Monday, July 29, 2013

Playing Tourist with my Sis

Despite my last post in which I lamented that energy around here has reached sloth-like proportions due to the insane heat*, my sister, Isla and I have managed to get out and about the past couple of days.

This weekend we took an "island tour" and my sister:  held a monkey (note: they smell like an ape house which shouldn't be surprising but was), swam in a waterfall, got serenaded by a modern-day Grenadian minstrel, was licked by a cow, explored an old Cuban plane, smelled the sweet stench of fermenting Caribbean rum (better known as "white lightening"), and so much more.  We've been having a blast.  I'm going to miss her a lot when she leaves tomorrow morning.  She and Isla have bonded something fierce.

Oh, in other news...we finally broke down and decided to run the air conditioner for a few hours during the day.  With every dropping degree I feel my sanity returning, which is welcome as I was unsure of it's whereabouts for a while there.  I know, I know - you told us so.  We're stubborn and sometimes we like to suffer before enjoying the fruits of modern conveniences just so we enjoy them that much more.  How's that for logic?  Scott also fixed our propane solenoid so we no longer have to eat cheese and crackers for dinner, yet we still do.  Go figure.

* Just to clarify as there seems to be some confusion:  it's so freaking hot because we are in a marina devoid of breeze.  It would not be this god-awful hot at anchor where the wind blows freely and where we could actually jump in the water to quickly lower our body temperatures without the threat of getting a water-borne disease or being stabbed by a floating hypodermic needle.  Seriously, you would not *believe* the water around our boat.  "Cesspool" is the only way to describe it.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Our "Den of Sloth" and How Heat Breeds Laziness

It's 8:00 am and already the heat is emanating around us like a fog.

I am sweating, Isla is sweating, Chelsea is sweating.  I am fully horizontal, sprawled out on the settee, a fan angled down toward me, my hands draped over my head like a drama queen.  Isla runs around playing with toys - seemingly oblivious to the fact that her entire body is damp with sweat and perspiration dots her temples.  Chelsea, bless her cotton socks, is doing the morning's dishes (she has more motivation than I, thankfully).  The days are literally melting together, and laziness abounds... I just cannot seem to find the energy to do the things I want to do like: wash the deck, clean the fridge, re-organize some storage lockers, make a turkey sandwich, brush my teeth... all of these things seem momentous tasks in this heat.   So nothing gets done.  As if the fact that my personal hygiene is going by the wayside doesn't illustrate my laziness enough, our propane solenoid got fried three days ago and despite having a new one in my possession and the ability to swap it out, we remain without the means to cook food on our boat.  This is complimenting my laziness quite nicely, actually.  We are forced to "eat out" or make meals from pairings like cheese and crackers.  Even eating, quite frankly, seems a chore these days.  I don't know what's gotten into me.   I'm exhausted, moody, irritable and - in general - feel disgusting.  This morning my sister and I had this conversation:
Me: I can't believe I'm so lazy. This boat has become the "den of sloth"...
Chelsea: It's okay.  You have every right to be lazy sometimes.
Me: No, it's not okay. I hate it.
Chelsea: It's summer and I just read an article on how people are totally unmotivated in the summer. And here? It's like summer times ten.
And she is exactly right.  It is sickeningly hot and before you say it, yes, *sometimes* I'd rather be somewhere up north in a house in the suburbs with a cranked up A/C and a freezer full of popsicles at my disposal rather than sweating my sanity and dignity away here.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Sister Love

My sister is here visiting from Portland, Oregon where she is an amazing artist and illustrator.  Not only is it awesome that I get to spend time with her, my built-in best friend, but I get to watch her spend time with Isla which is probably the best gift of all.  There aren't many people in the world who will light up at your child quite like you, but the two people who (for me) come dangerously close are my mother and, of course, my sister.  Watching Chelsea adore our baby with her whole entire body and soul is simply awesome.  I hope and pray that one day I'll be able to give Isla this gift of sisterhood.  It's a treasure.

The past few days have been spent hanging out, going to the pool, lounging around, know, the usual stuff close sisters do when they get together.  Yesterday we decided to get ambitious (and off our butts) and explore town.  Of course we chose the hottest day to do so which meant that we ended up in the cruise ship mall for about an hour to get a cold fruit smoothie, enjoy some air conditioning, and let Isla burn some energy.  But aside from that lackluster destination, we also hit up the spice market, the fish market, a local art gallery and did some general aimless wandering in the picturesque town that is St. Georges.

We returned back to the boat drenched in sweat and headed straight for the marina beach to cool off.  Then we hit the pool.  By 6:15 Isla was in bed and we started readying ourselves for dinner because my good friend, Linda, was coming over to read our tarot cards.  Chelsea hit the showers and, about ten minutes later I hear a "psssst!" coming from the companionway.  Thinking it was my sister, I look up with a smile and you can imagine my surprise when I see not my lithe sister, but the hairy arm of a man coming through the hatch.  What the?!  I freeze.  I slowly follow the arm, wondering what the heck it's doing in our boat and I see that this mystery arm is attached to none other than my husband, Scott.  I stare at him blankly, as if he were a ghost, as a look of total bewilderment washes over my face.  " everything okay?" he asks as I continue to stare at him, dumbfounded.  My brain goes a mile a minute as I try to figure out what he's doing there, on our boat.  You see, I expected him home on Friday like the last time we were here together...what I failed to remember was the fact that the schedule changed about a year ago so now he comes in on Wednesdays. Whoopsie.

