Monday, February 27, 2012

Bringing a Taste of the Islands Home

Loyal blog followers know about my love of coconut water...I fell in love with the stuff when I was an avid Bikram yogi before we left and the love affair resumed when we got down island and could get it straight from the source.  For those of you who don't know - coconut water is one of the healthiest things you can put in your body.  Not only is it totally natural, it is full of electrolytes, potassium and is actually more hydrating than water.  While I personally love the taste - it should be said that the flavor is very unique and for many it is 'acquired'.  It's doesn't taste like water and it doesn't taste like coconut milk - some actually liken it to slightly spoiled, watered down milk.  Tempting right?  While I think that's a little harsh, it's best to know what you are in for.  Give it a try - if the taste doesn't win you over (it's not that bad, I promise) the health benefits should.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

A Glimpse into our Future?

My mom found this picture the other day...yep, that's 'lil bitty me and my dad on our family's first boat "Tenacious", a Pearson 30 that we cruised on when I was a little tyke.   It's kind of crazy and amazing to think that that'll be Scott and our baby girl before too long.

We can't wait.

Brittany & Scott

Friday, February 24, 2012

Whaling in the Caribbean

This is the Bequia whaling station that is still in use today
There's lots of "hot" topics when it comes to the ocean these days...over-fishing, pollution, the decimation of our coral reefs, global warming, rising ocean temperatures, polar ice caps melting and so much more.  Few issues, however, really push people's "hot buttons" like whaling.

Many, many moons ago I wrote a post highlighting a movie Scott and I watched called The Cove.  This movie was incredibly eye-opening, very powerful and EXTREMELY disturbing (consider yourself warned, if you have a soul - you will cry).  While it is not about whaling, perse, it is about the mass murder of dolphins (yes, "flipper") for consumption in Japan and has a lot to say about the ocean, it's many life-forms and how to protect them.

Let me start this post by saying I am definitely not "pro" whaling.  I'll root for the Sea Shepard on Whale Wars just like everyone else.  I will picket the Japanese and their treatment of our oceans with the next guy.  However, I am "pro" culture and keeping cultural traditions alive (I once witnessed a Masai circumcision in Tanzania - another polarizing cultural tradition - you can read about it here).  While I benefit from the metaphorical "shrinking" of this world just like everyone else, I think it's sad that the price we pay is increased homogenization in the name of "keeping up".

Believe it or not, there is still a tradition of hunting whales in the Caribbean.  Known as "aboriginal whaling" this form of hunting is not done for commercial purposes, but for sustenance.  Traditional whale hunters only take a small number of whales a year (if any), hunt from small open boats with hand-thrown harpoons and the island communities use and distribute every last bit of the whale from the meat to bones to the oil.

In Bequia, whaling has commenced annually for over a hundred and thirty years and is still a huge part of the culture of this little island.   While the International Whaling Commission allows locals to hunt two or three humpback whales a year (in the traditional way), due to world condemnation of the trade and the fact that the tradition is being lost on new generations there is currently only one boat and crew that still know how to hunt aboriginally: in small, open boats armed with hand-thrown harpoons.  Apparently - on the rare occasion that a whale is caught, it causes tremendous excitement among locals and visitors alike.  I can definitely say I never want to see a live whale hunt, but I can appreciate (from a safe distance) a tradition steeped in culture, sustenance and respect.

If you get the chance to visit this beautiful little island (one of our personal favorites), it's definitely worth a visit to the local whaling museum and pulling up a whale vertebrae bar stool fashioned at the Whale Boner restaurant and sipping on a cold Carib.

The local fishery where the whaling boat is launched.

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wonder Where To Store Your Boat in the Caribbean? Peake Yacht Services.

This blog has afforded Scott and I some wonderful partnerships...
When we decided that we would come back home to give birth to our baby girl instead of staying in the Caribbean, we began the daunting task of researching where we would store our other "baby"...

Leaving a boat in a foreign country is not easy, and I've got another post in the works about things to consider when doing this, but for now I'd like to introduce and tell you a little more about Peake Yacht Services, the "The Caribbean's largest and most comprehensive haul-out facility".

I knew we found the right yard when I sent an initial inquiry email and they got back to about six minutes...on a weekend.  That kind of promptness does not happen too often in the Caribbean.  I was so impressed by the level of professionalism displayed in these first email interactions that I knew we had found our next "home".  The fact that they decided to partner with us was just icing on the cake.

The yard itself is a boater's haven and within it's gates they host a chandlery, the Bight Hotel (clean, simple rooms that are a reasonable $75 a night), a snack shop, a travel lift, the fantastic Zanzibar restaurant (where you can get a great veggie burger!), street vendors that sell delicious Trini/Caribbean food for a steal just outside the gates (only between 12 and 1pm!), free wifi and tons of other resources and services for cruisers at very competitive prices.

What stands out the most are the employees.  Because Trinidad is so large (over a million people) and relatively "cosmopolitan" compared to the rest of the Caribbean, much more attention is paid to customer service and efficiency.  From the friendly 24-hour security guards to the women in the office - everyone employed by Peake's are professional, well spoken and incredibly knowledgeable.  It is very refreshing.  Even your water glass will not go empty at the restaurant - the are that on top of things.

While they do have a very secure facility with 24-hour surveillance by both guards and cameras, Scott and I opted to store our Rasmus in their "high security" yard because we would be leaving our boat for so long.  This area is separated from the rest by a fence and a small moat.  No boat work is allowed in this zone and the only people who are allowed in must be approved as well as checked in and out by the front office.   For added assurance there are two very large, scary looking dogs that roam free at night, just in case.

