A Difficult Crossing

1/5/2022 

We made the decision to leave Cayo Culebra around noon on Thursday December 16th. That way, we would hopefully arrive in Honduras by dinner time on the 19th, three days later. Originally we had planned to go to Roatan, but then we saw a small island about 20 miles West of Roatan called Utila. None of us had ever heard of Utila, and when we found it on the chart, we didn’t have internet or cell service to do any research, so we just decided to go for it. This was a bit exciting because we would be arriving in a new country that none of us had ever been, at an Island we knew nothing about. The anticipation was high. Using the downloaded chart we were able to see the anchorage, that you could check into Customs and Immigration, and that there was good diving and a grocery store, but that’s all we knew. 

Kyle and I had really hoped that the weather had calmed down during our time waiting at Cayo Culebra. We were able to pull a few GRIBs using our satellite box, and the wind had certainly lessened, but the different models were showing mixed information on the sea state. However, it was the best weather window we had had, and were going to have a for at least a week, so the decision was made to go for it. The four of us divided the chores to turn the boat from a house back into an ocean going vessel: deflate the dinghy and bring it on deck, secure everything down below, make up the beds in the main cabin (you don’t usually sleep in the v-berth while sailing, especially in rougher seas), change out the head sail, secure the dinghy motor, and a few other odds and ends. At noon, we motored away from our anchorage, said goodbye to the little island that had provided us protection and been our home, and turned towards the mouth of the bay. 

I’d like to continue this blog post by saying it was a lovely crossing and we had a great time making it to Utila, but that would be a lie- especially for me. If i’m being 100% honest, which after some considering, I have decided to do in this post, it was the worst and most miserable two days of my entire life that I can remember. I thought maybe I would just write “it was a bit of a rough passage and I didn’t feel well, but we made it safely to Utila” and leave it at that. But many of you have asked me to share the good and the bad, so that’s what I’m going to do. 

I’ll start by saying that Kyle, Mason, and Zoie had a completely different experience than me. The three days are a blur for me, but I have vivid memories of Mason and Zoie playing cards in the cockpit, both of them sitting with their back leaned against the companionway, reading books on their kindles. Kyle making dinner and singing sea shanties. He was watching movies on his off watch! The passage was rough, the seas were confused, but for them, it wasn’t that bad. Was it comfortable and easy? No. But it really wasn’t too terrible of a passage. It was definitely a very authentic experience for Mason and Zoie of what offshore passages are like. Sometimes you have passages with following wind and seas that are what I would call perfect. Sometimes, the winds are light so the seas are calm, so it’s slow but super comfortable. But in reality, to be an offshore sailor, you find yourself in conditions similar to what we experienced from time to time. It was safe, Safi was happy as could be, and we were making great time to our destination. It was salty, lots of spray onto the deck, but the dodger kept us dry. There were some beautiful sunsets and sunrises and life aboard, while a bit uncomfortable due to the movement, continued on as normal as can be in those conditions. My goal in sharing that first, is to give some insight that the experience I am about to share was solely mine- not that of everyone on board. 

I can’t remember how soon after we left the protected waters of the bay that I began to feel sick. I think I decided to go lay down and nap for a couple hours. I am prone to seasickness, but over the years I have it pretty dialed in on how to not get sick. I do a variety of natural remedies such as: acupuncture points, essential oils, ginger supplements, sound therapy. And then I always take over the counter medication- dramamine or something of the sort. Then I try to sleep for a few hours once we get underway so my body can acclimate while asleep. I have also spent months working on something called the Puma Method, a method created by a doctor who trained astronauts to avoid motion sickness. I have tried RX patches behind the ear, and every other remedy I have ever heard of. For whatever reason, none of the above worked for me on this passage. I awoke from my nap and felt awful. I had zero appetite and drinking water was a chore. I tried to stay calm on that first day because “I usually feel better by day two”. And on top of that, on a small boat, it’s very important to keep a positive attitude for the morale of the crew. So while I let everyone know I didn’t feel well, I didn’t let on to just how bad it was. 

By the middle of second day I still couldn’t eat. I had not eaten anything other than a couple measly bites of various food I thought I could stomach for 24 hours. My water intake was decreasing, and because I couldn’t eat or drink, I wasn’t able to take any more seasickness medication because it was tearing up my empty stomach. So I went into survival mode. I did my watches- every single one- and then I would crawl into bed and fold myself into fetal position. A couple times I hung out in the cockpit and tried to have conversations in order to take my mind off of how awful I felt, but that didn’t last. Eventually, other than my watches and throwing up, I did nothing but lay in a ball. By the evening of day two Kyle was beginning to worry about me. He tried to make me food. He tried to do anything he could to make me feel better. But I barely had the energy to respond to him. I began to get really weak. And that is when my mental state began to deteriorate. I am not quite sure how to explain this part – the physical part of seasickness is easy enough to understand- I felt like shit. I would drink a sip of water, and throw up. I would take a bite of bread, and throw up. I was nauseous, my stomach hurt, my head was pounding. We’ve all been sick before. But on the second night I found myself filled with anxiety. And this incredible sadness that I couldn’t quite figure out. On top of that, all I wanted was for the boat to STOP MOVING. But it just rolled and bashed along and for ~60  hours we were in a washing machine. As I lay in my bunk on my off watch, I started crying and that’s when I realized where the anxiety and sadness was coming from. 

Kyle and I had worked so incredibly hard to make this happen. We had been dreaming and planning of a boat like this. A trip like this, for almost 6 years. We felt like we had finally done it. We had a big solid boat. A boat that could take us across oceans and bring crew and family and friends along as well. We had a home. A two bedroom, one bathroom home! I had painted every nook and cranny of the boat. Kyle hand built and welded the dodger and stern arch. We had put up a new mast and rigging. We painted the deck. We sanded the top sides. We fixed up her bottom job. We had poured all of our money, time, sweat, and tears into Safi. Into turning our dream into a reality. And there we were, sailing from Mexico to Honduras, with great crew and a not-too-bad weather window. It was everything we had hoped for. And yet, there I was, curled in a ball wishing to be absolutely anywhere in the world other than on that damn boat. And the reality of that hit me hard. My thoughts were racing: What the hell are we going to do if we’re on an ocean crossing and this happens? This isn’t sustainable. I don’t even think I can make it 18 more hours until we arrive in Utila! We already have crew lined up for the next part of our trip! I can’t quit, but I can’t do this again?! Poor Kyle, he has to do everything himself- Mason and Zoie are amazing crew and super helpful and doing all their watches and participating in every way they can, but they aren’t experienced sailors which means Kyle’s out there doing the sail changes and skipping sleep while at the same time worrying about me. Why can’t I just be stronger? Eat something Danielle. You can do it. Get up. Brush your teeth. Eat something. Anything. Pull out of this…. and they just kept racing. 