So, not only did I forget that yesterday was our third wedding anniversary, but I forgot to greet him at the dock when he came into port.  Wife of the year over here.  As usual, I'm blaming the heat.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Grocery Shopping, Cruiser Style

It looks absolutely NOTHING like this.
You might call me a "glutton for punishment".   Much like the time I schlepped 60 gallons of water to our boat manually, it is not unusual for me to take on semi-overwhelming tasks just for the sake of giving it a go.   It is also not surprising that, most often, these undertakings occur while Scott's away and I am in single-mom mode.  It's like I want to prove to myself that I can get by just fine on my own so I create these ridiculous challenges that make most people question my sanity.  Like strapping my twenty-something pound baby on my front, heaving a sixty pound backpack of groceries on my back and jamming myself into a local bus, whose internal temperature is approximately 110°.  

Grocery shopping, while always something of a 'chore', is significantly more of a chore to the live-aboard cruiser.  First of all, none of us have cars and if there is one thing that make grocery shopping convenient (other than Peapod, of course) - it's four wheels and a trunk. Not having a car leaves us a few options: 1) walk to grocery store (anywhere between one and five miles, typically) and cart groceries in a collapsible wagon or cart or 2) Take public transportation and lug around groceries the old fashioned way: in bags.  Because I have a toddler in tow and therefore prefer to do things as quickly and efficiently as possible, I opt for number two.

I have written before about the public transportation system here in Grenada.  It's good.  It's privately run, therefore efficient, and super cheap.  Can't beat that.  So I strapped Isla into the ERGO carrier, grabbed my giant Gil waterproof grocery backpack and headed for the bus.  The busses (which are actually converted mini-vans) zoom up and down the streets, honking like mad with the "conductor" hanging out the window whistling and yelling to try and lure more passengers.   They pack 'em in like sardines because - just like the busses I have experienced in every developing country I have ever been - there is always room for one more.  Combine the sweating bodies of ten to fifteen people in a vinyl seated bus during the midday sun and the only word to describe the smell would be "ripe".  At least on this particular bus, on this particular day it was...

As much as I love the bus system here, of course there is a catch.  And here in Grenada, it's the music.  It's horrible.  Awful.  Aggressive.  Loud.  It's called "soca" and it is the music of the islands.  Try as I might, I just cannot bring myself to enjoy or appreciate this noise (and just like that, I officially sound "old").  Every bus blasts it louder than necessary and it actually huts my ears.  I would kill to hear some nice, gentle reggae - heck, I'd take Kenny G. over soca - but this is a futile battle.  So I grit my teeth, plaster on a smile and bounce my knee to the awful beat, because if you can't beat them, join them.  But I digress...

So Isla and I are packed into the bus like pickles, heads pounding withe soca music,  and when our stop comes, I knock on the bus wall to signal it to stop.  It does so almost immediately and after I wiggle my way out between the fellow passengers, I drop my coins in the conductor's hand and Isla and I are back in the fresh air and start the short trek to the Spiceland Mall, where the IGA is.  We chit-chat the whole way about how nice it will be to get in the air conditioning.

The store here is an IGA, a Canadian chain, which means it carries food from the motherland which is why we sometimes make the extra effort to shop here as opposed to the local grocery chain, Food Land, across the street from the marina.  I put Isla into the shopping cart (another activity she thoroughly enjoys), bust out my shopping list and hop to it.  When we finish twenty minutes later, I have a semi-full cart and the creeping thought that maybe this wasn't the best idea overall.  But we're here and this is happening.

"Are you sure you can carry all that and the baby?" the nice checkout lady asks me incredulously as she eyeballs the gargantuan backpack.  The awesome bagging boy has managed to cram all our goodies into the one bag and for that I am grateful.  It easily weighs sixty pounds.  "I'll manage" I reply with an unconvincing smile.  I put Isla back into the carrier on my front, bag boy helps me heave the giant pack on my back and out the doors I walk with the legitimate thought "I'll bet I shrink a quarter of an inch today".

Of course on this day, I don't see a bus right away which means I am forced to walk until one passes.  Sure, I could stand around and wait for one to pass by me but I am, by nature, an incredibly impatient person and if I'm not making any forward momentum to wherever it is I am going, then I get all antsy and agitated.  Best to keep moving.  Because the pack is giant and overburdened, it bangs the back of my legs as I walk so Isla and I limp, Quasimodo style, down the road in the scalding hot sun until for about a quarter of a mile before I hear the welcome "beep, beep" of the #1 bus.  We hop in, both of us sweaty messes, and for the rest of the ride home I play the "who or where IS that stench coming from?" game.  (No, it was not me).

Our stop arrives.  The conductor lobs the pack back onto my back and Isla and I walk the short distance back to the boat, where I get both her and the giant bag on board.  The time that has passed is two hours exactly.  I have just enough energy left to unpack before Isla and I both go down for a much needed nap.

