Thursday, October 31, 2013

All Quiet on the Blog Front

No, we're not just snoozing away over here (and I am 21 weeks pregnant with twins in this pic, fyi)
What gives, right?  It's like we live on a boat in the Caribbean or something...

Sorry for the lack of updates this past week, but between the whirlwind visit home, the subsequent exhaustion of traveling alone with a toddler while pregnant (13+ hours each way) and the fact that our internet router is refusing to speak with our Wi-Fi booster at the moment, blog posts just aren’t happening right now.  Of course I have plenty to say, and I will find the time to say it – but for now, just know that all is well on the good ship Asante and we're sitting pretty here in the islands.  We are currently enjoying beautiful Martinique after a rather epic five hour sail from St. Lucia where we hit record speeds of 8.7 knots while beam-reaching with our stays’l and main (didn't turn on the engine once).  Not too shabby.  Man, do we love our stays’l.  Our hunch was right and the cutter rig is most definitely for us.  For us, it's the most useful sail for sure.  So many options open up to us with this little work horse…

But back to being  incommunicado; it's pretty incredible how times have changed so quickly and so drastically that despite the fact that we live on a sailboat in the Caribbean islands, communication is so frequent and common that if I don’t post a blog every couple of days or so, people assume something is wrong.  While I for one am a big fan of the technology that allows us to connect and stay connected, there is something strange about the fact that a mere ten years ago this simply wasn’t the case.  To update a blog from the islands would have required much more effort and energy and god knows Facebook and Twitter weren’t around to keep everyone hanging on 140 character sound bytes.  I often think of my mom who moved to America from England at nineteen years of age during a time when travel was organized either by phone (if you were lucky and could afford phone calls overseas) and/or by letters.  My mind boggles at how spoiled and accessible we’ve all become and of course – just like anything - there are plusses and minus to this instant gratification and connectivity.  Can you imagine planning a  vacation or visit overseas…by letter?  Or trying to organize the procuring of boat parts from thousands of miles away without cell phones or internet?  That must have required a type of patience that is quickly becoming  (if not already) extinct.

I, for the most part, embrace this information age and the speed and ability at which we are able to share and acquire information.  But if we go silent* for a while – either by circumstance or choice – it doesn’t necessarily mean anything is amiss.  We’re still floating around on a sail boat in the Caribbean, after all.

For those who need some instant gratification, I do post pictures and updates on our Facebook Page with more regularity these days, so be sure to check us over there if all is quiet here.

* Sorry, but another reminder that if you emailed us, I am now more behind than ever.  I simply cannot keep up and will try my darndest to get back to you all when time (and internet) allows - and that might be well over a month.  For now, it remains very low on my list of priorities.  My apologies.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Our Little Fishies: Two More Girls!

Isla and I made the thirteen-plus hour journey back to Chicago the other day with the only hiccup being one puke fest after a particularly wild (island) cab ride.  I didn't want to write about the fact that we were coming home until after my doctor's appointment because, God forbid, if something didn't look right - it would have been less explaining to do.  Anyway, we came home for the important 20 week ultrasound of our twins.  My doctor here was pretty clear that twins are "higher risk" and that he would much rather have me home to monitor me every two weeks instead of being on the move (on a boat no less!) with no regular pre-natal care, but flying home for a check-up every two weeks is just not an option for us.  So we compromised and he said - at the very least - I should come home for this particular screening, so we did.

For those who don't know, the 20 week ultrasound is a pretty big deal - at least to the OBGYN's here in the United States it is.  They check all the organs, make sure the babies are growing well, measure all the bones and skull, check the placenta and monitor heart rates and a whole bunch of other stuff during this exam.  It is also during this exam that they can tell you with great accuracy the sex of the baby (or babies, in our case).

It looks like we'll be swimming in a sea of estrogen in the years to come!