So I tried. I got up. I went and brushed my teeth, and before I could even spit out the toothpaste I was over the side of the boat puking. But I didn’t have any water or food in me to puke, so instead I dry heaved and I silently sobbed in between the dry heaving. I. Can’t. Do. This. 

The sun rose the morning of the third day. We would be arriving in  Utila that afternoon. 10 more hours. But that felt too long. Instead of feeling relief that we would be arriving that afternoon, I felt like I couldn’t make it 10 more hours. And again, I didn’t share these feelings with anyone. I let Kyle know a little bit what I was going through, but I mostly went inward and kept to myself. While it is important to communicate while living in a small space with 4 people,  I also knew there was nothing that could be done other than for the movement of the boat to stop. So sharing my feelings would just bring the morale down. I pushed on. I tried to lay in my bunk, but I found myself feeling panic in my chest, so I went and laid in the cockpit. The wind helped. And honestly, underneath how horrible I felt, it was absolutely beautiful out. The sky was a mixture of pastel colored clouds and smears of blue. The waves were big, but in a beautiful sort of way. Safi was making 6 knots and sailing along happily. The crew morale was higher being that we would be arriving soon. I kept looking at the chart on my phone to see how long we had to go. 20 nautical miles. We’re making 6 knots. 20 / 6 = 3.3 hours. 18 nautical miles left. 3 hours. And then eventually, Mason, Zoie and I were sitting in the cockpit and I saw land. I didn’t even have it in me to yell “land ho!” so instead I weakly said: “land.” And Zoie and Mason said “what!? Where?!” And thankfully they had it in them and they yelled “LAND HO!!” and in that instant, I felt some relief. I knew we were still hours away, but I could see it. I could feel it. At some point Kyle made me a plane piece of toast and I was able to eat it. Then I drank a few cups of water. And it was difficult to hold it in, but after 48 hours of not eating, I knew I had to do it. So slowly, with the help of Kyle, Mason, and Zoie, I nursed myself back to life. 

And then land was getting closer and closer until we could make out trees on the island. And the island protruded from the sea and there was a small mountain and it all looked so luscious and green. And little by little, I began to feel better because as we got closer to land, the waves calmed down a bit as the bigger island of Roatan provided some protection, even though it was 20 miles away. And then we were so close that it was time to turn down wind to head into the anchorage. And just like that, in an instant the boat stopped moving the way it had been. We sailed down the waves, the boat surged forward in a calm and controlled manner. I went down below and opened all the hatches. I grabbed a granola bar and more water and sat in the cockpit with Kyle, Mason, and Zoie and we all oohed and ahhed as we looked through the binoculars. We made guesses at how many people lived on the island. We all talked about what food we were craving. We dreamed of hiking to the top of the mountain. And while I still felt weak, and in the back of my mind all those dark thoughts were still racing, I had a smile on my face and felt hopeful and excited. And we took pictures and we laughed and we enjoyed the calm water as we sailed into the anchorage. I knew deep down that what happened would have to be addressed. That it couldn’t be ignored anymore. I have been trying for over 7 years to get over my seasickness, and it was very clear to me during that passage that I was losing the battle. And that couldn’t be ignored anymore. But those thoughts made me so sad and so I said to myself: Danielle, we have just arrived. Celebrate. Bring yourself back to nourishment and a better mental state. Enjoy the moments. You have plenty of time to figure out the rest. And little did I know, I would have more than plenty of time. 

So we dropped anchor in the protected bay of Utila. We went about turning the boat from an ocean going vessel into a home. But we had to be quick. It was 3:30pm and it was a Saturday and we really wanted to check into Honduras that day or else we’d be stuck on the boat until Monday. So we moved quickly- Mason and Kyle working on the dinghy, me and Zoie down below cleaning the boat. I found myself moving too quickly. I had to remind myself how weak I still was and sat down for a minute. “I know we are in a rush, but I have to go swimming. I need to jump in the water.” So while everyone else worked and got ready to go ashore, I jumped into the ocean. And I let the ocean water heal me. It encapsulated me and it revitalized me. Words can’t describe the feeling of refreshment I experienced. I put my head under the water and whether it was my own inner knowing or the voice of the sea, I heard, “it’s all going to be okay.” And it was. 

The boat was transformed and we all grabbed our bags. I grabbed the document folder and stuffed it into my backpack with my water bottle and a peanut butter jelly sandwich Mason had made me. We climbed into the dinghy and headed to the dinghy dock at the grocery store we had read about on the chart. As always, when we stepped foot on solid ground we all wobbled and giggled. And then we walked out of the alley from the grocery store and all just stood there in disbelief for a moment. Motorcycles, tuk tuks, bicycles, people whizzed by in every direction. Music played from speakers. The smell of food of every cuisine filled our nostrils. The sound of vehicles, people, music, dogs, children, filled our ears. After being at sea, even for only 3 days, your senses become really heightened. And because we spent so much time at the anchorage in Mexico before being at sea, we were really sensitive. It was exciting and we wandered around aimlessly for a moment looking for the immigration office. What were the chances it would be open on a Saturday at 4pm? 

Thankfully, it was. And the Port Captain was sitting at his desk. He had us stand at the doorway while we put on our masks and verified we had all been vaccinated. He then took the paperwork from us, checked our documents from Mexico. “This says you were heading to Roatan?” I responded, “that was the plan, but the weather decided differently.” He laughed and said, “well you are welcome here. But immigration is closed until Monday. You are unofficially checked into the country, so feel free to explore, but be back here Monday at 9am to check-in officially.” We all four breathed a sigh of relief and let out little giggles. 