So while I might be a glutton for punishment, I would not be above a service like "Peapod for Cruisers" should one surface.  Just saying.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

On Boating with a Baby and Being Irresponsible Parents

Our miserable, tethered child.  Such a sad thing to see.
The other morning, I was greeted to this email in my inbox:
I wish you safe travel!  However, I hope you will consider that your influence may embolden less able sailors to embark on a like journey -- unequipped and naive to the risks.  I recently read, and firmly believe, that house boating on the high seas is a risk for toddlers and children under eight.  It saddens me to see a toddler tied up in a harness instead of having the freedom to run and play.  You think they will have fond memories but, in fact, the memories and rewards will be for the parents alone.  It may be a bit selfish to seek this kind of adventure as young parents.  You have many supporters but you most likely will never hear from voices of reason who strongly disagree.  I hope you will be responsible and tell the world of the negative aspects of your voyage instead of painting a picture that is both unrealistic and dangerous.  Do you really want to encourage young parents to abandon their home, take a few sailing lessons, purchase a houseboat, and take a baby and a toddler on THEIR adventure?  Please add a caveat to your blog!
While my first reaction was to open up and lash out with lots of exclamation points , I then re-read - took a deep breath - and laughed, actually chuckled out loud,  at this confused woman who clearly has not the slightest clue how we live our life and raise our baby.  I did write her back and while I didn't use any curse words, I don't think she'll be writing us anymore.  Anyone who has met me in person will say I am very nice, but those who know me really well know that I am nobody's fool and once you cross sweetness turns sour.

We get a lot of emails these days.  I'd say 90% are positive, 8% are spam offers and sponsorship requests and the remaining 2% are from Judgey McJudgerton's like Mrs. B above.  I know a lot of you believe that I should just ignore folks like these and usually I do, but I feel that this woman makes a few points that really need to be addressed, lest there be more folks like her out there in cyberspace ready to email us ridiculousness like this.

So with no further ado:

  • On "house boating":  The terminology here really bugged me.  We live on a blue-water sailboat.  It is not a houseboat.  A houseboat is a floating trailer home, a pimped out pontoon boat,  and has no business being on the open ocean.  Our boat was built to do what we are doing with it.  What we are doing is cruising on a sailboat.  It's much safer and the glaring difference between the two is worth noting.  Call me a stickler for lexicon, but come on - we are NOT house boating. (Interestingly enough I would be curious to know this "article" she references, but of course she did not include it in her email.  For future judgers: cite your sources!)
  • On our child being "tied up in a harness":  We live on a boat that is surrounded by the OCEAN so keeping our poor, suffering child clipped into the cockpit is a necessity.  But you want to know something?  She is "tethered" for about 3% of her waking life.  And you know what else?  She has zero problem with it.  I am willing to bet a left lung that our child gets significantly more time "running free" than most land-lubber babies.   She spends almost ALL of her time outside, in nature; swimming in the ocean, collecting shells on the beach, playing outside with other boater children.  There is incredible research that proves being in nature is good for brain development, happiness and health - and Isla is out there, running (tether) free for hours and hours almost every single day.  Furthermore, unlike most children her age she yet to watch any T.V.  Do you know how many hours most kids in the USA watch television?  It's insane.  Even the T.V people say it's bad for kids.  And, in our opinion, time spent in front of the 'boob tube' is WAY more dangerous and detrimental to a baby's development than a few hours spent in a safety harness.  Furthermore, aren't landlubber peers "strapped" to seats in cars for safety?  I fail to see the difference here...
  • On her "memories":  This is one of my favorites and I always love when people use the argument "well, she's not going to remember any of this, so why do it?"  If this (ridiculous) logic were true - then why don't all of us parents get together, stick our infants in front of televisions all day long and enjoy the silence for the first couple of years?  Why do we expend so much energy on them, loving them, reading to them, cuddling them, taking them on walks...etc and - in general - spending so much of our precious time on them - time that could be spent on Facebook or watching Lost reruns - if they won't remember it?  Why?  Because these are the most formative years of their lives and whatever we expose them to now will effect them forever, that's why.  Isla might not "remember" the fact that she first learned to walk in the Bahamas or now says "Or awa" to say "goodbye" because at the moment she plays only with French-speaking kids who say "Au revoir", but you know what - it's doing something and all this exposure to new people, places and nature is shaping her brain, her world view and her personality.  She might not have "memories", but these things will be etched forever in her character.
  • On our "selfishness":  This seems to be a theme amongst the judgies out there.  We're selfish.  Well, let's see:  Isla is being raised by both of her parents, she is loved, adored, and not a single one of her needs goes un-met.  She has never spent more than 24 hours away from us and, gets a tremendous amount of love from us and pretty much makes new friends everywhere she goes.  She is exposed to new faces, places, languages and cultures daily - but all the while she comes back to her familiar home (a sailboat) and her trusted mommy and daddy.  She is incredibly secure, insanely happy, and very, very smart for her age.  I could go on and on and on, but suffice it to say:  we're not just doing this for us.  We're doing it for her as well.  She's not just along for the ride, she's a big part of why we're on this ride.
  • On the "dangerousness" of sailing with a baby:  Okay.  You win.  Sailing with a baby is dangerous.  But so is sending your child to school, letting them sleep at a friend's house, going to daycare, leaving them with a babysitter, driving in a car with you, going to the grocery store, crossing the street, going to the park, eating grapes whole, going up and down stairs, climbing trees, running on the sidewalk, talking to strangers, playing in your backyard, juggling knives and - in general - living.  LIVING is dangerous, people.  Do NOT leave your homes.  You have been warned.
  • On our "emboldening others":  I would never suggest that anyone with a toddler go out, buy a boat and do what we are doing.  But I wouldn't necessarily dissuade them either.  I think the USA has sort of gone into a default mode where we believe that we should be completely taken care of and we don't need to take any responsibility for our decisions, because someone else makes them.  Why is it my responsibility to tell people if they should or should not do whatever it is they want to do?  If they read this blog, feel inspired and make the choice to live like we do then it is THEIR choice.  If it turns out to be a grave mistake because they didn't do THEIR homework, how is this my fault?  We have a lot of experience, did a ton of research and made some very conscious choices before we embarked on this lifestyle.  I am pretty open about the fact that cruising is NOT for everyone and it is NOT easy.  But to put a litigious caveat on my blog to tell people with babies that "this might be dangerous for you and your child"...?  That is ridiculous.  If you can't figure that out for yourself, have bigger problems.  Anyway, we already have a disclaimer on our site and one is enough for me.
Okay (wiping hands together with a big, toothy grin).  I think that about covers it.  I wanted to get a few of those things off my chest and I feel better now that I have cleared the air for any future emails that may come our way.  I understand that some people might not agree with our choices and may be ignorant to our lifestyle, and that's okay.  That's normal - there are plenty of parents I have seen (mostly at carnivals) that I don't understand or agree with but you don't see me grabbing the popsicle out of their six month old's mouth.  To each his own, that's what I say.  This diversity is what makes the world go 'round and keeps things interesting.   But the second you attack my parenting and start flinging ridiculous judgements my way, well, I'm gonna fling right back.  