If you are looking for a top-rate facility to either store your boat, complete some seasonal projects or get work done - Peake Yacht Services should top your list.  From what we have found in our experience and research, they are unmatched in their professionalism, breadth of services and pricing (yes, even when compared to Grenada).
The yard is very large and very organized.
The veranda where cruisers can sit back and enjoy some free wifi.
The hotel rooms are great for cruisers who need a night away.
They have a fantastic dinghy dock where cruisers can fill up with free fresh water!
The travel lift can accomodate more boats than most and the crew are incredible! 

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Life Lessons from Living Aboard

The other day, a blog follower asked a great question on our Facebook page:"What memories, lessons, recipes, etc. will you keep/take with you while off the boat?"

All of our lives have the potential shift, change and alter course with every step we take.  Even the seemingly simplest things like a powerful book, a random run-in with an old friend, a wrong turn or a news program have the ability to change us and our lives forever.  I think that is part of what makes life so magical; the fact that - at any given moment - our course could change drastically.  It's these paradigm shifts, be them large or small, positive or negative, that make us who we are; that force us to change, evolve and grow.  It blows my mind, really, the millions of possibilities that lay at our fingertips at any given moment...the fact that no matter who we are or what we do, our paths are unpredictable.

But I digress...

The past two years have had a huge impact on our lives, bigger than we can probably recognize or know right now.   Luckily for us this "hiatus" is only a short break from the life at sea that we love because we are not ready for it to be "over" but nevertheless - these next six months or so will certainly be colored by our time living on our boat.  So what, specifically, have we brought back with us?

To be honest - it's probably easier to start with what has changed.  We have a car.  We use it daily (but walk when we can!) to run errands, head to doctor's appointments and venture to the city to see our friends.  We have the modern conveniences like refrigeration, washer/dryer and a never-ending supply of water at our fingertips.  Of course we take advantage of all of these things - but there is always the underlying reminder that these things are luxuries, that they are not to be abused (okay - I do take longer than usual hot showers - but only because in this super dry air, the shower is the only place my head and nose feel normal!).  We still eat simple, healthy meals (still blending soups over here!).  We still take time to exercise and get outside in the fresh air daily.  While we do have television, we spend more time reading books and if it is on - neither of us are paying much attention to it.  Scott is still Mr. Fixit and working on projects throughout the house (which makes my mother very happy).  It's funny - while everything has changed, at the same time it feels like nothing has changed.  We've fallen into step, and it feels totally normal.   I do recognize, however, that the fact that we have return tickets to our boat makes this "adjustment period" feel more like an extended vacation rather than a permanent life change which makes everything much easier.  If I had to don a suit, sit in rush-hour traffic and head into a high-rise office building tomorrow I might be singing a different tune...

The biggest lesson I think I have taken away is the importance of being adaptable and how much easier life is when you can "go with the flow".  Scott and I are both this way - you can put us anywhere and we'll take our bearings, assess our surroundings and adjust.  I think we were both flexible before we left on this trip and we've certainly become more so because of it.  We're good no matter where we are.  Our happiness doesn't come from where we are, it comes from who we are.  Charles Darwin said it best when he said:
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.

Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Four Weeks to Go!!

Can you believe it?  Officially we have four weeks until little sea monkey makes her debut...but really, she could come any day now!  I'm still feeling great; running and exercising daily and eating lots of healthy, organic foods to keep baby girl growing.  Scott is in full-blown daddy mode; he's printed out multiple maps to the hospital, demanded I make him a phone list, tweaked our "birth plan" and printed out a list for me of what to pack in our overnight bag.  Just now, as I was in the living room reading, I realized he had been missing for a while and the house was eerily quiet.  I went to look for him and found him in the basement pushing around our Inglesina English Pram stroller* he had just put together - on his own volition I might add.

Yeah.  He's going to be a great daddy.  

Brittany & Scott

* As most of you know, my mom is British and an avid walker...hence the English Pram.  She walked probably a thousand miles with my brother and sister and I in one of these and she plans to do the same with her little grand-baby.  This particular stroller will stay at Grandma and Grandpa's house and will NOT be coming back to the boat!

Monday, February 20, 2012

It's All About the Sunshine

I've always been more of a summer girl than a winter girl...while I love the snow, I prefer it on a mountain somewhere out west (Breckenridge, Colorado is my favorite) with my K2 True Luv skis strapped to my feet, bouncing off moguls or making fresh tracks on a nice blue cruiser run.   Chicago in the winter is significantly less fun for me.

Truth be told, I was nervous about coming home.  Nervous, mostly, about the weather.  After living in the hot, tropical sunshine for nearly two years I thought I would miss the Caribbean tremendously; that leaving our boat would leave a little hole in my heart, that I would come home and retreat into a melancholy hibernation that wouldn't break until spring.

Silly me.  Good grief I am so dramatic.

It's been nothing short of wonderful being back.  Granted, Scott and I have returned to what might be one of the mildest Chicago winters on record.  Temperatures are in the 40's and even 50's nearly every day, the sky is blue and the sun is shining.  We've gotten outside for a bike, a hike or run every day since we've been back and I have learned that it's not the cold that effects me - but the sunshine.  If the sun is shining and I can get out and enjoy some fresh air and outdoor activity, I am good to go.

Most winters in Chicago are marked by periods of gray, overcast skies that can last for days.  I remember one particularly bleak winter during college where I literally did not see sun for eight days.  Eight days.  That is just wrong.  Since we've been home however, I fling open our blinds each morning and am greeting by a beautiful blue sky and the shining sun.  It's all about the sunshine.  Good old vitamin D.  We're happy.  Life is good...really good.