Scott and I are beyond thrilled to announce that we are adding two more HEALTHY, beautiful girls to our crew (I was secretly wishing for two more girls).  The maternal fetal medicine specialist said they look absolutely perfect; they are exactly the same size (though fraternal), all their little organs are functioning "beautifully" and, from their adorable little profiles, they are cute as buttons.  While I do not believe in "playing God" I can tell you that it sure is reassuring to see that our little babies are right on par developmentally with no signs of any genetic or health issues to come.  The doctor was impressed, and told me to continue doing what I was doing because everything looked fantastic - so back to the boat we go...

We are told we should expect these babies to arrive some time in February (though they are due March 13, twins are, on average, three weeks early) making these girls Pisces, which is perfect because they are known as our "little fish" and are ironically positioned in the womb just like the fish in the astrological sign.  Pretty neat.  Now for the name game to begin...not easy for Scott and I!

Isla and I make the long haul back to the islands on Monday and we'll be back underway Tuesday or Wednesday bound for beautiful Martinique.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Marigot Bay: The Bay of Flies

Flies are perhaps the most disgusting and dirty creatures on the planet, in my opinion.  Worse than cockroaches, I think.  I detest them and their presence - especially on a boat.  Luckily, we don't deal with flies too much out here and I honestly can't remember the last time we had a real problem with them.  In fact, I don't think we have ever had so many flies aboard our boat as we did this past week in Marigot Bay.  We have good reason to believe that this recent influx has everything to do with bad timing (we've been here twice before and never experienced this problem); it's been incredibly rainy, warm and we're pretty sure our visit has coincided with a mating season of sorts (we'll spare you the details).  As such, our boat has been overrun - literally completely abuzz - with an insane number of flies the first morning we awoke, and every morning to late afternoon that followed (they seem to "go to sleep" around dusk).  It was unbelievable and almost unbearable.  They were everywhere.

Being the person I am, I immediately hit the internet to find some solutions.  I am here to report that eucalyptus oil, peppermint oil and hanging bags filled with water (with and without pennies) do not work.  At all.  None of these "deterrents" put even the tiniest dent in our growing fly colony.  What I did discover was that they seem to hate bleach and as such, our boat has never been so clean.  Keeping the screens up, food stuff covered, and a mosquito net over our companionway also seemed to keep them at bay.   In addition, Scott miraculously found a single roll of fly tape (with sticky stuff that must have been developed by NASA) tucked deep within a drawer and, after three full days, it has now accumulated over sixty flies.  It's like Christmas every morning when we do the daily fly count and discover we've captured more than the day before.  I know, we're sick.

So yeah.  It's been a little Lord of the Flies around here lately...moving on to Rodney Bay shortly then...Martinique!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Take a Hike

One of the best aspects of this lifestyle is the proximity to nature.  Getting out and exploring is a regular occurrence and being out and about amongst the local flora and fauna are a daily indulgence.  There is no shortage of scientific information that states how beneficial being outside in nature is for the development of a small mind and body - and, lucky for Isla, she's basking in it each and every day.  Of course we adults get some good stuff out of it too... Yesterday, we took a two hour hike to the top of beautiful Marigot Bay (touted to be one of the most beautiful anchorages in the Caribbean though for us it will forever be associated with flies).  I don't have much to say about it other than it was lovely.  A great couple of hours spent getting sweaty and nature.  Nature is, indeed, nurturing.
First we took a little trolley up the hill to the start of the trail.  Isla loved it.
Just look at that little face!
A natural umbrella!
Her favorite thing at the moment are hermit crabs.  She loves making the pinching gesture.
At the top
Time for a snack
This sweet little face melts my heart about a million times a day.
She's an adrenaline junkie.
The trail.
We enjoyed a little rest and drink at Dolittle's Restaurant post hike.  Complete with kiss attacks, of course.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Best Meal for Passage Making: Viva la Pasta!

A "Mediterranean" pasta salad with cucumber, chopped olives, chickpeas, tomatoes, oregano, basil, lemon juice and more.
Pasta:  It's whats for dinner.  And lunch.  And dinner again.

