your  stays, shrouds, turnbuckles and all other connections regularly for any signs of disrepair).  A mast can also be lost during an aggressive 360-degree roll and, depending on your type of mast - can also occur due to rot (in the case of wood) or a weak spot in the aluminum or whatever else your mast might be made of.  Unfortunately, it can also happen seemingly out of nowhere.  Scott and I carry heavy-duty cable cutters for no other reason than to cut free the stays and shrouds that hold the mast to the boat, because if a mast goes in the water in heavy seas, it has potential to punch a hole in the boat and make a very bad situation worse.  Read here on how to be better prepared if faced with dismasting and to read a story about an actual dismasting and what the crew learned, read here.
  2. Dragging anchor into a lee shore - I'll never forget the site of a 35 foot sailboat completely crushed on the rocks in the Berry Islands in our first days in the Bahamas.  Apparently, the gentleman who owned the boat got caught at anchor in a nasty gale coming from the "wrong" direction and ended up dragging into a (very rocky) lee shore.  He scrambled on deck to set another anchor while simultaneously trying to start his engine.   They say the worst disasters are not when one thing goes wrong, but when a series of events go wrong.  My dad always says one problem can be dealt with, two is more difficult but throw in a third?  You're in trouble.  In a horrible twist of fate, this man's new anchor line got wrapped up in his propellor, rendering his engine useless.  Anchor Dragging + Lee shore + Engine Failure = Tragedy. He dragged onto the rocks and within minutes his boat was holed and sunk, a total loss.  It was devastating and haunting to see a boat that had been sailing only a week before, derelict, abandoned and broken on the rocks.  Lee shores are not your friend.
  3. Losing your keel - This is also in the very, very bad category (especially for a monohull).  The keel (the 'fin' underneath the boat) is the part of your boat that keeps it upright - it's what prevents the pressure of the wind on the sails from pushing your boat over into the water.  When newbie guests come on board and ask "are we gonna tip over?"  it's your keel that is making sure you don't.  There are many different types and styles of keels out there, but (in my opinion) the most susceptible are the bolted-on fin keel boats.  Running hard aground, hitting a large submerged object (like a whale or a container - more on these later) electrolysis around the bolts or a poor attachment can cause the keel to fall off and when it does, most boats will immediately capsize.  The keel on Rasmus is a "modified full keel" (meaning it runs nearly the full length of our boat) that is structurally built into the hull of our boat.  It's also 6 inches thick.  While our keel can certainly be damaged, it won't "fall off".  We know, we hit a submerged rock going 6 knots and barely put a ding in it.  To read the tragic account of a boat that did not fare so well, read here.
  4. Hurricane - Scott and I (on this trip) have been in 35 knot winds.  Maybe 40.  Let me tell you, it's not fun.  The seas are usually very big, visibility is compromised, the wind howls through the rigging making the most anxiety producing sounds, the boat becomes very difficult to control and you can feel the power of every gust trying to knock your boat over...I honestly cannot imagine what being in wind that is 80 knots or more must feel like, and I hope that I never have to.  I read a book a while back called "At the Mercy of the Sea" by John Kretschmer which is a heartbreaking true account of three separate boats that got caught in hurricane Lenny in the Anegada passage here in the Caribbean in 1999.  It paints a very vivid picture of what it is like to be in such a storm.  No bueno.
  5. Leak in the water tank - This one applies only to boats who will be offshore for weeks at a time, but it still bears mentioning.  Fresh water on an ocean passage is just as critical for survival as a sound boat.  Run out of food, and you can survive weeks - even months.  Run out of water and, if your lucky, you have a week.  If it's really hot, days.  Water is secondary only to oxygen in terms of survival essentials for the human body and if your water tank springs a leak or gets compromised mid-atlantic, you are in trouble with a capitol T.  If doing an ocean passage - it's best to have an emergency back-up bladder of water enough to give each crew member an adequate amount of drinking water per day and NEVER rely solely on your watermaker!