Look, I am not saying that raising a baby on a boat is superior to raising a baby on land, and I am certainly not saying that it doesn't come without it's own unique set of challenges.  But this works for us and, so far, we're more than thrilled with the results.  No matter where you raise you child, be it at sea, on land or in a tree house - there will be positives and negatives, ups and downs, advantages and disadvantages.  There is no "perfect" scenario or method and every child/parent combo is unique.  What I can say with absolute certainty is this: our child is incredibly happy, insanely loved, and is blessed with a tremendous amount of our time.  And - last I checked - those are the most important things we can give our kids.

So there you have it.  If you meet Jimmy Buffett you might end up in a song, and if you piss me off, you might end up in a blog post.  You have been warned.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Timing is Everything

I might have a mouth full of animal crackers and look all innocent, but - trust me - do NOT piss me off.
We got to Grenada just in time to be safe from the most aggressive hurricane months, in time for Scott to report back to work and just in time for our perfect baby to turn into a little hellion.

This "phase" is a real bummer for a couple of reasons:
  1. Scott is reporting to work for the next month, which means I am left to fend for myself against the powers of our super-child without the support of another person.  It's really nice to have a partner to share in the "WTF just happened?!?!" bewilderment when your child has a meltdown for no particular reason.  Misery loves company, you know.
  2. We are now mere inches from our neighbors, so Isla's impressive tantrums echo down the docks for all to hear. "I swear, this has just started!" I say apologetically to those within earshot who, almost certainly, do not enjoy waking up from their mid-day siestas to a screaming child.  I know what they're thinking, "Sure it did." Then they give me the visual equivalent of a pat on top of  my low slung head.
The timing of this, in other words, is not ideal.

Up until the past couple of days, Isla has been - more or less - a perfect baby.  I can only admit this now in the midst of her "normal baby" behavior, but really, she was.  She would excitedly entertain herself for long stretches of time and crying was something that only occurred if she hurt herself.  She was happy, easy going, and slept like a champ.  Each day she took two naps at an hour-and-a-half each, and had a respectable 6pm bedtime.  This took a lot of sleep training in the early months, mind you (I can feel the "non-schedule" moms I know of out there rolling their eyes right now).  To get her to go to sleep, all I needed to do was sing her our little bedtime song at which point she'd reach up to me with her arms as if to say, "Oh yes, it's that time!", I'd lay her in her little bed, nurse her for a bit, turn on her musical seahorse, give her a pacifier and she'd visibly relax and look at me with eyes that said, "Okay mom, you can go now.  I'm off to sleep!" and off to sleep she'd go, all on her own.  No joke.  It was that easy.

This has all changed.  Well, the sleep part at least...

It's like something has clicked in her and she made the (horrifying to us) realization that she has opinions on things and can protest in the form of screaming.  I mean, wasn't this not supposed to happen until she was like, three?!?  We always comment that we think she's advanced (I know, I know, all parents say that - we do it jokingly... sort of) so we're left to wonder, "Is she passing GO and skipping right to the terrible twos at sixteen months??"  God help us.

Now, nap times are epic battle grounds that include screaming of the blood curdling variety.  No joke - she literally screams as if someone is poking out her eyeballs.  Again, we're seven inches from our neighbors so her "finding her voice" couldn't have come at a worse time.  And I know what is happening, we're transitioning from the blessed two naps a day to one, and it's not pretty.  I have known this day would come, but ignored the signs continuing to push two naps because "a well-rested baby is a happy baby" and, honestly, I loved those two breaks in the day.  But now I cannot ignore it.  The screams are a sign.  Our little girl is growing up and no longer needs sixteen hours of sleep in a twenty-four hour period.  The books tell me I have another month or two of this madness and the transition is not an easy one.  Sigh.
The other thing?  We lost her coveted baby doll yesterday.  For those of you who follow us on Facebook you have surely seen the photos of Isla with this doll.  It's just a tiny baby doll, a gift from a good friend, and the one and only toy item that - for some reason or another - Isla took to.  She carried it everywhere.  She introduced it to everyone she met, even strangers at the local food court.  It slept with her, napped with her, went on walks with her and did everything but swim with her.  She fed it at every meal and shared her sippy cup with it.  And now it's gone, doing rounds on the #1 bus route getting all nasty under the seats of one of the hundreds of local busses here in Grenada.  Bye bye, baby. (Yes, three more dolls have been ordered and will arrive with my sister on Monday).