It's common knowledge that I despise the galley and all activities associated with it so anything that expedites my time in there is something that I can get down with.  While I have gotten much, much better at provisioning, meal-planning and keeping our diet more varied than last time (we sort of lived off rice and beans for a solid year there), I am still a creature of habit and when I find a little groove with something I go with it.

My latest groove is pasta salad.  It is the bona fide "little black dress" of the food world and can go from day to night with some minimal "accessorizing".  This is a particularly awesome food choice when making a full day passage of six hours or more when you don't really want to be cooking (in case it's rough which it usually can be in these parts) and you are too tired to make dinner by the time you drop anchor (because you have been sailing all day and are exhausted).

So what do I do? I make a two-fer.  One meal, two different ways.  Let me explain...

I make a pasta salad either the night before or the morning we leave.  I make a big batch and it's never the same thing twice.  I'll dress it up with any canned veggies I have like artichokes, green beans, sliced olives or diced tomatoes (seriously, you can put anything in it so go nuts).  I've also found I love to add a protein like a can of tuna fish or some chick peas.  I douse all that in olive oil, italian dressing or whatever spices tickle my fancy or seem to pair well and then, upon serving it cold, load it up with parmesan cheese.  It's easy, never the same thing twice and requires only minutes in the galley when underway (because it's pre-made).  Score.

But here's the clincher:  with a little dressing up, it also becomes dinner.  Dun, dun, dun!

When we drop the hook at 5 or 6pm after sailing for six, eight or twelve hours, the last thing I want to do is figure out a meal to make and cook it.  So I take the leftovers from lunch and bedazzle them into a completely different meal which I like to call "pasta casserole surprise".  Because, SURPRISE!! This was actually lunch, but now it's magically become dinner too!

I line a baking pan with some olive oil and a hefty dusting of bread crumbs.  I then add the pasta salad on top, smother with some red pasta sauce and top with a load of shredded mozzarella cheese (because, honestly, doesn't cheese make everything better?).  This, of course, is the most basic recipe.  Depending on what I have on hand I'll jazz it up even further with additional veggies and accouterments.
The basic ingredients neede to "dress up" the pasta salad lunch from above and turn it into a hot casserole dinner
For last night's dinner I had some extra tomato and eggplant on hand so I added those.
I first lined the pan with the olive oil and bread crumbs as per "basic" instructions, but then I added a layer of the sliced eggplant which I drizzled in olive oil and dusted in garlic powder.  I then added the pasta salad, topped with the fresh chopped tomatoes and then smothered in pasta sauce.  The piece de resistance, of course, is the cheese on top.  I used a whole packet of shredded mozzarella for the one pictured above.  Yum.

I place all this into an oven preheated to 350°, let cook for thirty minutes (broiling the cheese on top for a minute or two) and - voila! - a totally delicious, completely different meal that takes almost no time, utilizes very simple and easy to access ingredients and requires almost zero culinary effort!  Win, win, win.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hand Washing: Doing A Little Each Day Keeps the Laundry at Bay

Paying for laundry while cruising is something that can get expensive, fast.  Unfortunately, self-serve laundromats are very, very rare in this part of the world and if you don't do your laundry yourself - you are more likely than not going to pay a service or an individual to do it for you.  A load can cost anywhere from $15-$30 depending on the size, and once you start throwing in blankets, sheets and towels it can get even more expensive.

In order to limit having to pay someone to do our laundry, I have learned that doing a little bit every single day is key.  Because the clothes we wear are mostly all very small (shorts, tank tops, onsies...etc) and made of quick dry materials (I live in clothes by Lululemon which are almost all made out of performance fabrics) this is very easy.  Hand washing every day is also an easy decision because of our high-output watermaker, which means we always have plenty of H2O at our disposal for washing and rinsing, though I still use it sparingly.