  6. Lightning strike - few things cause as much unease to an offshore sailor as lightning on the horizon.  When you are a sailboat on the water, you are pretty much the tallest thing around and we all know how opportunistic lighting is - it prefers to travel the shortest distance.  The mast of a sailboat is the perfect conductor and will essentially become a lightning rod.  Depending on how severe the strike, a myriad of things can occur:  your boat's entire electronic suite will (most likely) be completely fried beyond repair (no more chart plotter for you - hope you have a sextant or backup GPS!), it can blast a hole right through the boat, start a fire (more on that later) and/or it can cause death to any unfortunate crew member who came in contact with the voltage.  In other words, it ranges from bad to worse.  Try your very best to avoid it and, if you find yourself at sea in a lightning storm, take the precautions listed in this article.
  7. Life-threatening injury - There is no 911 on the water.  You are, literally, taking your life in your own hands when you venture offshore.  I know that sounds a little dramatic, but it's true.  There are many potential hazards on a boat and I've read and/or heard first hand personal accounts of everything from heart attacks to lost limbs, massive head injuries to severe burns.  All are very bad.  Back in the old days, around-the-world sailors used to get their appendixes removed before the journey just in case it was a ticking time bomb waiting to burst at sea.  Pete Goss had to operate on his own arm during the 1996 Vendee Globe race (his book, Close to the Wind, is excellent).  Getting to medical help while sailing can be days or even weeks away and even then, it will probably not be the kind of care you are accustomed to.  Extreme caution must be taken for your health and your well being.  Scott and I carry an Offshore Marine Medical 3000 kit and Scott is trained in basic first aid and CPR, but a more comprehensive medical course would be best.
  8. Fire - I've written a little about fire in an earlier post - but it is still worth mentioning.  Unfortunately, boat fires are not uncommon at all.  In fact, Scott and I saw a boat burn right down to the waterline due to a citronella candle back at our home marina in Chicago.  But candles aren't the only thing causing fires.  Over half of the fires on boats begin because of faulty electrical wiring and/or poor installation.  Considering most boaters totally mystified by their electric systems this is no surprise.  While it certainly doesn't make us immune, we are very grateful to have had a certified Marine Electrical Engineer help us throughout our refit process to make sure we did everything the "right" way.  Rasmus is completely up to code and if we keep a close eye on her, she should remain so.  For more on what causes fire on boats, check out this article.
  9. Collision/Hole in the boat/Sinking -  This is the trifecta of 'bad' on a boat and I've combined them all because they seem to occur together (but not always) and collisions at sea, particularly with submerged animals and/or containers that you cannot see play on the imaginations of most cruising sailors I know. I recently read an account of a boat sinking after a run-in with a pod of whales.  Luckily, everyone on board survived.  The boat?  It sank in about seven minutes.  I also read 10 Degrees of Reckoning by Hester Rumberg which is the devastating story of a women who lost her husband and two young children when their boat collided with a tanker during a storm.  Her boat sank in under five minutes.  Ever read Steve Callahan's Adrift?  He has no idea what his boat hit when he was in the North Atlantic, but he knows he hit something and he barely had time to get up on deck before his boat went down.  Bottom line:  Boats that meet objects below the waterline can sink scary fast.  Be vigilant with your watch schedule and have emergency plans in place.  We have a life-raft as well as an Epirb ready to deploy in a moments notice in our cockpit.  Hopefully, we'll never need them - but they are better than nothing in our opinion.
  10. Falling off the boat - My very worst nightmare is to come up on watch and have Scott not be there.  Even typing that is difficult and I can't think about it without getting choked up.  In fact, this very thing recently happened to a couple sailing in NARC rally from Newport to Bermuda.  Absolutely horrific.  The first (and most important) rule on our boat is: Don't fall off.  It's that simple.  Whatever you do - stay on the boat.  If you do fall off, you can probably assume you are dead.  When underway, Scott and I never leave the cockpit without waking the other and we have jack-lines and tethers that we can use to attach ourselves to the boat if necessary.  If you fall off the boat it could be hours before your sleeping partner realizes it and by then finding you is near impossible.  And falling overboard during a storm?  Even if your partner knows you have gone over - finding a person in six foot waves in the dark is like finding a needle in a haystack, trust me.  Stay. on. the. boat.
Well, that was depressing.