As for baby girl - we're doing great!  She is head down and technically ready to make her debut any day but realistically she is not due for another few weeks so we probably have some time.  It's an incredible time in our lives...we are beyond excited.  Such a surreal feeling to know that our lives are mere calendar days away from changing in the most incredibly profound way.  We're just going to strap in and enjoy the ride.  We'll keep you posted...

In the meantime, I'm heading out for a run in the sun!

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Leaving Your Boat in the Caribbean?

Rasmus getting power-washed right after being hauled

de·com·mis·sionˌdēkəˈmiSHən/:  To take a ship out of service.

A lot of you have written with questions on how we prepared our Rasmus for her hiatus out of the water and I promised I would write more extensively on the subject.  Decommissioning a boat is a very sad day (or in our case, days) for many a boat owner.  Lucky for us we have a return ticket to Trinidad, a baby girl on the way, and very exciting cruising plans in our near future so there is a lot to look forward to!  Even so, putting a boat "on the hard" as it's called is not only a little depressing, but an incredibly detailed process and involves a lot more than just taking off perishable food, closing the curtains and battening down the hatches.  Port of Spain, Trinidad is one of those harbors where you see the sad effects of boats that were "ridden hard and put away wet" as it were.  Scott and I weren't about to start cutting corners now and, as in everything we do when it comes to our boat, we went full-monty on the "hibernation of Rasmus".  Here is the list of what we did, and why (I should note that this list is not in chronological order):
  1. Go through every single storage compartment and de-clutter - this is incredibly time consuming, and incredibly cathartic.  We got rid of a LOT of unused stuff on our boat and made a TON of space for baby!
  2. Empty holding tank, flush with fresh water, treat with chemical - holding tanks are beyond nasty, and doing a fresh water flush will ensure we don't come back to a cesspool.
  3. Top off diesel tank, treat with biocide - any vented container with a liquid in it has potential to be contaminated by water and heat, by topping off the tank and keeping it full there is less room for contamination to occur.  In cold climates, topping off the tank will help curb condensation.  In warm climates, it will help to slow the growth of algae.  Biocide is a chemical that will also kill any algae that does begin to develop.
  4. Shut off motor battery - won't need that for a while!
  5. Confirm solar panel is trickle-charging - we are not hooked up to shore power and want to make sure our house battery will always be trickle charged and full enough to run our bilge pump.  Also, trickle charging your batteries when not in use will extend their life significantly.
  6. Shut off propane solenoid on boat and on tanks themselves - gas leaks are no bueno.
  7. Close fuel valve
  8. Remove halyards and run messenger lines - we have another post on how damaging the sun can be, but believe me - UV rays are REAL people!  Leaving halyards on the mast exposes them to harmful UV rays day in and day out and by removing them we're adding life to our lines.
  9. Clean head - after I did the fresh water flush of the tank (by running a hose to the toilet and continuously flushing fresh water into the tank) I thoroughly cleaned the toilet.  Salt water left in a toilet will turn to a disgusting brown/grey slop in a matter of weeks.  We left our toilet totally dry and scrubbed clean. 
  10. Power wash hull - most yards will do this right when they haul your boat out of the water.  We are planning on re-painting the bottom of our boat when we return so it's good to get all the growth and as much old antifouling off beforehand.
  11. Store outboard and all other loose items on deck down below - this is more for theft reasons than anything else.  If you have something on deck that might be tempting to a thief, stow it down below!
  12. Remove and clean all sheets and dock lines, hang on boom - we used detergent and washed and scrubbed all our lines, they are now salt free, soft and clean for when we return.  We hung them on the boom so they get air - better than leaving them all stacked on top of one another in a dark, damp locker.
  13. Clean fenders, store hanging on boom - fenders are bleached and scrubbed and back to their former glory.  We also stowed these on the boom.
  14. Empty and clean ice box, leave open - iceboxes, in particular, need ventilation when left unused for long stretches of time.  
  15. Remove all food and perishables from pantries
  16. Empty water tank, remove filter, keep all faucets open
  17. Make sure hot water heater is emptied
  18. Pickle water-maker - they say water makers are fantastic and reliable as long as they are used regularly.  When not in use, you must "pickle" them so that the sensitive membrane inside doesn't dry out.  Luckily, our water maker is not only a breeze to use (we cannot sing it enough praise), but a breeze to pickle as well.  Most pickling routines are incredible confusing but ours was a matter of changing out a filter.  Some kits will preserve the membrane for 4-6 months, others for 6-9 months.  We are going to have ours re-pickled in 4 months to be safe.
  19. Clean and store all silverware in ziplock bags - we did this for two reasons, 1) to protect from the bug bomb we let off and 2) to keep dry and free from rust.
  20. Store cleaning supplies in a bin to contain any spillage - we did this because when we were on the hard in Chicago we had a Windex bottle burst and stain our table.
  21. Remove all garbage, clean containers - "clean containers" is the operative phrase here!  Make sure to wipe down the insides of all bins with bleach or vinegar, you'd be surprised where little pieces of food might be waiting to turn into a science experiment.
  22. Clean and store clothing/sheets/pillows and pillow cases in sealed bags - people who live on boats seasonally are very familiar with "boat smell".  It's not very nice.  We washed all our towels, sheets and clothes and stored them in sealed zip locks with dryer sheets.  
  23. Clean and store carpets in sealed bags - again, doing this will ensure we don't turn into a moth motel and return to clean, mildew-free carpets.
  24. Turn up all cushions to keep free from mildew - when a boat is closed up, ventilation is key.  We turned up all our boat cushions to make sure they get some air.  Moss doesn't grow on a rolling stone and mildew won't grow where there is air flow!
  25. Drain and clean bilge
  26. Confirm bilge pump is on in “automatic” position and working - this can be done by pouring a bucket of water in the bilge (which you'll do to clean it, right?) and making sure it works.
  27. Clean all overheads and walls & wipe down with vinegar - vinegar retards the growth of mildew, we wiped down pretty much every single surface of our boat with a 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water.
  28. Clean all flooring and under flooring & wipe down with vinegar
  29. Dehumidifier - if you haven't noticed, mildew is a big deal on a boat down in the tropics and a never-ending battle.  We bought a small dehumidifier that will help keep the interior of our boat moisture-free so that we don't return to Jurassic Park.
  30. Close all curtains - yep, UV damage can even sneak in through windows, hatches and portholes. Cover them up!
  31. Cover boat deck to protect from UV damage and weather - I wrote about our tarp yesterday, this was a no-brainer for us.
  32. Turn off all AC & DC switches
  33. Remove sails store in an air-conditioned sail loft - the sails on Rasmus are just two years old and we want to keep them in good condition.  For less than $10 a month we stored our sails in an air-conditioned sail loft right near the boat yard.
  34. Wash decks - a boat that is left nice and clean is a happy boat!
  35. Take photos of boat on stands
  36. Fumigate interior with insect bomb - while we never saw another roach (or any sign of roaches) after this incident, we did have some tiny ants aboard.  We fumigated with an insect bomb right before we left and we're pretty sure we nuked the bastards.
  37. Grease boat stands to prevent bugs - We bought standard grease from the chandlery and put a thick coating along the top of every single jack stand.  The reason for this is that if any ants or bugs want "in" to our boat via the stands, they'll be stuck in the grease and unable to get aboard.
  38. Tape off hole at end of boom to prevent birds from nesting - we know people who this has happened to before and rumor has it, it ain't pretty.
  39. Place ant traps and roach motels throughout - just in case.
  40. Lock boat (and outside lazarettes)
  41. Secure any loose items in cradle area
  42. Make sure Nicro vents are on and circulating
  43. Open all inside cubicles and lockers to promote ventilation
  44. Check/Top off engine oils - if you are due for an oil change you should do this as well.
  45. Clean and clear all through-hull openings, close seacocks - but be sure to leave open the seacocks for the scupper drains and sink if you are going to have a dehumidifier on board.
  46. Clean sea strainer, flush engine with fresh water - ever run your engine while your boat was out of the water?  It's pretty freaky.  Our engine is water-cooled and we wanted to flush the salt water out of our engine so we ran a hose to the sea strainer and ran the engine for about 8 minutes.  Worked like a charm!  We'll write more on this later...
  47. Store dinghy on tarp on bow - while some people keep the dinghy on the davits, we opted to store ours on the bow over a tarp so it too is protected from the sun.
  48. Drop anchor and chain, rinse and keep on palette below boat
  49. Remove dodger & bimini canvas, clean and store in watertight bin - believe it or not, we found the best way to clean our canvas was to simply scrub them with a stiff brush while dry.  They look brand new!
  50. Arrange yacht guardianage for weekly/monthly checks - we have a boat service that will board Rasmus at least twice a month to make sure everything is still in working order.  They will wash the deck, check the dehumidifier and bilge and read the battery meter to ensure we don't run our batteries dead.  We chose Dynamite Yacht Services to do this but there are plenty of others.
  51. Email list of approved vendors/persons to Peake Yacht Services - we are in the "high security" area of Peake Yacht Services which means that no one is allowed in or out who is not approved.  It's an area where you cannot have any boat work done, no one can livaboard and where angry looking dogs roam at night.  We had to send a list of approved persons who will be able to access Rasmus while we are away.
  52. Leave boat key with manager at Peake's
  53. Go home, have a baby, and prepare for life as a crew of three! I guess this one applies only to us?
Have you ever left a boat down in the Caribbean for any length of time?  What did we miss?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wrapped Up