“Well.. let’s go find food and beer!” Kyle exclaimed. 

We wandered the busy streets of Utila. I found a spot to quickly buy a local sim card so we could let our families know we had made it safely. It was a lovely little island from what we could tell. Clean, not too touristy, and none of the locals pressed us to buy anything or take taxis. We made our way up a hill and found a restaurant called the Mango Inn. The first few hours after coming ashore are always a bit exciting. We were in a new place none of us had been. We had zero expectations and each moment was filled with a joyfulness. 

Once we sat down at the table and everyone connected to the wifi, we all went into cell phone world while we enjoyed our first beer. That’s when I received two emails that would confirm my earlier feeling of “it’s okay Danielle, you have plenty of time.” Originally the plan had been to make our way to San Andres, Colombia in order to meet our next crew who was due to arrive on January 2nd. And then after that, head to Bocos Del Toro, Panama to meet our next crew. It was only the 19th of December, so we had plenty of time to make it to San Andres, but after that passage I was feeling rather stressed about the idea of another 3-4 day offshore passage, but I told myself to let it go and enjoy the first night and figure it out later. Well, when I opened my email, after deleting 20+ spam messages, I had one email from each of our next crew. My uncle, who was going to sail with us from San Andres to Bocos Del Toro wrote to tell me he had broken his collarbone and had to get surgery and could no longer join us. The next email was from the crew who was going to meet us in Bocos and sail with us towards the Galapagos. She wrote to say she could no longer come either. And as had been my habit, I checked in on two of the countries we tentatively planned to visit after the Panama Canal. One of them had changed their entry requirements again, in light of Omicron, and there was a high chance we wouldn’t be allowed to visit there anyway. 

While I found myself rather disappointed about my Uncle, one because I felt terrible about his broken collar bone, and two I had been really excited to spend time with him and show one of my family members what cruising life is all about, I also felt a huge wave of relief come over me. I took a deep breath and thought about what this really meant. It meant that our direction and timeline had pretty much diminished. We could go anywhere, at anytime. We no longer had any obligations and finding out that our intended path might be impacted by Covid, left where we should go next sort of up in the air. 

“It’s okay Danielle, you have plenty of time.” I smiled to myself. Clearly that inner voice was correct earlier in the day. A good reminder to trust my intuition. 

Being people who believe in signs from the Universe, and recently have listened to the Alchemist on audiobook, Kyle and I took the entire situation as a sign or omen, from the Universe. A sign to slow down. When we made our timeline and plan, we were back in Florida. We were working 14 hour days, 7 days a week. We were in hustle bustle, go go go mode. So it makes sense that when planning our cruising season we would take on a similar mindset- go go go, get as much done as possible. Do I think we could have accomplished that original plan (minus the Covid roadblocks)? Yes I do. But at what cost? 

Kyle held up his beer to me, “Well, I’d say the Universe is trying to tell us something. We’re listening!” We laughed and clinked our beer bottles together. 

I knew it would take some time to really let this all settle in. We had planned to head South to San Andres, but now with no one meeting us there, we didn’t need to do that anymore, unless we wanted to. We were in Utila, and found out about all these other islands in Honduras we wanted to check out. What about Belize? Guatemala? There were so many places right near us that wouldn’t require long offshore hops that we could explore. Slow down. I heard my inner voice say again. Slow down. 

And so that’s exactly what we did. It was only December 19th, and Mason and Zoie wouldn’t be leaving until the 26th. We still had time to explore with them, and to explore Utila, the reefs, and the island as a whole. And after that? We didn’t know. And for some reason, instead of bringing me anxiety of not knowing, I felt an extreme peace. I was so content with not knowing what was next. We could go anywhere. Do anything. For the first time in years, I felt really free. And I knew that this time of unknowing, would allow me to go inward and figure out what it is I want. What we want. And as I sat at anchor in Utila, looking at the luscious green island in front of me, the dive boats off to my left and heard the laughter of our crew down below in the cabin, I thought to myself, “what a lovely place to work it all out.” 

As I write this, we are anchored in Roatan, Honduras. It’s been a few weeks since our crossing to Utila, and they have been a wonderful couple of weeks filled with contemplation, exploration, celebration, and most importantly, a very slow pace. So here’s a little reminder to slow down 🙂 Stay tuned for my next post where i’ll introduce you to one of my favorite places i’ve ever been- the Bay Islands of Honduras. 

*There aren’t many pictures to share from this crossing. And the ones I have were not taken by me, mostly Mason and Zoie, so photo credit goes to them 🙂 *

Cayo Culebra

12/15/2021

Day in and day out, this lifestyle presents me with a new opportunity to let go of all my planning and figuring out, and instead leaves me realizing I can’t plan it all out. I wonder how many times I am going to have to learn this lesson. Maybe forever, maybe it’s my life path to be presented with this over and over again. It’s humbling though, living in a way that takes me by surprise at every bend. 

I am currently sitting in the cockpit sipping on warm coffee out of my favorite thrift store mug. The water is mostly calm, but has some wavelets that bounce the boat up and down in a soothing manner. To my right is luscious green mangroves. To my left is horizon as far as I can see. Kyle is down below at the chart table working on Solidworks, and Mason and Zoie are asleep in the v-berth. The sun is just rising, and it’s creating a glare on my computer screen, making it difficult for me to see. I’ll have to change positions soon. The land to my right is an island called Cayo Culebra. It’s located in  the bay called Bahia De La Ascension on the East coast of Mexico, south of Cozumel. 

There is no one in this bay. Just the four of us and Safi. We have been here since Monday morning. The days have started to blur together again, and yesterday it took me, Kyle and Zoie a few minutes to figure out what day of the week it was and what the date was, before we finally looked at a phone to confirm. 

On Sunday morning we pulled out of our slip in Isla Mujeres, motored away from the island, turned South towards Roatan, and set sails. Mason steered the boat for the first hour or so, he seemed to really enjoy it. But eventually it gets tiring, and we turned on the autopilot, which stayed on all the way until we dropped anchor 24 hours later. Having an autopilot and a windvane, both things make it so we don’t have to steer, is absolutely essentail to cruising. I would never go anywhere long distance without them. Being on watch consists of looking for ships, adjusting sails, checking our course, and just making sure everything is going okay. But you can still go down below for a minute to ues the bathroom, make some coffee, grab a snack or whatever else. It provides a lot of freedom and really helps reduce fatigue. 