I fill a bucket with some water and soap (I prefer Method Concentrated Laundry Detergent - buy before you leave though as you will not find this in the islands), put the dirty clothes in from the day before, allow to soak for an hour or two or longer (sometimes overnight).  If the load is particularly dirty I will add some Borax powder as a detergent booster.  I then intermittently agitate the water with my feet (think Lucille Ball from the famous grape stomping episode) for about two minutes each time to work out any grime.  If some clothes need spot treatment, I will use a little stain remover, letting it set for as long as needed, and scrub with a hand brush.  Once I am convinced they are clean - I will rinse each item individually on our aft deck with our shower hose and wring each piece out individually.  Wringing small clothes is easy, but things like towels, sheets or sarongs are more tricky.  What I do is fold these bigger items in half, stand with a foot on one end and begin twisting with my hands until the item is one tightly wound band that goes from my hands to my feet.  I then give each item a vigorous shake and hang out on the lifelines to dry, making sure to use at least two old-school wooden clothespins on each item (three or four on towels or sarongs).  In the constant breeze and hot Caribbean sun, this takes no more than an hour or two.  So far, this has produced great smelling, clean clothes.

A typical load will include Isla's clothes (usually shorts and a tee shirt or a onesie or two), a pair or two of my underwear, a pair or two of Scott's boxers, a tank top, a tee shirt and a pair of shorts.  Usually our clothes are only sweaty and not really "dirty" (with the exception of Isla's, of course) so this is another added bonus.  I will also wash Isla's sheets regularly (they are sarongs, so this is easy - they are a very versatile item down here and dry in no time!) and I also hand wash our bath towels about once a week, though these are tricky and require a lot of water since they are very, very absorbent.

Doing a little bit of laundry each day is easy and almost effortless.  For me, it's become as second nature as making breakfast.  We haven't paid a laundry service since we left Grenada and have not a single piece of clothing in our laundry bag.  A wise man once said "a penny saved is a penny earned" and hand washing laundry by hand is just that (yes, even considering running the generator and making water).  Cha-ching.

Some tips for hand washing laundry while cruising:
  • Do not let things pile up because once you do - hand washing becomes a burden and overwhelming.  I don't go more than two or three days (max) without washing (and usually this is only due to rainy, inclement weather).
  • Don't overload the bucket.  Make sure there is enough room for adequate sloshing.  If clothes are too tightly packed in, this will defeat the purpose.
  • Try to hang items to dry in the mid-day sun when they take the shortest amount of time.  Also - if you can - try to time it so you avoid a rain shower when drying.  While some consider this an "extra rinse", it adds a significant amount of time to the drying.  I avoid the "rain rinse" as much as possible.
  • Stock up on clothes that made of "performance materials". They are much, much easier to wash and dry and require significantly less water than heavy cotton and/or jean fabrics (our shirts are usually cotton (but thin), but my shorts and Scott's shorts are made of all tech-fabrics).  
  • Because of our lat/long, we live in bathing suits during most of the daytime hours (I have at least ten and all are mix and matchable - Victoria's Secret has great suits for good prices, ladies!) - this also REALLY helps with keeping the laundry situation manageable.
  • If clothes are particularly salty, I will do a pre-fresh water rinse before laundering to make sure it doesn't get salt on all the other clothes (salt water is THE ENEMY and once items are salty, they never ever fully dry).
  • If you want to get really technical with hand washing, you can check out my old method here (though I find it's overkill and not really necessary for basic laundry).
* We have no affiliation with any of the products/companies mentioned.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Babies on Board (both literally and figuratively speaking)

I'm over 19 weeks pregnant with our twins now.  That means I am past the half-way point which is totally insane because this pregnancy has flown by.  We find out the sexes in less than a week and I am positively dying to know a little more about these teeny-tiny people I am growing!  Don't worry, we'll let you know.