I don't know about you but I am spent from this energy-sucking morbidness, but like I said, I think it's important to know these things, we can learn from them and hopefully benefit from those lessons.  

I promise to post a more lively and funny blog tomorrow to make up for this. 

Love, 
Brittany & Scott

Monday, December 19, 2011

Lessons Learned Baking Christmas Cookies (on a boat)

Peanut butter blossoms!  They don't look right, but they taste right!
As many of you who follow us on Facebook know, I entered the world of Christmas cookie baking a few days ago...

To be honest, I actually don't think I've ever baked Christmas cookies before (my best friend will tell you I have the worst memory though, which is why I started writing in the first place so maybe I just blocked it out?) and now I know why.

I learned many, many things during this foray into Christmas-cookieness, but the three biggest lessons I learned were the following:

1)  I now understand why people throw parties to make these things.
2)  I also know why I have not been invited to said parties.
3)  As much as I love Christmas, I do not really enjoy Christmas cookie making.

HOWEVER...

Christmas spirit beat out my lack of enthusiasm for baking, and I decided that I was going to surprise Scott and the passengers and crew of Diamant when they returned to port with a bounty of holiday delectables. Yay, me!  Eight hours later (that's right, eight) I had the following: 24 Mexican wedding cookies, 36 peanut butter blossoms, 36 chocolate-oatmeal-coconut cookies, a burned tongue, three small burns on my hands, one discarded pile of burned/melted chocolatey-marshmallow poo, a very sore back, a chocolate stain on the carpet, chocolate in my hair, flour in places there should not be flour and three beautiful gift tins of cookies to give away! It should also be noted that I used an entire roll of paper towel in the process.  Don't ask me how that's possible, but I did it.

Mexican wedding cookies are YUMMY.  These also don't look right, but they taste right.
This is what the boat looked like during the mayhem.
Other lessons I learned:
  1. Shopping for christmas cookie supplies before you know what you are going to make does not make a whole lot of sense.
  2. You can actually make your own powdered sugar by putting sugar in a food processor (this was the highlight of my day, btw)!
  3. "One batch" in a normal oven is equal to two or three batches in a boat oven, which is only slightly larger than the Easy Bake oven you used when you were six.
  4. The time to make "one batch" is actually doubled or tripled due to the above.
  5. A boat gets really hot really, really fast when an oven is on for hours at a time.
  6. It helps a lot to know for sure if your oven temperature is measured in Celsius or Fahrenheit (I still do not know, experimentation will continue).
  7. You can't melt chocolate over an open flame.  Apparently it needs to be in something called a "water bath", whatever the hell that is.
  8. Adding vegetable oil to melting chocolate while trying to heat it over an open flam does not make it more "melty".
  9. Adding marshmallows to the clumpy, grainy, non-melty chocolate won't turn it into something edible after all.
  10. Chocolate that has been heated over an open flame is as hot as molten lava and you should not "taste" it.  It will burn your tongue and make you scream expletives.
  11. Chocolate that has been improperly melted and then dries is like cement and a major pain in the ass to clean from your cooking utensils.
  12. A mellon-baller (why or how we have one I have no idea) makes a great cookie scooping/shaping mechanism.
  13. Peanut Butter blossoms are really messy to make and cleaning peanut butter and shortening from your cooking utensils is about as easy as rinsing vaseline out of your hair with a trickle of water.
  14. Hershey's kisses do not hold up to the tropical heat and the minute you try to "press" them into the cookie, they melt like Frosty on a black tarmac road in the middle of summer.  Chocolate will get everywhere.
  15. Cooking three different types of cookies (plus one failed attempt at chocolate-dipped marshmallows) will take about eight hours if you are as incompetent as I am in a kitchen.
  16. You people with things like "counters", "pantries", "electric mixers" and "human-sized sinks" really have it made in the shade.  I mean, honestly.
  17. It's best to use two oven mits when handling scalding hot trays of cookies (we only have one, the other we accidentally donated to Poseidon).  
  18. When you touch scalding hot trays of cookies, you will burn and it will hurt.
  19. Despite all the follies, foibles and frustration - cookies made on a boat (with love, of course) actually taste really, really good!!
I realize most of these things are nothing new, but they are all lessons I learned.