When it rains, it pours.  And timing of life isn't always perfect.  This too, shall pass. (and cliches are helpful in times like these...)

But despite her nap time screams and sudden protests asserting her independence (which, truth be told, are kind of cool to see evolve), her smile still lights up a room,  her hugs and cuddles are epic and that precious little face makes it ALL worth it.  Screams or not - she's still perfect to us.  But probably not to our neighbors.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Transformation to "Marina Mode" (Or...our evolution to "Sailor Trash")

If you are looking at this picture and wondering "Is that a shower curtain on the back of your boat?" you would be correct.  Let me explain...

You could call the heat here "oppressive".  Think middle of July in Key West.  I actually know exactly what that feels like because I once booked my friend Justin and I tickets to go to Key West, Florida for a week in the middle of July for something ridiculous like $100 bucks round trip.  We were eighteen and thought we were getting a steal.  $100 bucks to go to paradise and back?  Heck yeah!  It took us all of .02 seconds to learn exactly why the flights were that cheap.  It, too, was "oppressively" hot.  Meaning, by 8:30am a simple stroll to the bathroom will leave you with pit stains and a sweaty back.  The steaming humidity literally hits you like a brick wall as soon as you step outside.  You wake up with damp temples, motivation leaks out of your pores with each drop of sweat and you labor through the day in a constant state of dewey stickiness.  You're skin is always slimy.  One shower a day is not enough.  Dizzy spells abound if you don't drink enough liquid.  Staying inside - in the shade and out of the scalding hot sun - is about all you can do to slow the process of drying out and turning into a raisin.  If you dare to walk around during the peak sun hours, you will literally feel your skin crinkle and burn and no amount of SPF coverage will help it.  Again: it's oppressive.  But hey, it's paradise, right?

Being at a marina, while not without perks, means the heat is a little more unruly.  Unlike being at anchor, out in the breeze - we are now in a protected cove surrounded by high hills where the air hangs thick and heavy.  While we do have air conditioning on board, we have opted not to use it because we are gluttons for punishment - like all modern conveniences - it comes with a price. $0.62 EC a kilowatt hour to be exact.  So instead, we find cheaper ways to stay cool...Like covering our entire boat in utility tarps in order to stave off the sun and keep the cabin temperature just a few degrees cooler.  It actually works but, as you can see, doesn't do much for curb appeal.  All we need are a few lawn flamingos and perhaps a busted up dinghy on the dock behind us and the look would be complete.

Another thing that we lack here at the marina is privacy.  We are mere inches away from the boats to our left and our right, and our dock happens to get the most foot traffic of any dock here at the marina.  Since we spend almost all of our time in our wonderful cockpit and we are docked "stern to" this means a lot of people get to see us in our element, much like zoo animals, during the day.  We don't mind this - in fact, being a professional people-watcher I actually enjoy it - but we decided that a little privacy shade was in order.  Not only would the shade shield us from the litany of boat workers who constantly remind us (like, several times a day) that our varnish is in need of some work and our boat sure could use a polish - but it would also ensure that the melanoma inducing rays of the setting sun remained outside our boat so we could eat dinner without burning our retinas.  First, we hung a beach towel back there, but since it's the "rainy season", I figured something waterproof would be better.  Then it hit me:  a shower curtain!!  Perfect.  We went to the hardware store, bought the tarps, some bungee and a cheap shower curtain (with plastic rings, metal would be rust city) and...VOILA!!...we went from class to trash in less than thirty minutes.  We even watch movies in our cockpit at night which is pretty much the cherry on top of our "hick" sundae.

Ladies and gentlemen, we have officially become "sailor trash".  And we're totally okay with that because instead of a zombie inducing, brain cooking 102° ambient temperature, our boat is now a tolerable and only slightly uncomfortable 85°.  All because of our tarping.  We might not look pretty, but we're cool.  And being cool trumps looking cool in our books.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Keeping it Real

It's been brought to my attention that we, and specifically this blog, have (literally) launched several ships and more than a few dreams.  This is incredibly flattering if not a little scary.  To get an email that reads: "We just bought a boat and will start cruising next year - after we learn to sail, of course - all because of your blog, so thank you!" makes me realize that my musings actually have some power and are no longer just me sharing my rose-colored thoughts and experiences.  I keep waiting for the day when I get a hateful message from someone who sold everything, bought a boat and sailed off into the sunset only to curse us every single minute of their dreadful cruising existence.  "You lied!!" they would say, spitting venom though the interwebz, "You made me believe that cruising was magical and it SUCKS!  My crappy boat is small, hot and constantly broken and my wife left me for an incredibly fit twenty-five year old Mexican scuba instructor.  I have nothing and it's all YOUR FAULT!!" Then, in my imagination, they would threaten me with litigation because almost always in this fantasy these folks are American, and what does an American love more than a good old fashioned law suit?

While I do tend to accentuate the positives of this life, I also believe I do a fair job at balancing this out with some brutal honesty as well.  I will continue on this trajectory - but in an effort to "keep it real" I want to share with you two accounts of people who's cruising fantasies didn't quite go as planned.  Realistic expectations, in my opinion, are crucial (mandatory?) to being happy in life, travel, relationships, reading these two accounts will show you the flip side to the pretty pictures and whimsical Facebook updates.  Brace yourself.  These are brutally honest accounts and one of these stories is tragically heartbreaking.