The sea state was much larger than forecasted, and the journey was quite rolly and lumpy. Mason and Zoie both got sick at the exact same time. I was sleeping down below, Kyle was on watch, and Mason and Zoie were feeling just fine, sitting in the cockpit. And suddenly they both sat up and puked over the side. Kyle then gave them dramamine and they passed out for 4 hours. When they woke up they were feeling much better- I made them peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, had them drink as much water as possible, gave them one more dramamine, and told them to try and sleep down below. Sleeping is the best thing you can do when seasick because it allows your body to acclimate while you’re asleep so you don’t have to deal with the effects. It clearly worked because that evening they made veggie stir fry with rice while we sailed passed Cozumel. Thankfully they were both such great sports about the whole thing. Their attitudes were unwavered and they were able to laugh and joke about it, without getting upset or feeling distraught. Attitude is so important in this lifestyle, as it can make it or break it. 

However, since the sea state was rougher than expected, Kyle and I pulled another GRIB file (this is how we check wind, wave, and weather forecasts at sea). The GRIB showed that the storm front was moving up, and would be arriving sooner than expected. We once again, had to make the difficult decision to change plans. We considered pulling into Cozumel and anchoring in the lee of the island, but this would require us to check back into Mexico (not a simple process at all on a boat). It also would involve being in a super touristy area, which none of us had any interest in. But we knew the passage to Roatan would be uncomfortable and possibly a bit scary for our new crew, so we had to come up with another plan. I found a small bay south of Cozumel that had an achorage symbol and some reviews written by other cruisers about how amazing of a spot it was. We decided that was the answer. It was 7pm when we made this decision, and we were 12 hours away, this would give us time to get there and in through the reefs while the sun was coming up, and also arrive before the higher winds were forecasted. 

The passage from the lee of Cozumel to Bahia De La Ascension was a good one. The seas were still a bit lumpy, but had calmed down. The wind was consistent, and if it weren’t for the current against us, we would have been making 6-7 knots the whole way. Instead we only made 4-5 knots over ground, but it was perfect timing as we didn’t want to arrive to the entrance in the dark since it was surrounded by reefs. Kyle and I took turns on watch, and Mason and Zoie each took a night watch. Since it was their first time, Kyle and I took turns sleeping in the cockpit while they were on watch. So Kyle took watch from 8pm-10pm and then Zoie took watch from 10pm-midnight, but Kyle was sleeping in the cockpit during her watch, so if anything happened or she had any questions, he was right there. Then at midnight, I took watch until 2am by myself. At 2am Mason came to take watch, while I slept in the cockpit until 4am. It worked out well, and Kyle and I both got some sleep throughout the night. Zoie’s shift started with a small rainstorm which caused the wind and waves to pick up for a minute, and Kyle and I had to change the sail configuration. Ten minutes later it was over, and we went back to full sails and a peaceful night. But we all laughed the next day that poor Zoie was introduced to night watch during a squall while Mason had a perfectly clear, peaceful, evening filled with stars and consistent wind. That’s the name of the game though. They both handled it all so well. I am very impressed with both of them. This is not an easy thing to do, and it takes a lot of courage to sit in the cockpit at night and keep an eye on everything. Especially when you’d really rather be sleeping.  

Around 6am Kyle came below and woke me up. “We’re about to head in between the reefs, i’d like you to come navigate with me.” I hopped out of bed, put on a sweatshirt, and joined Kyle in the cockpit. Since we don’t have to steer the boat, we sat together for a few minutes and enjoyed the pre-dawn. The closer to shore we got, the calmer the seas became, so as each moment passed, each moment became more tranquil. We had one mile on each side of us between the reefs, we weren’t even close enough to see or hear waves crashing on them, but anytime a boat is near a reef it is important to be on full alert. So we utilized all our tools: our eyes, ears, the chart, the compass, the depth sounder, binoculars, a second chart, the navigation app. We just kept verifying we were on course and heading into the deep waters of the entrance. The entrance was uneventful, we were able to sail our way in, and once in clear of the reefs we turned and the seas instantly became flat, as though someone turned off a switch. The sun was beginning to rise, and the pre-dawn colors were magnificent. Mason and Zoie were still both asleep, and I had a strong urge to wake them, but decided against it. Safi glided along the surface of the water, making 5 knots and it barely felt like she was moving. Eventually Mason and Zoie woke up, and they were able to come on deck and enjoy the experience of watching the sunrise, the calm of entering a protected bay, and put eyes on the island which would become our home for the following 3.5 days. 

By 7:30am we had rounded the island, dropped anchor, and began the process of turning the boat from a sea-going vessel into a floating home for 4. I made everyone a big breakfast of eggs, toast, tortillas, hashbrowns, and avacados. Mason and Kyle launched the dinghy. Zoie helped clean up the boat and get breakfast ready. By 9:45am we were all fed, the boat was clean and organized, and the dinghy was floating happily behind us. It was time to explore. 

I have tried to start this paragraph multiple times, but the words keep escaping me. It is Wednesday morning, we have been anchored in this bay for two days and we leave tomorrow afternoon for Honduras. The last two days have been nothing short of magical. On Monday after we arrived, we took the dinghy to the beach on the point of the island. We brought a machete for coconuts, a frisbee, some towels, lots of sunscreen and water. Within minutes of making land fall on the island, Kyle was up a coconut tree throwing down fresh coconuts. We waded out into the shallows to avoid the no-see-ums, fire ants, and mosquitos that tend to plague tropical islands, and let the cool ocean water rejuvinate our bodies after a 24 hours passage. Kyle used the machete to open the coconuts and we drank fresh coconut water while the waves lapped on our waists. 

We played frisbee for hours in the shallows. Mason and Zoie are both on frisbee teams so they are quite good. It was fun playing in the shallow water because we were all much more willing to dive to catch the frisbee as the water provided a soft landing. While we were playing a raincloud rolled in and provided a torrential downpour for a few minutes. We kept playing through it all, and enjoyed the cool, fresh water. 