Here's a picture we just got of our baby all shrink-wrapped for hibernation...doesn't she look fantastic?  This was not cheap to do, in fact it cost about $700, but if you plan on storing your boat out in the elements for any significant length of time I would say this is an essential part of boat decommissioning in the Caribbean.  The shrink wrap will protect the deck, teak toe-rail and all our fittings from rain and the devastating deterioration caused by UV rays.  In our opinion, the potential permanent damage that will be avoided by having our deck covered is well worth the $700 we spent on this tarp.  Already I cannot wait to break it all down when we return!

As for land-life, we are no longer on island time that is for sure.  It's been busy, busy, busy around here.   We landed in Chicago on Friday night and a day later drove to Michigan for Scott's grandpa's wake and funeral.  We got back into town yesterday evening and have been going from appointment to appointment ever since.  Things should slow down this weekend for us - until the baby arrives, that is.  She is head down and ready to go so really, it could be any time now.  Honestly, I don't know who is more excited - me or Scott!  We'll keep you posted.  Lots of good stuff to come, just be patient with us while we get acclimated.

Brittany & Scott

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Welcome to the Midwest in Winter

Well, we're not in Kansas anymore...actually we are (unfortunately) a LOT closer to Kansas now.  After four hours of delays and having to re-route to Indianapolis to re-fuel before landing in storm-riddled Chicago, we finally landed at O'Hare late last night.   At the moment, it's eight degrees here with a below zero wind chill.  Talk about a shock to the system.  For all of you who have been jealous of us for the past two years, I guess now is payback time!  Life has a way of balancing everything out, doesn't it? Yin and yang, yin and yang... The pendulum is always a-swingin'.

This is the view of our new backyard from our new room.  It's beautiful, really. However I am still a warm-weather island girl at heart and luckily, warmer weather is on the horizon as spring approaches and very soon we'll have a little cuddly baby girl to keep us warm (and very busy)!  For now we're just settling in and getting organized.  I have SO many blog posts to catch up on for you guys but for now we're going to kick our feet up in front of the fire and chill out, winter-style.