Isla is loving my belly.  While I doubt she grasps the concept that mommy is having two babies, we keep telling her they are growing in mommy's belly and she tries to feed them through my belly button and gives lots of kisses followed by the sweetest little "hi baby!" you ever did hear.  She is going to be so awesome as a big sister, of this I am 100% certain.  We gave her two baby dolls a few weeks ago and she now carries them both wherever she goes, feeds them, reads to them and sleeps with them.  We know she is too young to completely wrap her head around all this (I mean, I can barely wrap my head around all this!) but we think we're doing a pretty good job at priming her for what will surely be a world rocking event.

Anyway, a few pics to share.  Nothing much.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Cracking Open Coconuts: A Surefire Way for Men to Go Native

Want to see your husband turn into a veritable cave man?  Have him get a coconut out of a tree and then crack it open.  With his bare hands.  If you want to see even more grunting, muscle flexing and brute Neanderthal fervor - make it a competition between two men.  What ensues will be hilarious.

It started innocently enough, Scott and Luuck began by throwing rocks and smaller coconuts at the large ones high up in the trees in an attempt to get them down (this, mind you, is not easy).  Once both of them had fresh coconuts in their possession, what followed was a very rapid regression to their most animal instincts:  must. open. coconut. first.  They had no tools at their disposal, only their bare hands and some ground rocks.  No words were uttered and no bets were wagered, this was simply a show of brute force, and a hilarious one at that.

You should know that opening a coconut is a lot harder than it looks.  They have a semi-hard outer shell, followed by a straw-like middle core, and inside that is the brown "nut" which is rock-solid and houses the white, moist and crunchy coconut meat that so many of us are familiar with.  Using a machete or hammer, these babies are pretty easy to open.  With bare hands it becomes a different beast entirely.

They each clamored to their own respective rocks which were used to pound their coconuts on in an attempt to crack them (again, not easy).  There was no shortage of grunting, growling and heckling back and forth, but finally it was Luuck who emerged victorious.  His rock had a strategically advantageous point on which the coconut was easier to demolish.  But really we all won, because not only did we learn that we could survive on a deserted island (as long as there were coconuts) we got a delicious snack that afternoon.  And got to witness two men revert to barbarians, which was the cherry on top of course.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Picnic Dinner on a Deserted Island

We were hoping to find Johnny Depp and Kiera Knightly still marooned on Petit Tabac, but no dice.  We had it all to ourselves, which was the next best thing.  Famous for being the backdrop for a scene Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl, this little dollop of sand in the sea is just that, a tiny island sprouting a few palm trees surrounded by flickering and almost unnaturally crystalline teal water.  To say it's beautiful is an understatement.  It's everything you'd think an uninhabited Caribbean island would be.  I, for one, would gladly volunteer to be marooned with Johnny Depp here.

It's a bit of a trek to get to it by dinghy and we were super glad to have our handheld GPS (loaded with detailed charts of the Caribbean) which allowed us to navigate through the reefs and the lead the way to the beach safely.  Depsite the picturesque landing, we were greeted by the distinct odor of rotting flesh (what is with offensive odors these days?) and as soon as we anchored our dinghies, it became clear what it was.  There was a dead baby lemon shark on the beach, basking (i.e. rotting) in the sun.  It could have been dead hours or days, there was no telling - but it stank to high heaven.  It was very cool to see up close; the skin was thick like leather and felt like very fine sandpaper, the rows of teeth - though small - razor sharp, the body sleek, streamlined and solid - a perfectly evolved predator.  The kiddos had a blast checking him out.  But after ten minutes of ogling it was decided that our stinky beach companion was going to put a damper on our picnic, so we moved him downwind into the brush.  Luuck said it was shocking how heavy he was and grunted as he heaved the dead weight.  Despite his small size (no more than three feet long), he weighed no less than 60-70 pounds.  Pure muscle.  Solid as a rock.

We unloaded our dinner, the kids ran amok, the non-pregnant adults drank cold beers and it was about as good as an afternoon as it gets.  Yet another day where I thanked the Universe profusely for this life.

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