A tray of holiday delectables!
In the end, I got three wonderful trays of cookies to give away as gifts.  One went to Scott and the crew over on the boat, one will go to the wonderful staff at the marina and the other...well, I might just keep it.  

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Megayachts

This here is the luxury motor yacht Fortunato
Luxury yachts remind me a little of the famous margaritas served at Ceasar's in Chicago in that they come in various degrees of "large" (without the hangover, of course).  Mega yachts, super yachts and giga yachts are cruising the world's oceans en masse and they are a site to behold! They might all be different, but they all have one goal: Luxury, baby.  Champagne pouring, caviar munching, diamond-dripping luxury...

Typically ranging from 80 to 300 feet in size these boats are impressive in their opulence.  They employ good-looking and articulate professional full-time crews, have gourmet chefs cooking haute cuisine over marble countertops in the galley and other fun things like infinity pools, fully-equipped gyms, and helicopter landing pads on them.  I remember one mega yacht I saw in Ibiza, Spain that actually had a seventy-foot sailboat ready to launch from the deck aboard.  A seventy-foot sailboat!!! Just secured there on deck like a dinghy.  Insane.  Don't worry though!  Many of these yachts are available for charter, and from anywhere between $50-$100,000K (yes, I mean a million), you too can rent one of these babies for a week!  If you wanted to own one expect to pay in the millions to purchase, and expect another million or so in yearly operating costs.  Not a cheap toy.

Most of these boats have cruised over here from the "Med" (yachtie speak for "Mediterranean") for the Antiqua Charter Yacht Show.  Now that that is over, these beautiful beasts have been let loose to play in the Caribbean for a season before heading back to the Med in six months or so.  Needless to say, we have some very shiny, pretty neighbors these days...
The luxury sailing vessel Tristan measures 110 feet on deck 
Pretty sleek.

Love, 
Brittany & Scott

Friday, December 16, 2011

Bear Spray. Or is it Pirate Spray?

Funny story for you...
The other night, as I was sleeping in the boat alone - I got to thinking; "Jeeze, what if someone comes aboard and tries to rob me, or worse, while Scott is gone?"  I know, pretty morbid and not the most comforting of thoughts for a 6 month pregnant lady who's husband is away for a week at a time.

But then I remembered the bear spray right by the bed.  That's right.  Bear spray.

Or should I call it Pirate Spray?

If you are anything like me (someone who grew up near a city completely devoid of bears and who's idea of camping is packing a cooler full of booze and going to a clearing near a concert venue) you probably don't know what "bear spray" is.  I didn't.  Well, you remember that little thing of mace that your dad gave you before you left for college that hung on your key chain?  It's kind of like that - only it's about as big as an air-horn.  Because it's meant for, you know, 500-pound bears.

Anywho...back to the story of how this "Pirate Spray" came to be...

Back when we left Chicago - "pirates" were all the rage.  I don't mean to be flippant, because it's a very serious subject, but there had been some recent high profile attacks and everyone and his brother wanted to know how we were going to deal with them since, according to landlubbers who didn't know any better, the world was being overtaken by pirates much in the same way Michigan is being overtaken by deer.  I was even contacted by the Wall Street Journal to give a sound byte for an article they were writing on the subject (I was not quoted).  Scott and I just sort of laughed off the thought of "piracy" knowing that Somali-style attacks are not happening in the Bahamas or anywhere we were headed in the next year or so.  (Not yet, anyway).  We had, however, heard of minor incidents in places like Puerto Rico and the Caribbean (again, not approach-your-boat-in-high-speed-vessels-with-uzi's-while-high-on-qat-style, but boardings and robberies; petty theft mostly).  Scott, ever the pro-active hubby, decided to take matters into his own hands and get prepared for combat, should the need arise.