That evening we decided to pull out the projector and have a movie night on the boat. We hung the projector in the companionway in front of the stairs. Kyle and I sat on the starboard settees (right side couch) and Mason and Zoie on the port (left side). We ate freshly made pizza Kyle had baked for dinner and a fresh crunchy salad while we watched a movie about climbing. The wind was howling around us and we were so glad to be safely anchored behind the island and not out sailing to Roatan. It was cozy and wonderful. 

The following days are a blur of exploring, relaxing, eating, swimming, napping, and reading. One day we went back to the island, but this time with a mission to explore inland. However, we knew it was very overgrown and that the bugs would be terrible, so we wore pants, long sleeves, shoes, and bug spray. We made our way into the mangroves and bush whacked through a variety of tropical plants, trees, and bushes. All around us were hermit crabs. By the thousands! If you looked at one spot on the ground long enough, it would just start moving and you’d begin to notice all these shells of various sizes moving around. We really didn’t want to step on them, so we made our way carefully deeper into the island. Kyle and Mason were on coconut missions, while Zoie and I just enjoyed the walk and tried not to get mauled by bugs. Eventually we had gone as far as we could, and all stopped in the bushes and ate some fresh coconut. 

Another day, or maybe it was the same day but later in the day? Who knows. We blew up some floats and tied them off the back of the boat. Mason and Zoie floated behind the boat for a bit while I did laundry and Kyle did boat projects. Eventually we joined them and enjoyed cooling off in the clear water. One night Mason went up the mast at sunset and the following morning Zoie did the same. The view from the top of the mast is unbeatable, and they got some awesome photos of Safi.

Fortuntely we are all avid readers, so some parts of the days were spent reading for hours on end. Food was also a big part of our little floating world. Zoie became the baker and baked the most wonderful banana bread. Kyle did a red sauce curry, and Mason and Zoie did tacos. I was usually the breakfast maker. 

Continued on 1/2/2022 

I’ve had a lot of time to reflect on our time in Cayo Culebra. And something that I noticed was how much I enjoyed the “in between” feeling. We technically were checked out of Mexico and supposed to have left their waters, but because of the change of forecast, we hid behind Cayo Culebra. This is a bit of a grey area when it comes to immigration. They are understanding of sailors and the need to wait for weather, but they also would like you to leave the country when you check out. So there we were, in what felt like the middle of nowhere, not checked into Mexico, not checked into Honduras, and not checked into the U.S. We were just sort of floating there, in between, waiting for the seas to calm down. And there was something magical about that. Something special about the fact that we were just this little floating self-sufficient home. We had plenty of food, we used the water maker to turn salt water into drinking water, so had endless fresh water. Our solar panels powered all of our technology, and the dinghy provided a sense of not being stuck on the boat. We didn’t have cell phone service, we didn’t see a single person the entire time we were there, and the island was so idealic looking. I find myself feeling quite grateful for our time there. In the hustle bustle of the world, it is difficult to find 4 days to just slow down and experience stillness. Like life was on pause. 

And now, almost 3 weeks later, I write this from anchor in Honduras. And I smile because I now have the hindsight to see how quickly life can go from being on pause to just the opposite. And I giggle at my first paragraph of this post- I wrote that on December 15th, and today, on January 2nd, things are going even less according to “the plan”. And you know what? That’s okay. In fact, it’s beautiful, and I look forward to sharing our journey after we left Cayo Culebra. 

What I am beginning to really learn is that there is no plan. We can choose a direction. We can guide ourselves towards a destination, but as cliche as it sounds, the journey, not the destination, is what this is all about. So once again, I am letting go of this idea of a plan and rather moving with intention towards what I feel called to do. 

“Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about un-becoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.” -Paulo Coelho 

*Photo credit goes to: Kyle, myself, Mason, and Zoie*

Isla Mujeres

12/11/2021 

The last few days have been spent hanging out in Isla Mujeres. Our crew from the Florida to Mexico crossing left on Tuesday to head to mainland and explore some Mayan ruins. Kyle and I decided to stay put and enjoy a few days of relaxing. Well, some small boat projects and relaxing 😉 

The marina where we are docked is rather nice. The entire place is built and decorated with mosaic tiles. The showers, which are also completely laid out in mosaic tiles, are outside and have a large rain type shower head. The water gets hot and I love the roof being open to the sky. While I shower the palm trees above my head sway back and forth, and when I shower at night, I can see the moon. Kyle and I have been going swimming at sunset, or shortly after, off the beach. There are two cement tables covered in colorful tiles a few yards out into the water. The other night we brought some wine, a tray of nuts, raisins, cheese, and crackers, and waded out into the water to sit at the tables. There we watched the sunset and eventually as it got dark, went for a swim.  It was romantic and quite lovely. I found myself watching the sunset, Kyle sitting next to me, our lower bodies submerged in the ocean water, the sky clear above us, and feeling incredibly grateful. I then started laughing at myself as I realized I was then feeling grateful for the wave of gratitude that came over me. It was a special evening. 

The days sort of blur together here. The other boats next to us on the dock all had only planned to be here for a week. The one next to us has been here for 6 weeks, the one across from us a year, and the one to our left a couple months. I can see why. The level of relaxtation, easy going-ness, and simplicity at this little marina is something unique. On top of that, all the employees are so friendly, seem to like their jobs, and have a commradere that is wonderful to watch. So anyway, that being said, I told Kyle we better get out of here before we don’t leave. 

Yesterday afternoon after a slow morning on the boat, we walked down to the ferry dock. There, with hundreds of tourists, we waited in line for the ferry to take us over to mainland Cancun. Once we arrived in Cancun, after saying “no gracias” innumerous times to taxi drivers, we found a marine supply store. We needed a new bulb for our gasoline hose for the outboard, and they had one in stock. 