Brittany & Scott

Friday, February 10, 2012

Decommissioning a Boat is No Easy Feat

This is what our "task list(s)" looked like this week...those of you who follow our Facebook Page have seen it; but I wanted to re-post it here on the blog because, well, I think it's pretty impressive.  We put a lot of hard work and care into storing our boat for the next seven months or so.  To some of you this might seem like overkill, and only time will tell what we did right and wrong, but the idea of doing all of these things is that we'll come back to the same boat we left.  The tropical sun combined with the salty air, heavy rain, humidity and near-perfect breeding conditions for just about any bug all have a way of making things deteriorate at a rapid rate down here.  If left without proper consideration or attention we could easily return to a boat full of insects, mildew, bubbling decks, damaged halyards, rotting wood, nests in the boom and God only knows what else.  Hopefully, all this TLC we put into Rasmus this week will ensure we return to our little beauty in the condition we left her in: pristine.  I will post the full list of exactly what we did in detail with more explanation when I have time, but for now I must gloat at how much we accomplished.  The other day a woman who works the front office here at Peake's said to Scott and I, "You guys just look like such a perfect couple...Watching you with each other you can see it... you seem like such a great team".  I'd have to agree.  We do our fair share of high-fives, not going to lie...

We should be landing in Chicago late this afternoon.  I only wish I could've prepared myself for the next few months as well as we prepped Rasmus!  Brrrrr...

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Time to Take Pause

Scott's grandfather passed away yesterday...we were all worried it was coming - he was 94 years old and his health had recently started to fail; Scott had a planned visit to see him in ten days time but unfortunately that was not to be.   Norman passed away quietly in his sleep, in his own bed, in his own home.  He was a wonderful man who lived a full life surrounded by people who loved him. We should all be so lucky.

Life doesn't always work according to plan and as such Scott and I will be flying home Friday instead of Monday in order to make it to the wake and funeral in Michigan this weekend.  My dad always says, "Weddings you can miss, they are happy occasions - but you should never miss a funeral. Funerals are when people need you.  It says a lot about your character".  I couldn't agree more.

We've been burning the candle at both ends, working very hard to prep Rasmus for hibernation.  The amount of work we have done is incredibly exhausting and it's mind boggling just how diligent a boat owner must be to properly store a boat.  Again, I am working on a more detailed post about exactly what we have been doing and why, but for now - we're just going to take pause and slow down.

Rest in peace Norman.

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Cool Currency

One of the (many) tasks we did this week was to clean out our "nav station"...that is area on the boat usually set aside for "navigating", but on Rasmus it's become a something of a junk drawer containing all sorts of goodies: spare locks, motor keys, head-lamps, "every day" tools (much easier to keep these close rather than have to get out the tool bag every time you need a flathead screwdriver), quick reference guides, boat cards, index cards, sharpies, pens, get the idea.  We clean it out every couple of months, but it always gets messy again in no time.

Anyway - also in this nav station, we had a little container full of change that we have been accumulating since the beginning of this trip.  Scott gave me the task of sorting it.  Oh joy!  While picking through it all, I realized I that I was really looking at the coins for the first time.  Caribbean coins depict everything from tall ships to starfish, from sailboats to porpoises and even pineapples.  Making note of all the unique pictures stamped in silver and bronze made sorting them a little less boring.  We had coins from approximately six different countries in that little bin!  Pretty neat.

Ironically, later on in the day when Scott and I were enjoying a cup of coffe at our favorite local cafe - he mentioned how interesting the Trini money was.  So we investigated our bills a little further and splayed them out on the table (yeah.  we're SUPER savvy travelers. laying all our money out on a table and all).  Sure enough - they tell a little story about Trinidad.  Each bill features a significant part of the culture or economy here; an oil rig on the $100, steel pan drums on the $20, a ship yard on the $10, market vendors on the $5 and an oil refinery on the $1.  It's a story, it's art and it can buy you a latte.  Not too shabby.

Brittany & Scott

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Top 10 Tuesdays: Top 10 Items We Got Rid Of During the Mass Clean of 2012

Sometimes it gets messy before it gets better.
Today is the day that our Rasmus is being hauled out.  In fact, she's probably already out of the water and sitting pretty on her jack-stands as you read this.  It's been a busy week around here preparing for this day.  Hauling a boat for storage is no small feat.  I'll get into specifics in a later post, but suffice it to say - it's been full steam ahead these past few days.

One very important part of this process is removing unnecessary "stuff" from the boat.  We have been in major cleaning/de-cluttering/organizing and REMOVING mode.  Scott and I went through each and every locker, cabinet and compartment and cleaned it out.  We took stock of what was in there, kept what we used and got rid of what we didn't.  We have lightened our load considerably and man-oh-man does it feel good.