Have you ever been to Charleston, SC?  It's a lovely, idyllic place.  I actually think I could live there, but that is besides the point.  It's got cobblestone streets, fine dining, chic boutiques, a distinctly European feel, a nice little college campus nuzzled right smack in the middle and it's the kind of place you might call "precious".  It reminded me of my favorite neighborhoods in Chicago all rolled into one minus the stab-your-eye-out winter.  It is NOT the sort of place where people talk much about, or know anything about, pirates.  Unless, of course, you are referring to the Johnny Depp variety. This is an important factoid...

So...Scott and I go into a yuppy-style "outdoor outfitting" store (because we love those types of stores) just to peruse cool things like designer Nalgene bottles, fluffy Patagonia zip-ups and any other neat trinket we might find.  We both find ourselves upstairs.  I, of course, am eyeballing some cute "convertible and practical" skirt that costs $100, and Scott - I note - is eyeing the camping section, rather intently, I might add.  I go back to contemplating my skirt (did not buy it) when I hear this little gem of conversation happen, pretty much verbatim:

[Enter preppy, good looking nineteen year old shop clerk who is wearing "outdoorsy" clothes, but with the collar popped and way too much hair product to be taken seriously as an "outdoorsman"].

Preppy college clerk: Hey man, can I help you find anything?
Scott:  [now holding something and studying it, again, rather intently] Um...yeah. Sure.[pause as he reads the label on whatever it is he is holding]. Actually, do you know if this stuff works?
PCC: [leans in inquisitively to see what Scott is holding, cocks his head slightly to the side as if to ponder if he's ever used it or known anyone who has, the answers to both, of course, are a resounding 'no'] Uhhhhh...bear spray?
Scott:[looking up, hopeful] Yeah.
PCC: Uhhhh...[he grabs another can off the dusty shelf and examines the label also]I think so...[he continues to study the canister, like a good PCC shop clerk does].
Scott: [sensing this kid isn't entirely sure what he's talking about and wanting to clarify a few things for him, he lets out a small 'knowing' chuckle] I don't mean on bears...I mean, do you think this would work on people?

(At this point I now know where this is going, and instead of swooping in to save ourselves from looking like complete arse-holes, I stand there, much like one of those Michigan deer in headlights, holding the skirt limply while silently mouthing the word 'no'...)

PCC: [kid reacts by pulling his head back quickly, his face contorts in confusion] People??? [Now totally aware that he is in over his head] Uhhhh...[he looks again at the label, unsure if he should check with a manager]...well, it is meant for bears so...[he shrugs and trails off].
Scott: [letting out another chuckle because he realizes how this sounds]  I don't mean regular people, I'm talking about pirates.  Do you think this would work on pirates? [NOT realizing how this sounds].
PCC: [backing away a tad - now a look of total, utter confusion washes over his already perplexed face.  He wonders for a second; "Am I being Punk'd"].  Ummmmm...wow...uhhhhh...I guess so?
Scott: Great, I'll take it.

And it is this precise moment when I burst out laughing.  Right then and there in the store.  Like, the kind of laughter where you crouch over yourself and almost have to fall to your knees because you think you might wet your pants.  Scott looks at me like I am crazy.  Like that conversation he had was totally normal.  Oh, how I love that man.

Pirates.

So...yeah.  There it is.  Some college kid in Charleston out there is probably recounting this exact same story during kegger parties about the two crazy people who came into his store last year looking for "pirate spray".  God love it. "I mean, dude...the guy actually said 'Will it work on pirates' and I was all, 'I dunno, I guess so!'" (boisterous, drunken laughter).

For the record, I am glad we have it and it actually is a good thing to have aboard if you don't "carry" (a gun) which we do not and will not (Scott read about pirate bear spray on several forums apparently).

For the record, I also sleep with a machete under the pillow while Scott is gone and I have been known crack open a coconut like a ninja with the thing in two fell swoops.
Truth.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Best Way to Eat a Mango

Before devouring...
After devouring.
Not going to lie - I have yet to meet a tropical fruit that isn't a total mess to eat...