The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering around Cancun looking for various things we needed for the boat: some small rope, new clips for our snorkels, a bolt, a yoga mat. It was an adventure to say the least. In running these errands, we quickly left the tourist area behind, and found ourselves at the local hardware store, a department store, and a local fishing store. I enjoy errands like these because I feel like I get a more authentic experience of the place we are visiting. Staying on the tourist stretch seems to be a bit of an artificial experience of what the locals are actually living. During the two hours we traveled around looking for things, I only saw locals. The people in Cancun were very friendly. Each store employee took their time to work with us through the language gap, and we laughed and figured it out together. I speak some Spanish- but the problem I have is how quickly the locals speak. I can’t keep up! We were having a difficult time trying to explain that we needed a clip for our snorkel and when the employee finally figured out what we were trying to say, he cheered and laughed and showed us where they were. 

Around 4pm we finished our errands but still had an hour or so until we needed to meet our new crew at the bus station. We ducked into a local bar and had a beer while we waited. The experience at the bar was hilarious. This again, was not a touristy bar. And they had this huge screen playing music off of Youtube. So you have to picture this- a bar in a neighborhood in Cancun. Kyle and I are the only Americans in the bar. There are zero children in this bar. It is mostly men who look like they just got off work. And on this huge screen they start blasting “Baby Shark”. If you don’t know that song, good for you, if you do… Baby shark doo doo doo doo.. Baby shark doo doo doo doo.. baby shark. (You’re welcome 😉 ) The music was SO loud. Kyle and I have decibel readers on our phones so that when using tools and doing various things in the shop we can know how loud things are. Kyle pulls out his phone and we were reading 101 decibels.. anything over 90 decibels for more than 15 minutes can damage your ears. So needless to say, the music was too loud. But it was hilarious. The whole thing made us giggle and we had a great time. 

We made our way to the bus station and found a spot to sit outside while we waited for our new crew to arrive: Mason and Zoie. Mason and I went to middle school and high school together. We were acquaintances and had some of the same friends, but weren’t particularly close. A couple months ago I posted on my Instagram looking for crew, and he responded. So after a few Zoom calls, emails, and messages back and forth, Mason and his girlfriend, Zoie, decided to join us in Isla. 

Once they arrived at the bus station, we took a taxi to the ferry dock and hopped on the next ferry back to Isla. The ferry ride was incredibly windy, and we had a great time standing on the top deck, trying to stand up against the wind. After we walked back to the marina, we introduced Mason and Zoie to Safi. I showed them their cabin, where to unpack their stuff, and some of the basics of the boat, but decided to leave the knitty gritty for the following morning. Kyle and I made kabobs for dinner on our little cockpit grill. They turned out great and we all sat around in the cabin eating terriyaki veggie kabobs with rice while getting to know each other a bit more. After dinner we went swimming off the beach at the marina and took outdoor showers. It was a lovely first evening with our new crew. 

Continued 12/15/21 

The following day consisted of errands, boat projects, grocery shopping, meeting with Custom and Immigration to check out of Mexico, and relaxing in the evening. The evening and day together made it very clear that we were all going to get along great and have a wonderful time. Mason and Zoie are both very easy going. They don’t know anything about sailing, and have never been sailing before, but they are relaxed, excited, and eager to learn. Which for me and Kyle, is all that matters. 

The original plan had been to sail from Isla Mujeres to a small island called Santanilla before heading south to San Andres, Colombia. However, a front from up north was coming in, and it was becoming clear to Kyle and I that this plan would not work out. We could have totally made it work, but it would have been rough conditions and not a great introduction to sailing. So thus, we had to come up with a new plan. That’s just part of the game in sailing. You go where the weather says to go. You try to plan in order to come up with a direction to head, but part of being a good Captain, in my opinion, is having the willingness to say “this isn’t going to work”- regardless of who it may disappoint or what the implications may be. Kyle is good at this, and he made the final decision that San Andres was not the right choice for the crew and so we spent an afternoon coming up with alternatives. Roatan, Honduras is closer, a better heading for the wind and wave conditions, and equally as cool to explore as San Andres. On top of that, none of us have ever been there. So just like that, we decided to head to a new country all together! We were all excited about this plan, and made the decision to leave on Sunday morning at first light.  

Isla Mujeres was a great time, and we enjoyed our stay at the marina, but I was feeling ready to move on, and went to bed on Saturday night feeling all the same feelings I felt before leaving Florida, but this time not as strong. I felt calmer, but also nervous. I felt excited, but also trepidatious. Ready and prepared, but not without the small voice in my head saying things like, “but are you really ready?” I have come to know this voice intimately. It seems to always be there, just lingering, waiting for a moment that I feel a little vulnerable. I used to try to ignore the voice, but now I allow myself to listen to it. I take the thoughts into consideration, I weigh all my options, and I then move forward with confidence, which quiets the voice. I wonder why we have these voices in our heads. I know not everyone has it, but I also know many people do. When you make a decision to do something big, something different, something scary. You feel good about the decision and are all ready to move forward, and then all these “what ifs” start popping up. Kyle tells me that’s the definition of  “cold feet”. I don’t know what it is. But I do know that if I gave in to this inner doubt, I wouldn’t have accomplished half the things I have accomplished in this life. So this is just a little reminder that you don’t have to live your life by the doubtful voice in your head. You can break free, and live the life you have always desired. I know this because I have to do it everyday. It’s a conscious choice to live the way we do. And it’s not easy, but based on where I am sitting right this moment, I can promise it’s worth it. 

Speaking of where I am sitting right this moment, it’s not Isla Mujeres, and it’s not Roatan. It’s this unexpected space in between that has turned out to be a magical few days. But for now, I’ll leave you with some photos from our time in Isla, and i’ll write more later. Thanks for reading. -D 

Let the adventures begin- again :)

11/29/2021

I have tried to start this blog post multiple times, but each time I find myself overwhelmed with where to start. So I decided to just start with right now. At this moment, I am sitting cross legged with my back leaned against my pillow. Kyle is laying next to me watching a movie. We are in our bedroom in the stern cabin. One of our crew members is asleep in the forward cabin. It is chilly outside, and I am sipping on hot throat coat tea. I feel calm. I feel nervous. I feel overwhelmed. I feel excited. I feel proud. In less than 2 days, we will untie our dock lines and motor out of our marina slip. We will motor out of the marina basin and then raise the sails, shut off the motor and turn our bow south towards Isla Mujeres, Mexico. We have done all of this before, but this time, we are in our own boat. In our new boat! Meet Safi. 