So, for your future (or current) cruisers out there who might be able to learn from this, here are the

Top 10 Items We Got Rid of During the Mass Clean of 2012
  1. Heavy duty foul weather gear - granted, we did wear our "proper" foul weather gear during the first couple of months of this trip because we were sailing in November, but ever since we crossed to the Bahamas - it's just been taking up space.  I know I wrote about this once before, but for all you cruisers who plan on island hopping in the Caribbean, save the $500 on fancy foul weather gear and just get a light rain coat and waterproof pants and pocket the savings.
  2. Books - Scott and I gave away about forty books that were taking up a LOT of space on our boat.  I know I've sang e-readers praise before, but honestly, these things are fantastic for cruisers.  Of course we still have a pretty impressive collection of sailing related how-to and reference books, but just about anything that was "pleasure" reading has been digitized.  POOF!
  3. Shoes - We packed a LOT of shoes.  Deck shoes, dinghy boots, sailing shoes, dressy sandals...etc.  We wore flip flops.  Almost exclusively.  Sure, there was the rare occasion I wore my fancy sandals and Scott did sport his Sperry's on a few occasions, but we'll return with less shoes for sure.
  4. Cleaning supplies - I know, I know...I told you I love the cleaning product aisle.  Well, apparently I didn't realize how much I love it.  We had a LOT of cleaning supplies and got rid of about half of them.  Do yourself a favor and limit yourself to just a few.  I wrote about our top 10 cleaning supplies here.  Try to keep your cleaning products under 20.  We had about 35 on board.  This is too many, even for this neat-freak.
  5. Extra bathing towels - we had a lot of big, bulky, beach towels on board.  We got rid of them.  Not only do they take up a ton of space, but they are a HUGE pain in the butt to wash by hand and take forever to dry on a line.  Not to mention they seem to absorb sand.  We have streamlined our towel inventory to four Tektowels which pack small and dry fast.  In addition, when we hit the beach we do not use "towels" but sarongs to lie on and dry off with.  The sand falls right off them, they dry in an instant and you can hand wash them in a jiffy.
  6. Blankets/Bedding - I bought a lot of sleeping-bag style "boat bedding" before we left.  This was unnecessary.  Not only is it really bulky (are you seeing a pattern here?  Bulk is bad) but it's HOT.  Down here in the Caribbean we just have a blanket on the bottom of our bed and if we cover ourselves (which we usually don't) I use a sarong blanket my good friend Sharon made for me. 
  7. Boat Gimmicks - what I am talking about here is the equivalent of "As Seen on TV" junk.  If it seems gimmicky, it probably is.  Self-tailing winch add-on thingys, "miracle cloths" and that bulk order of Sham Wows I got suckered into while watching late-night T.V. before we left were all in the pile of things to say "buh-bye" to.
  8. Clothes - It's hot down here.  Most of the time, we're wearing as little as possible and it's only in the past month or two that I have busted out my long-sleeve shirts in the evenings.  We have given away so many clothes and still it seems we have too many.  I did write a post about what to pack way back when, and I think it's pretty spot-on.  
  9. TONS of food - seriously, it's become something of a joke how much food we have uncovered in the bowels of our boat.  I cannot even begin to tell you and, actually, it's pretty embarrassing.  Scott looked up at me as we uncovered yet another stash and said, "Well, we could cross the Pacific, like, three times and still have food left over".  He was right.  I don't know who got it in my head that we needed to hoard food like we had been doing, but it was excessive to say the least (Note to self:  No more freeze-dried meals).  Luckily, we got on the cruiser's net* here in Trinidad yesterday morning and found a lovely man in need who came and took all of it.  It made my week to know that a) all this food wouldn't go to waste and b) it went to a fellow boater who truly needed it and was so grateful for it.  Warmed my heart!
  10. General accumulated crap - everyone can relate to this one, boater or not.  You know what I am talking about: it's the stuff in that dreaded "junk drawer" that everyone hates cleaning out, it's the collection of empty sunglasses cases, random key chains and mis-matched earrings in that box at the bottom of your closet, it's those items that, for some reason or another, we don't want to throw away so we tuck away somewhere and we feel better knowing that we didn't "waste" it.  Well, I have some advice for you: THROW IT OUT.  These things have a tendency to multiply!  We got rid of at least one large garbage bag full of this type of stuff; random pieces of wood, half-shackles, fiberglass drill-outs of our hull, old bits of frayed line and random wire to name a few things.  Seriously, if it's questionable - you probably don't need it.  
Sigh.  I feel better already!  Knowing that we made so much space in our boat and got rid of so much unnecessary clutter feels really good.  The bottom line is this my friends:  Boats can swallow an ungodly amount of crap if you let them!  Get it under control and you (and your boat) will feel a lot lighter.

Brittany & Scott

*A "Cruiser's Net" is an organized group of cruisers in a specific place who commune daily or weekly at a scheduled time on the radio (can be either VHF, SSB, or HAM).  These "nets" can either be very small and casual and last only a few minutes, or very large and organized and last longer than an hour depending on how large the anchorage/harbor and how many announcements are made.  It's a place where cruisers can communicate and get advice, trade goods, get local information, find someone to help fix something, tell a story, lend a hand...or announce that they have tons of food to get rid of that is free for the taking!

Monday, February 06, 2012

The Far Reaches of a Little Blog

The other day, I got this email from "Uncle Al":
Today I was in West Marine getting a few things for my upcoming sailing trip.  As I was checking out, I mentioned to the man behind the counter how I was heading to the islands to sail from St. Lucia to Grenada. 

He said - "Oh, that's where Brittany from Windtraveler is".  (Sorry Scott - that's what he said).  Of course I had to tell him you all are now in Trinidad, etc., but he knew you were headed there, pregnant, and on the way home.  He said he started following you around the time you stopped by Hilton Head as he had heard about your blog from someone at the Windmill Harbour Yacht Club when Rasmus was there.  He said he read other sailing blogs, but your was the "best by far". 

Of course by then I had to tell him I sailed with you two, and had to say that Scott was part of the team too.  Anyway, it was interesting running into a fan - one of many I'm sure.*
It's no question I spend a lot of time on this blog, probably an average of two to four hours a day, depending on how "inspired" I am.  I love it - it's as much as passion for me as beach combing, crocheting or photography is to someone else and it enriches this experience for me that much more.  I think the fact that I write so extensively about this journey forces me to constantly reflect and see the world with fresh eyes.   It heightens my awareness of the world around me and I am able to find beauty, humor, and/or interest in even the every day "mundane" things as well as the spectacular.  In other words, writing keeps me present.  It makes me appreciate what I see and live just a little bit more.