But that does not stop me from eating them!  If you don't want to end up looking like a distant relative of Genghis Kahn while you eat fruit, read on my friends, I am here to help you!

I can't remember where I learned this, but I have found this is the best way to serve and eat a mango:
  1. Cut the mango on either side of the seed.  You can find where the seed is by finding the mango's "thinner" side and cutting as close to the center as you can, skimming the flat seed itself (this will leave some fruit around the edge of the seed, you can just eat this part discreetly like a cannibal when no one is looking).
  2. You will now have two "meaty" sides of the mango.  Take a small knife and cut a checkered pattern along the inside, being careful not to cut through the skin.
  3. Flip the mango inside-out.
  4. Eat with your hands by holding the skin and taking bites out of the delicious, sweet heaven that is the ripe mango!
Love,
Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

You Might be a Full-Time Cruiser If...

Is this a normal activity in your life?  Then you might be a full-time cruiser!
Scott gave me this idea for a blog post one morning when he was helping me get breakfast supplies and said something to the tune of "I wonder how many people sleep over cookies, granola bars and chips".  It was in that instant that this post was born.  Of course this list is not finite, it could probably go on forever.  However, just for fun today:

You *MIGHT* be a Full-Time Cruiser if...

...you sleep over your "pantry" and literally have to crawl in and out of bed...
...leaving a tap running for anything longer than 2 seconds makes you cringe...
...you don't think twice about a 2 mile walk to the grocery store...
...you're hyper-tuned to out-of-the-ordinary sounds and/or smells...
...you wake up with mysterious bruises you don't recall getting...
...you light your stove with a match and make toast over an open flame...
...you get really excited about a half-way decent, one-pot meal...
...you see a new gadget and your first question is "how many amps does it draw?"...
...your life is dictated by the weather...
...you have more zip lock bags than is normal or necessary...
...you have mastered the art of washing with mere quarts of water...
...laundry done by your own two hands comes out better than the laundromat...
...you pretty much wear the same thing every day, and no one notices or cares...
...ice is a luxury that is always accompanied by a big smile and a high-five...
...cardboard is the enemy and is not allowed on the boat...
...when something breaks, your first instinct is not "who to call?"...
...you use T-9 and WD40 as frequently as others use hairspray...
...you laugh out loud if someone on land complains they "don't have room"...
...you don't mind warm beer, in fact, you sort of like it...
...you have no clue what's on television or in the theaters and don't care...
...you've peed in the sink - not because your drunk -  but because it's just easier...
...you use only one quarter of the paper towel at a time...
...you know your boat like most people know their children...
...you long for more solar and/or wind power and ogle other peoples' set-ups...
...you've seen the bare ass of at least one of your boat neighbors before...
...finding a new way to store something more efficiently literally makes your day...
...you get really excited when you look at a balanced battery meter...
...you get a tour of another boat and get jealous of storage space...
...you have more flashlights and head-lamps than a spelunker...
...prepping to cook a meal requires you to get on all fours at any given point...
...you break a sweat just getting out the tools necessary to complete a job...
...you cannot walk into a marine store without buying something...
...you know the wind speed just by the sound and feel of your boat...
...you use oil and vinegar not only for salad, but for your toilet - on a regular basis...

and my personal favorite, you know you're a full-time cruiser if...

...you honestly don't know where the day, week, month, or year will take you...