Some Specs about Safi: 

-40 feet long 

-11 feet 6 inches wide 

-all aluminum 

-2 cabins 

-1 bathroom/shower 

-2 settess that also convert into berths 

-a spacious galley (kitchen) 

-a hard dodger that we built from scratch 

-water maker 

-100% self-sufficient and solar powered 

It has been over a year since my last post and I can’t seem to find the words for all that has happened in a year. So I will again go to bullet points that are in no particular order. 

-Started a business called K & D Concepts LLC  which specializes in design, consultation, and execution. The last 6 months have been spent converting vehicles into tiny homes. After we finished the airstream, we realized we had a skill set that we should utilize, so we built out a shuttle bus and two sprinter vans. The amount of work we accomplished in such a short period of time is something that I am both proud and ashamed of. I am so proud of how hard we worked. Of how good we did. Of how our builds turned out. I am ashamed of how hard we worked. The amount of physical and mental stress I put on my body is not something to be proud of. We worked 14 hour days 6-7 days a week for 6 months straight with very little breaks. The work was hard. Laborious. Frustrating. SO frustrating. It was rewarding. It was filled with so much growth. Growth of skill sets, of our relationship and working together. Of what we are capable of. It was filled with arguments and tears. Of laughter and joy. But mostly it was filled with a sense of accomplishment. 

-Unexpectedly bought an all aluminum sailboat out of the Bahamas. Kyle flew into Marsh Harbor for a weekend to see  the boat and we bought it. It didn’t have a mast. It had been damaged in the hurricane and it needed a lot of TLC. But we knew the bones were good, and we knew it was a chance to create the home we have always wanted. Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE Sirocco, our previous boat, which, by the way, is currently for sale- but we wanted to bring on crew. We wanted to go bigger- both figuratively and literally. The Bahamas were great, but we were ready to expand and we wanted to invite others to do that with us. So we needed a bigger boat, and thus, we found Safi. 

-After we finished the van builds, we went straight to working on the refit of Safi. This again, is something that I can not believe we pulled off in two months. The list of things we did to the boat is pages long, and it was just as much work as the vans. But we did it. 

-Traveled to Virginia to work on our property a bit and begin the permitting process for building next summer. 

-I finished my book about the river trip! Over 300 hours and 138,000 words later, my first draft is finished. I am almost done editing myself, and then it’s time to find a professional editor/publisher. So I am really looking forward to that journey this year. 

-Kyle expanded his skill set in Solidwords and computer-aided design with a various amount of projects and ideas that he has developed. He used this skill set during all of the build-outs and the boat refit. We could not have accomplished what we did without his ability to design and execute. 

-Spent lots of time with family and friends. Grew some roots in Florida. This made it much more difficult to get ready to leave- but all of the friends and family that we spent time with helped us so much in preparing for this trip. I know for a fact that we would not have pulled off what we did in the time period in which we did, without their support. Thank you so much to every single one of you who helped us in this journey. We are thinking of you the entire way. 

-And lots more- but I think i’ll continue on to the present moment now. 

12/7/2021 

This morning I find myself, yet again sitting cross legged aboard Safi. This time, I am in the cockpit and  in a different country. We arrived in Isla Mujeres, Mexico on Sunday December 5th after 5 days and 4 nights at sea. We left St. Petersburg on December 1st in Safi with two crew members: Cary and Ian. This was our first time taking on crew, and it was wonderful. Not only were things easier because we had longer off watches, more hands to work with when sailing, and all the added benefits of extra people cooking, cleaning, and generally just living- but more importantly it was so much fun. It was so special to get to share such an intimate experience with new people. It was just the 4 of us out there aboard Safi. We saw a couple cargo and cruise ships in the distance and some dolphins visited our bow from time to time, but mostly for 5 days- it was just the 4 of us. And we shared all the highs and lows that come with living at sea for that long. The nervousness that overcomes when you first lose sight of land. The joy when the wind picks up and Safi surges through the waves. The excitement over a shared dinner at sunset while Safi sails into the horizon. The smell and feel of salt water on our skin and hair. The laughter we experienced jumping off the back of the boat and quickly grabbing onto a rope. The disappointment when we hit a 2 knot current against us and slowed down for an entire day. The exhaustion experienced when on watch in the middle of the night by yourself. The fear that sometimes creeps up when the seas get bigger. Followed by the complete awe of the power of the ocean and the simplicity of being a small boat floating along. 

It is hard to put into words, and this is part of the reason we chose to take crew. We want to share this rare experience with anyone who is interested. We posted an ad on Crewseekers and on my Instagram, and after months of Zoom calls, emails and conversations with strangers, family, and old friends we have crew for the next few months. Kyle and I are very excited. We are very proud of Safi and we are proud to share her and the experiences she brings with others. 

Cary and Ian are both engineers. They knew each other in college, and Cary introduced us to Ian as a suggested 4th crew member for the Florida to Mexico crossing. Kyle, Ian and Cary had a lot in common in the engineering world. I was so glad Kyle had people to talk to who understood what he was talking about. I try, but that is not how my brain works, so it was lovely to have like-minded people on board.

I found myself spending a lot of time alone. Listening to my audio books, my favorite songs, and just simply sitting and watching the waves. After such a crazy few months leading up to leaving, the waves and stars were calming. I found comfort in them, knowing that regardless of how much I might have lost sight of myself and my connection with nature during the months leading up to leaving, they were still right there. Waiting to be appreciated. I am grateful for that. Grateful for the waves, the wind, and the stars. Grateful for the 5 days I was able to spend working through various emotions and exhaustion. Though many moments of the journey were quite difficult for me, I came out of it with so much more clarity. It was a clear reminder that I am on the right path. The path I want to be on. The path filled with an intimacy to nature that I can’t find anywhere but deep in the mountains or at sea. A path filled with adventure and new horizons. A path that has led me to the realization that the only certainty in life is uncertainty. We have no idea what is going to happen tomorrow. We don’t know how long we have on this earth. I like to think of it as a cosmic river. We don’t know the river’s destination or when we are going to arrive. We don’t have a lot of control in the big picture. But what can control is how we choose to spend our time.  We can guide ourselves down this river of life, and I know that when my time does come, I want to have felt truly alive. And expeditions such as these, give me that on a deep level. 