Here is the account of a couple of cruisers who are throwing in the towel after the harsh realization that they actually didn't enjoy cruising and have decided to "swallow the anchor" as it were and sell their boat. 

And here is the tragic tale of a couple of cruisers who, after a series of unfortunate events coupled with severe mental anguish, decided to abandon their boat - and their dreams of cruising - in the Pacific.

Both of these stories should provide a good dose of "yin" to my "yang", and should be read by anyone who is considering a life afloat because sometimes, it's not all it's cracked up to be, and that's totally okay.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Home, Sweet Home

Bequia to the Grenadines from Windtraveler on Vimeo.

We have arrived in Grenada and are back at our unofficial "second" home of the Port Louis Marina.  Crazy.  Feels like just yesterday we were here with Rasmus and yet over a year and a half has passed.  It feels no different than it did a year and a half ago - sure there are some new faces, a couple new shops - but all in all, it's remained the same.  While change is always good, sometimes familiarity is nice too.  Like when you walk in some place and a certain smell suddenly thwarts back to your college dorm room, or when you find that someone in line in front of you at the grocery store wears the same perfume as your grandma; all the memories of these people and places that you didn't even know you retained come flooding's nice.

We're getting settled.  It's Sunday so not much can get done today.  On the agenda is pool time with Isla and giving our boat a good scrub.  In the meantime, enjoy this short video I made on the way down here.  (For those that are curious, I use iMovie to make my videos).

Friday, July 12, 2013

On the Home Stretch

We had another fantastic sail to Union Island yesterday.  Conditions were excellent with fifteen knots on our beam and a baby blue sky peppered with puffy white clouds.  In fact, according to the weatherman, we're going to have "near perfect" conditions in this neck of the woods for the next couple of days which is nice because these will be our last days cruising for a while before Scott reports to work July 19.  We're going to have one last night of R&R anchored out at the quiet and peaceful Sandy Island tonight and tomorrow we sail the home stretch to the Port Louis Marina (PLM), where we will stay for the next month or two.

While we're so excited to go back to the place that feels almost like a second "home" for us (I did spend 90% of my pregnancy there and Scott works out of the PLM every three months) it's a little bittersweet because it marks the end of "travel mode" which we really dig.  Sometimes, though, it's nice to put down a few roots for a spell and slow down.  This hiatus from cruising will give us the time and impetus we need to work on our beautiful boat which desperately needs some TLC after spending the past six months on the go.  Deck hardware needs re-bedding, varnish needs varnishing, hatches need replacing and we've got some other important projects to tend to as well.  Furthermore, we're really looking forward to catching up with old friends who's last memory of me was running around the docks with a belly full of baby. Now, they'll actually be able to fist bump with Isla which is a little trick we taught her this morning for *just* this occasion.  Fist bumping is still going strong in the Caribbean, fyi.

We've also got some important visitors lined up; my sister and my mom are coming down for separate vacations while Scott is at sea and this excites me like you wouldn't believe.  Not only do I get to spend time with two of my favorite people on the whole planet, but they are bringing with them oodles of goodies I have been sending them.  "Britt!! NO more packages from AMAZON!!!  No room in the bags!!!" was the last message my mom sent me.  Don't worry mom, just a few more things, promise.  Scott (accidentally) busted my Kindle last night and I feel lost without hopefully there is room for that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Thank you, Chantal, for Cleaning our Boat

Thankfully, Tropical Storm Chantal brought us nothing more than torrential rain, some thunder and a couple gnarly bolts of lightning.  Barely a whisper of wind - not even the 25 knot gusts they forecasted - but rain of biblical proportions.  Wonder what that looks like?  Check out the video above.  It was impressive.  Typically, we'd be able to see land from that vantage point, it was by no means far away, and it's amazing how quick visibility went to nil once the sky opened up.  Happy to say that the boat remained more or less dry inside, minus a few leaking portholes.  Reminder:  lots of opening portholes might be good for air circulation, but they are also really good for leaks.  In case you are curious, we have seventeen opening ports (twenty-two if you count hatches).  It's a bit...excessive.  But despite the fact that we need to re-bed a zillion portholes when we get to Grenada, we are super grateful that we were spared Chantal's wrath and so happy that all our friends were safe and came out (more or less) unscathed as well.  That's the important stuff right there.

Today we're going to be sailing south.  Conditions are ripe for more storms and, even though Chantal was so kind to us (I mean, she did clean our boat...) we would not like to meet any more.  We'll be in Grenada in the next five days or so - looking forward to being back.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

All Good in the 'Hood

Just a short update to tell you all we are hunky-dory over here, if not a little wet.  Tropical Storm Chantal will be passing well to our North over the next few hours and we should see nothing more than a few wind gusts and a ton of rain which is a good thing because this salty boat needed a rinse.  Even still, we spent much of yesterday prepping her for worse.  We cleared the decks of clutter, secured our jib and stays'l sheets and set two anchors - our primary Rocna and our awesome secondary 65lb Mantus anchor.  I am going to write more about it in a future post - but the Mantus is a beast and set immediately in the tricky, rocky bottom of Admiralty Bay, Bequia.  We are impressed.  Very impressed.