We get a lot of wonderful emails from friends and followers.  People often say things like "I feel like you're my best friend" and "It's like I've known you guys forever" which is a huge compliment.  We get a lot of praise as well; people give us accolades for the writing, the photos, the general "vibe" of the blog and many tell us that ours is their favorite sailing blog stating that "I start every morning with Windtraveler, it's the first thing I check when I wake up".  It's wonderful to hear.

The flip side of this is that we don't know many of you.  In fact, we hardly know any of you.  While we do get quite a bit of email, we probably only hear from less than 5% of you.  Which makes this kind of a one-way relationship, which is the nature of the blog beast.  So, when we get the opportunity to meet some of you - well, it's just plain awesome.

Before we left Grenada we had two separate encounters with blog followers who came up to us after recognizing us from the blog.  One follower, Shannon, approached us as we were getting up from our dinner at The Aquarium restaurant - she was so polite and so contentious: "Brittany, I am so sorry to bother - you don't know me - but I love your blog..." she started.  She's an awesome sailor chick from Annapolis and was in Grenada racing for the Sailing Festival.  She had no idea we were still in Grenada because, last she had checked before she left, we were leaving for Trinidad two days earlier.  "It's a real honor to meet you, your blog is a huge inspiration".  Another couple, Lesiya and David, approached us as we were just about to shove off for Trinidad, "Brittany" Lesiya began timidly, "We absolutely love your blog.  It is our absolute favorite - it is just so lovely... In fact," she continued, "We bought our boat in large part because of you and your blog".  Both of these encounters were incredibly humbling, soul-lifting, heart filling and such a pleasure.  I was so grateful that both of these women approached us to tell us a little bit about themselves and let us know that they're "out there".  As a blogger who writes from behind a computer in a small boat, it's so easy to forget how far my words might travel and who they might effect.  To hear it first hand from the mouths of our readers, well, that is the greatest gift of all and makes all the time and effort I put into this blog worth it.

This is Shannon, an avid sailor from Annapolis.  She was in Grenada racing in the Grenada Sailing Festival.
This is Lesiya and David, they bought a boat in Grenada on ebay and are planning to cruise the UK with her!
So I just want to take this moment and say thank you, thank you, thank you dear readers.  Whether I know you or not, whether you are a silent participant or a super fan, it's an honor to be read by each and every one of you.

Brittany & Scott

*Hi West Marine guy!! Bet you never thought you'd end up on the blog, did ya? ;)

Saturday, February 04, 2012

The Exclusive Mt. Cinnamon Resort

Private Beach on Grand Anse. Image courtesy of Mt. Cinnamon Resort
Savvy's Restaurant. Image courtesy of Mt. Cinnamon Resort
Room interior. Image courtesy of Mt. Cinnamon Resort
One of the perks of having a modestly popular blog that enjoys about 70K page views a month and over a thousand visitors a day is that we sometimes get nice little 'perks' (like great sponsors) because of it.  Well - here's an opportunity where we get to pass a perk back to YOU, our lovely, wonderful, faithful readers!  The other day, I mentioned how we were invited to the exclusive Mt. Cinnamon Resort for a private event at the Savvy Restaurant.  After meeting and mingling with the lovely Stacie Mills, we thought it might be nice to partner up and use our blog to offer our island-loving readers insight into this beautiful place and a chance to experience a slice of Caribbean luxury...

The resort is, in a word, fabulous.  Conceived and designed by the famous investment visionary (and sailing enthusiast - he's a former America's Cup Sailor and also the man behind the Port Louis Marina!!) Peter de Savary, great attention has been paid to every minute detail from the bright, Caribbean decor to the lush flora surrounding the grounds.  The eco-friendly resort features a gym, a yoga studio, a private slice of beach along Grand Anse, and a lovely beach side restaurant.  They've left no stone unturned and authenticity and quality is the name of the game for this Caribbean experience.  If you are looking to "get away" and want to experience the magic that is Grenada (and trust me, it will captivate you!) - this would be a fantastic way to spend a night or two...or more!

We are able to offer our readers a rate of $300 per night (plus taxes and service charges) if you make your reservation direct through the Mt. Cinnamon reservations department.  You can do this one of two ways: either call 1-473-439-4400 or email and mention "Windtraveler Cruising Blog".  While we understand $300 isn't 'cheap' by any means, the typical rate is $700 a night so this is a steal for such luxury!  We know many of you are longing to enjoy a little fun in the sun but might be without a boat and we sincerely hope that some of you will be able to take advantage of this fantastic deal.  

If you book your trip for next November, you might even get to meet up with us and our little sea-monkey.  Let us know and we can make arrangements!  How fun would a "Windtraveler weekend" be?  

See you in paradise!

Brittany & Scott

*Unless otherwise noted, photos are my own.
*We are not benefitting financially if you book at this resort - this is simply an exclusive offer for our blog followers, not a business transaction for us.  

Friday, February 03, 2012

Women Make the Market (and the World) Go Round

"A woman is like a tea bag; you never know how strong she is until she gets into hot water." - Eleanor Roosevelt
When I lived in Africa, my mom made a profoundly simple observation...we driving around my adopted town of Arusha, Tanzania and she said "It looks like it's the women here who do all the work.  The men just seem to...sit around".  I laughed out loud at this acknowledgment, because not only was it funny - it was 100% true.  Women do make the world go round.   I don't mean to throw men the world over under the bus or anything, but if you travel extensively - you'll quickly see that it's the women who seem to be doing the lion's share of work in a lot of places.  Idleness is not in our genetic makeup.  We are multi-taskers, we are silent warriors and we get things done.  We might not get all the glory and (globally speaking) we might not have all the power, but no one can deny that the world would be lost without us and our work.