Love,
Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Gifts for Cruisers

The manner of giving is worth more than the gift. 
 ~Pierre Corneille, Le Menteur
It's Christmastime! Not sure what to get your favorite sailor or cruiser?  Here are some items that we currently have, use, love and think would make great gifts for the cruising sailor.  I have added approximate prices so you can stay within your budget...
  1. Hand-Bearing Compass ($30-$200)- every serious cruiser should have one on board.  These are great to have handy and we have the one I linked to.  These are NOT the same as your ships compass and serve a different purpose.  Typically, a hand bearing compass is used to measure the direction of sighted objects relative to the user (like another ship, for example).  The steering compass tells you where you are going, the hand-bearing compass tells you where you are. For more on when to use your hand-bearing compass read Don Casey's article on them here.
  2. Dry Bags ($19.99 - $60.00) We have a ton of different brands of dry bags in our boat in sizes that range from tiny to jumbo.  Our spare sheets and linens are stored in dry bags, our spare hats are in dry bags, and they have been great.  I particularly love the Sealine brand of bags because they are super rugged, clear (so you can see the contents) and very easy to use.  They come in handy all the time - especially when doing dinghy runs back and forth to land.  I would recommend getting at least two sizes: large and small.  I use the smaller size almost as a purse when we go ashore, and the larger is great to transport towels, a radio, and whatever else to the beach.  They also rinse off super easy if they do get wet and/or sandy.
  3. Kindle - ($79-$199) I love my Kindle.  I don't think I would have ever considered an e-reader if we didn't live on a boat, but being that I read as much as I do and the fact that books take up a significant amount of space on the boat, I decided to give the e-book a try.  We love our e-readers! They are easy to use, hold a charge forever, and read just like a real book.  Combined, Scott and I have about 150 books stored on our e-readers (which would never fit on our boat otherwise) so we never have to turn to the trashy romance novels that seem to be the standard at book swaps.  Of course, we still have a large array of 'regular' books as well (the e-readers are not great for reference books, cook books, how-to books...etc) and if you prefer to get your sailor the real thing, here are some books I recommend.
  4. SPOT Tracker ($150) - Are you worried about your sailor heading off to sea? 'SPOT notifies friends, family or an international rescue coordination center with your GPS location and status based on situation and need - all with the push of a button'.  It relies 100% on satellite so it will work where phones will not, it's rugged, and simple to use.  Our friends and family love following us on SPOT and so will you! 
  5. Sailor Bags ($24-$89) - we love our sailor bags and use them every. single. day.  We have the small messenger bag, I use the medium tote as my main "purse", we have two extra large duffles for when we travel and I just ordered a backpack as well.  They're functional, durable and stylish.
  6. Stainless Steel Multitool ($50-$80) - we both have one of these and use them ALL THE TIME.  Believe me, you cannot have too many tools on the boat.  We keep these in our nav station for easy use - and when we are sailing, we keep one strapped to the binnacle so that it's handy in a moments notice.  We love them.  Just make sure to keep them lubed up with WD-40 or something similar because eventually, even stainless will start to rust and cease up.
  7. Moosejaw Crazy Creek Chair ($44) - space is a premium on a boat and these little chairs take up barely any!  They are super comfortable and we'll take them to the beach, to a cruiser's barbecue or throw them up on the bow and relax in them as we watch the sunset with a glass of wine in hand.  Not bad at all!  
  8. Waterproof Camera/Camera housing (varies) - lots of cruisers LOVE the Olympus Tough Brand of camera; they are shock-proof, water-proof and take excellent photos (I have a Canon D12).  BUT, if you don't want to spend $300-$400 on a new camera, why not look into waterproof housing for your existing camera?  I have a waterproof case for my Canon and I love it. Do some searching online and I'm sure you'll find one to suit the brand you have.
  9. Subscription to Chris Parker weather ($195-$295 p/y) -  We love our subscription to Chris Parker.  His very thorough weather reporting has greatly assisted us in getting here safely from the USA.  This gift only makes sense if you know of a cruiser who is leaving to cruise to the Bahamas or Caribbean and because it's a yearly 'subscription', it's best to start it close to when they leave.  Weather prediction is an imperfect art, but having Chris Parker on our side has certainly assisted us in deciphering the weather when making decisions on passages. 
  10. Durable reusable water bottle ($15- $30) - We use the Nalgene brand of bottles and love them, but there are many, many more out there!  What is great about having these aboard is that we can see how much water we're drinking, we don't mix up bottles (ours our different colors), they are spill-proof, we don't need to mess with glasses and ours fit perfectly in our cockpit cup holders.  We love ours and highly recommend anyone who will be living on boat to invest in one for themselves.
If you have something that you think would make a great addition, by all means, let us know in the comments!  Happy Holidays everyone!

Love,
Brittany & Scott
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