Today we'll spend the day in the boat - which is a challenge when you can't go on deck (due to rain) - we'll read, play, and I think I might even bake a loaf of bread (but that might be ambitious)...Thank you so much for all your well wishes, thoughts and prayers, we really appreciate them.  Keep 'em going for all the other folks, seafarer and landlubber alike, who are in Chantal's path.

Monday, July 08, 2013

The (obvious) Problem with Cruising During Hurricane Season

We are on the island located under the bottom orange line
Scott and I have talked numerous times how much we have enjoyed cruising during what is technically known as "hurricane season".  Anchorages are wide open, villages pull back their high-season dog and pony shows, tourists have headed elsewhere and, in general, things slow down.  It's nice.  There's a little more peace and quiet, and there seems to be a tad more, I don't know, authenticity?  Sure, it's a little warmer and the wind isn't always favorable this time of year (is it ever though, I mean...really?) but Scott and I would be hard-pressed to find a reason why cruising during these months is anything but a pleasure.  Hard pressed, of course, if it wasn't for hurricanes.  There's a reason the masses make a beeline south this time of year - and it's a pretty good one.  There are approximately three million and eight other places I would rather be than on a boat in a hurricane.


We've got Tropical Storm Chantal barreling this way and several of the weather prediction models have it passing not too far from - if not directly over - us.  This is no bueno.  While we have made our way south, we are still north of what is considered "safe" from hurricanes by most insurance companies which means we are at a risk.  We knew this and understood the risks we were taking cruising in these waters the last five weeks.  We've been watching weather closely and this weather system, which has been on the radar for a while (though not as a tropical storm) was a huge reason we made our big push south.  Despite this, we are still not in the clear which is a little unnerving for a worry-wart like me.  Of course there is a chance that the storm will pass to the north of us and we'll experience nothing more than wind gusts to 35 knots and some gnarly rain, but mother nature has a way of throwing curve balls and, according to the weather man, we should prepare for the worst - wind of 65 knots or more and a torrential downpour.

We considered making a run further south today but decided against it.  We are in a safe harbor, our anchor is firmly set and we're setting a second just to be safe.  We might even have a third on deck just in case.  As one Facebook follower said, "It's always better to be ready and have it fizzle, than to expect a fizzle and get a BOOM..."  I couldn't agree more.  So we'll keep our eyes on this system and prep ourselves and our boat as best we can.  We're in a safe and protected anchorage and we should ride this out just fine.  I'll tell you one thing though, it's going to be a sleepless night and I'm looking forward to this being over and getting to our safe-haven of Grenada in the next week or so.  We're thinking of all our friends to the north...

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Sailing Asante: The Last Few Days in Video

I love making videos.  Unfortunately, they take time which is something I do not have a lot of these days.  Anyway, I made this little video this morning to show you what the past few days were like aboard our boat.  Best to watch it here as the quality isn't so great in larger screen format.  To see more of our videos you can check out our page on Vimeo.  I hope to add to this collection over the next few weeks, so watch this space.  Enjoy!

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Road Trippin' on the Ocean

We've sailed 100 miles in the past two days.  We're sailing another sixty or so today.   While that's not a lot of ground covered in say, a Volvo Ocean Race, it's quite a bit for a cruising boat in this part of the world where you could very easily spend two months in the areas we literally just breezed by.  But, as I mentioned, we've got places to go and people to see so this stretch of water has become a highway of sorts.  I-Windward.

It's funny, even though we're sad we've had to completely bypass some islands we were really looking forward to exploring (we'll catch them on our way up in December), the past couple of days have been amazing.  I was ruminating about this fact with Scott when it dawned on me, "It's like a road trip!" I exclaimed as it finally hit me. "There is something so awesome about being on the open road and moving toward a destination.  Sure, you skip cool towns, quirky diners and giant rubber-band balls...but on a road trip, so much of the thrill is in moving freely on an open road with the windows down and the music blasting."  This is how I feel about the past few days.  Despite passing up some magical places, we have been cruising the open ocean with the dodger down and music blasting.  Early mornings and early nights.  Meals underway and bottomless cups of coffee.

We've experienced epic sailing conditions: all sails set, seas flat and record boat speed (over 8 knots) and we've experienced not-so epic conditions: wind gusting 30+ knots, white-capped waves in the ten to twelve foot range, walls of water drenching the cockpit and everyone in it... The passage between Dominica and Martinique was so rough that Scott ordered Isla and I to stay down below (a first).  We were also treated to a nice piece of humble pie when we pulled into Anse d'Arlet, Martinique where it took us forty minutes - I kid you not - forty minutes to find a spot to anchor.  We were so tired, exhausted and brain fried from a 70 mile day that we ping ponged around the bay like total idiots much to the amusement of speedo clad Europeans who were all watching us from their cockpits as they sipped their sundowners.  It was pretty embarrassing and Scott was ready to move on to the next anchorage just to save face.  Cruising is good for that; keeping you in check.  You're very liable to fall off any high horse you hop up on out here, often in front of oodles of people watching with binoculars.  Good times.'s passage is rumored to be a little rough.  We're sailing from the beautiful Marigot Bay, St. Lucia to Bequia.  It's about sixty miles and the stretch of open water between St. Vincent and Bequia is famous for being a little unruly.  Something about wave energy and shallow water.  Anyway, we're on the home stretch of this road trip and it's been pretty great.
Dominca, as viewed from the "open road" 
Stays'l, Genoa and Main all pulling.  Awesome.
A nice flat sail in the lee of St. Lucia, it is very rare that we are not in the cockpit underway, and even more rare that she is not in her harness. 
Sunset in the beautiful Marigot Bay, St. Lucia

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Sunrise, Sunset

Sunset in Dominca
Sunrise, Sunset.  No, I am not referring to the glum tune made famous by a certain Fiddler on the Roof (though it is now playing on repeat in my head), but simply stating our reality the next few days.  Sunrise - anchor up.  Sunset - anchor down.  I know people think that cruising is (and should be) all about slowed paces and stopping to smell the roses, but sometimes that's just not the truth.  Regardless, it is what it is and there's something about moving every day and making big tracks in the water that excites me.  We're in "travel mode", and while we might not set foot on terra firma for a few days - we get to be on the water all day and that's a whole different kind of cool.  Today Dominica, tonight Martinique.