My Uncle Tom made a similar observation about women at the Spice Market in St. Georges, Grenada.  Women young and old are doing it all - selling, wheeling, dealing and making things happen.  Some are hawking their goods like used car salesmen, while others sit quietly; patiently waiting by their produce for the right buyer.  Of course plenty of men are off doing work as well, but if you look closely, particularly here in the Caribbean, it's women pushing things forward.  There are a disproportionate amount of homeless men to woman begging in the street, you'll rarely (if ever) see a woman sitting at the bar whiling away the daytime hours getting drunk and you'll almost never see a woman who is not in some way, shape, or form working .  I truly believe that if society's listened more closely to their women, this world would probably be a much nicer place.   Just sayin'.

I love the market mama's the most.  Their faces and hands tell a thousand stories. 

Brittany & Scott

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Savvy Restaurant at Cinnamon Hill

Last week, we were invited to a private event at Savvy's Restaurant at the Mt. Cinnamon resort...what a treat!  Not only were we honored to be invited to this fabulous event - we got to meet the wonderful Stacie Mills, who is a strategic partner with the resort and property.  We'll tell you more about Stacie and the exclusive Mt. Cinnamon resort in a later post, but first some pictures of our fun night out...  

While the Mt. Cinnamon resort is private, the Savvy restaurant is open to the public and offers a fabulous fine-dining menu and spectacular views of Grand Anse Beach and St. George's below.  If you find yourself in Grenada and want to treat yourself to a lovely night out, Savvy Restaurant should top your list.  If you don't believe me, just read the reviews.  I think they speak for themselves. will be offering our readers a very special rate at this fine resort - so stay tuned for that as well!

Brittany & Scott

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Passage from Grenada to Trinidad

90 miles and 16 hours later, we made it to the shores of Trinidad!
We have arrived in Trinidad!...After a fantastic four days of Grenada exploration with my dad and Uncle Tom, we set off from Grenada bound for Trinidad at 5:30pm on Monday night.  The weather forecast wasn't ideal, winds were predicted to be in the low to mid twenties (we prefer to leave for long passages in forecasted winds of 15 knots or less if possible because almost always winds are higher than predicted) and seas were estimated to be eight to ten feet.  We turned to our weather guru, Chris Parker, who told us that conditions would be moderating as the week progressed and the later we could wait, the better.  Being that Tom and my dad were flying out on Wednesday, Monday evening was the latest we could leave.  We readied Rasmus and prepared for what was sure to be a fast and bumpy ride.

Just as we were pulling out of the slip our engine made a bizarre noise.  Everyone looked alarmed.  "That's not right" Scott said.  We all knew it.  Please don't let this be a serious problem I hoped silently.  Scott tried the engine in reverse again. The noise grew worse.  "Tie the boat back up" Scott ordered.  We did.  It was investigation time and we were burning up daylight.  "Something is probably around the prop" I suggested.  Scott and our friend Felix went down to check the prop shaft.  It was then that Felix's girlfriend, Louisa, noticed the marina's Mediterranean mooring leader line... going right under our boat. Bingo.   Not the worst thing in the world - a line around the propeller could be fixed quickly - but not the most auspicious beginning either.

Knowing we were already slightly behind schedule (we were hoping to leave at 4pm) and not wanting to wait for the marina diver, Scott jumped in the water with a knife and got to work.  Fifteen minutes later we were free to go, and quietly backed out of what had been our "home" for the past seven months.  It was sad to say goodbye - but we were ready to leave and knowing that we'll be back next November made it just a little bit easier.

As we left the marina, the light of day was slipping quickly down the horizon and as Grenada gifted us one last sunset, we raised our sails and headed south on a beam reach.  We shut off the engine didn't turn it back on until we entered Boca de Manos on the way into Chaguramas Bay.  As predicted, once we were out of the lee of the island the seas kicked up and the wind built to over twenty knots.  We were flying under full jib and double-reefed main and averaged just under six knots the entire night.  The seas were bumpy and the boat pitched and lurched wildly but sailed well.  Thankfully, the guys let me be the "floater"- and being such, I didn't have to stand watch but remained available if necessary.  I hunkered down in the v-berth and hoped to God I didn't no into labor.  Baby girl endured a WILD ride!

Sixteen hours and ninety miles later we arrived, slightly bruised and battered, into Port of Spain, Trinidad - guided by a large pod of dolphin.  It's incredible how exhausting sailing through the night can be - especially when conditions require physical and mental concentration and hand steering (our autopilot doesn't do well in wind over 20 knots and seas on the beam).  The boys did a fantastic job keeping Rasmus sailing well, I did a great job of not going into labor, and other than a fat lip on Scott from a rogue glass that went flying through the cabin in the night, the trip was uneventful.

Just call him "Angelina".
After clearing into the country, the four of us clamored onto shore, enjoyed a nice, big meal and crashed.  Hard. It was a well-earned rest!

We have been very warmly welcomed by our new friends and sponsors at Peake's Yacht Services and we know without a shadow of a doubt that we made the right decision coming here.  This is an top-rate facility, with an incredibly accommodating and friendly staff who have already taken excellent care of us - and we haven't even been here 24 hours!  I'm looking forward to telling you more about this great facility...but for now, Scott and I are enjoying the benefits of having a nice, airconditioned hotel room for a night!

PS.  If you want to see some great photos of the past five days with my dad and Uncle Tommy - please check out our latest album on Facebook!
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