Oh yeah - I almost forgot!  Happy 4th of July fellow Americanos!

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

A Rapid Push South

I'm not sure what the odds are of snapping a picture like this, but I'm thinking it's pretty rare.  Not only do we have one double-ended rainbow, but two.  This is the sight we were greeted with during our morning coffee on this fine day as a little sprinkle passed through.  Not too shabby.

Today marks the day when we have to leave this place and point our bow South.  One Facebook follower noted that we seem to be moving every couple days and posed the legitimate question, "Is sailing really that relaxing, or are the islands that boring?"  I had to laugh, because neither of these things are true.  Day sailing when the conditions are right?  That is relaxing.  Sailing as a lifestyle?  Not always.  But this is the life we chose and sometimes you've got to take the good with the bad.  So far, the good outweighs the bad and for this I am grateful.  But if it seems like we are rushing, we are.

The fact of the matter is that Scott has a job and he reports to work on July 19.  This here is a double edged sword; while we love having a reliable income every three months, his gainful employment has more than once stuck the proverbial stick in our spokes; stopping us in our tracks for a month at a time or, like now, forced us to rush when we otherwise would not.  Yin and yang, yang and yin.  C'est la vie.  I'm not complaining - just telling it like it is.  We like the arrangement and, for now, it's working well for everyone involved.  Anyway, we'd like to get settled in Grenada for a few days before he takes control of the good ship Diamant, which leaves us about two weeks to get there.  In addition, there's a weather system that is supposed to push through around the 8th which, allegedly is going to bring with it some nasty wind and surly squalls, so we want to be in the Grenadines by then, a place that Scott now knows like the back of  his hand after doing something like twenty trips down there.   All of these things point us SOUTH, and fast.  So we're dropping our mooring here today and we plan to cover about 150 miles over the next few days, doing nothing more than flying the "Q" flag and dropping the hook for a good night's sleep in Dominica, Martinique and St. Lucia.  Not ideal, but we plan to hang around these parts for another season or two so we'll catch them on the way back north.

What really sucks about this is the fact that we're leaving our friends who have turned into some of the best cruising buddies we could have ever asked for.  Honestly, what are the odds of finding near-perfect companionship such as this?  Finding them was like winning the lottery and after a month of hanging out together daily, we still have nightly battles of who loves who more over dinner and wine.  We're going to miss them terribly, but - understandably - they don't want or have to travel as fast as we do, so they're going to slow their roll for a bit.  The good news is that we'll see them in Grenada and we all plan to hang and cruise together for, oh - I don't know - the next twenty five years or so.  Not to mention the fact that Stormer and Isla are going to be getting married in the future, so there's no such thing as "goodbye" with friends like these.

Not sure how often I'll be able to blog over the next week, but keep an eye on our Facebook Page for updates as I am much more frequent and interactive there.

Arguable the cutest couple in the world.
The crews of s/v Asante and s/v YOLO.  There is a whole lotta love here!! We're like one big, happy family.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Iles de Saintes: The Best of the French Caribbean

Sailing into Iles de Saintes and the protected bay of Terre de Haut is about as close to love at first site as I have ever been.  It's no wonder that the Saints decided to take up residence here.  Once again I am forced to wonder, does it get any better than this?  As you sail across the calm azure water, the colorful little town beckons like a siren.   Tucked into the vibrant green hillside, red roofs, whitewashed walls, a tiny church steeple and pastel-shuttered buildings cluster together along the shore making for an incredibly picturesque scene.  In fact, walking up and down the narrow, winding streets here I kept thinking to myself, "This might just be the most photogenic little town I have ever been".

The French are doing something right and I'm not just talking about the croissants.  Strolling lazily throughout this quaint town of Terra de Haut you get the overwhelming feeling that life is pretty damn good here.  Mopeds zip to and fro, people saunter by with baguettes tucked under their arms, and rusty bicycles lay - unlocked - along white picket fences.  Goats and chickens roam free along the streets and little artisan shops sell everything from local art to breezy Caribbean attire.  Walking around, I was reminded of a handful of beautiful places in Europe that I have travelled to years ago... It's as if the French Rivera and Amalfi Coast hooked up with the alleys of Rome and cafes of Paris and squeezed themselves ever so perfectly onto this beautiful, Caribbean Island.  If I spoke French fluently, you'd probably be hard pressed to get me out of this place.   As it stands, I do not speak French, and as such, going to the grocery store was a bit of a challenge.  I am happy to report that "a la creme de lait" is, in fact, the 'cream cheese' I was looking for.  It's always nice when that happens...certainly better than thinking you are buying pickled onions and discovering those little balls in that jar are not onions at all.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...