That being said, I still find myself feeling homesick. I miss my parents. Our dogs. My best friends. I miss the ability to call up a friend at any moment and get a coffee or have a sleepover. The simple walks with the dogs and my parents in the mornings and evenings. Shared meals and the inside jokes we all have with each other. Those are things that I miss greatly and those are also the reasons why I only want to do expeditions like this for 6 months at a time. Half the year adventuring, and half the year working to afford the adventuring which thus allows us to grow roots and spend that quality time with friends and family. Life is a great balancing act and I have yet to figure it all out. And i’m sure I never will. But for now, I look around me and see the crystal clear water of Mexico. I hear catamarans filled with tourists in orange life jackets listening to loud music and laughing and dancing. I notice the movements of the boat as a wake passes under her hull. I feel the sun on my back and the breeze on my face. And in this moment I find presence. I find peace in knowing that life is a grand adventure and i’m doing my best to enjoy the journey. 

I don’t have much written about our passage. I was acclimating to the seas and to being underway again. I wasn’t in the mood to write or get out my computer. Maybe one day soon i’ll do a little write up about what our days actually looked like and going into more details about our watch schedule and how things work on the boat. But for now, I wanted to get back into the rhythm of this blog which has been there for me during our expeditions. So for today, I will leave you with the one journal entry I did make on our crossing as well as a plethora of photos and videos which might provide some insight into what life on the water is like. 

Our next crew arrives on Friday and shortly after we will make our way to San Andres, Colombia- stopping at a few islands along the way. Stay tuned as I get back into the groove. 

Thanks for reading, I’m happy to be back. Cheers.

-Danielle aka Flipper 😉

12/4/2021

It is the last night of our crossing to Mexico. Kyle is down below cooking tacos and I can smell the taco seasoning from my seat on the foredeck. Ian and Cary are in the cockpit fixing their fishing lure as they just caught a fish but lost it at the last minute. The sun is beginning to set on the horizon. We are flying the pink spinnaker and between the orange glow of the sun and the pink glow of the spinnaker, I feel I am floating in an ocean of colors. The orange is reflecting on the ocean’s surface, and dancing with the surge of the gentle waves. Safi is gliding along the water’s surface, creating a small bow wake, which brings the sound of rushing water to my ears. All around me is the horizon. No boats, no land, just horizon and ocean- and the four of us on this little boat. This passage has been filled with a large range of emotions. There have been high highs and low lows. I am still processing the depth of what Kyle and I are attempting to do. I find myself feeling pure joy and hours later, confusion about what my life’s path is supposed to look like. But that’s the key word there- supposed to- Do we ever know what is supposed to be? I don’t think the ocean, the dolphins, or the birds think about what was supposed to be or not be. I think they just are. And that is why I like it out here. Despite the difficulties. Despite the fear and the anxiety. Pushing aside the grief of leaving behind my family and friends and dogs. Underneath the complete exhaustion of working so hard to make this happen – I am learning. I am learning from the ocean. From the waves. From the setting sun. All of these great forces around me are a constant reminder of my place in this universe. I am a part of it all. We all are. And that is incredible to me. I am filled with so much gratitude for that reminder. I am sitting cross legged on the bow of the boat, my laptop perched in my lap. I bob up and down with the waves. I feel one with all that is around me. And that is a feeling that I have found nowhere else except for in the depths of the ocean or the mountains.  “The sea is calling…” Onward

I have been unable to upload videos to this blog for whatever reason. If you’d like to see a couple videos of the trip, particularly the “Land Ho!” video, please scroll through these photos and the last 3 images are videos showing small snippets of the trip.

Photo credit give to: Myself, Ian, Cary, and Kyle 🙂

1965 Airstream Renovation Timelapse

Kyle and I have sold the Airstream! It wasn’t in our plans to sell Koko, but as is the theme this year- nothing goes quite as planned 😉 We are currently renting a cabin on a beautiful property in Brooksville, Fl and will be here until summer of 2021. In the meantime, Kyle is working for a boat company and I am in the editing process of my memoir.

Below is the timelapse from the Airstream build. We had a great time with this project and look forward to the next one: converting a shuttle bus into a camper!

Keep on Keeping On

The sky is overcast and the air has a wet feel to it, a reminder of the downpour last night. The grass and surrounding trees and bushes have a deep green look to them, happy and healthy from the rain. I can hear multiple frogs all around me, some behind, some in front, and a few to the sides. They are loud and I smile, thinking about how happy they are about the wet conditions. I know that in a few hours when the sun comes out, they will quiet down so for now, I enjoy their talking. I am sitting inside the camper, whom we have named KoKo (keep on keeping on), at the kitchen table, drinking some warm coffee and listening to some gentle music. I awoke this morning at 4:55am with Kyle as we do every morning. He leaves for work around 5:15, so we wake up, make coffee, he has a quick breakfast and then we say our goodbyes. I then go about my morning routine. I meditate for 20 minutes, do yoga, and then either go on a run or a bike ride. This morning I went on a bike ride. It was incredibly peaceful. Because of the rain last night the air is cooler, I even found myself a bit chilly in shorts and tank top. I pedaled down the road, observing the grayish blue of the sky, and watching as the sun would poke through from time to time casting a light on the tall Florida pines. I took deep breathes, gulping in the cool, fresh air. I smiled and stopped my bike for a moment when the sun was shining on a small sliver of the dirt road. I made my way back to the camper and sat down at my computer by 8:15am, in order to start the rest of my daily routine. Usually I spend 3 hours writing my book, but this morning I thought I’d do a blog update before I continue with my book. After 3 hours I take a short break, taking some time to stretch or lay out in the sunshine for 15 minutes. I then do some remote work for a couple hours, before diving back into my book. The day passes quickly when I follow my schedule, and I am making great progress on my memoir about the river trip. Not only am I doing great on my word count goals, but I feel really good about it. Kyle will be home from work around 3:30pm and that is about when I stop writing for the day. Often I finish around 3pm, and then I go sit outside for the last thirty minutes, reading, napping, or just laying in the shade observing my surroundings. Kyle is finding great success at his job and is very much liking it. He likes the people, enjoys the work, and is always positive about his days. His days are filled with a mix of design work, prototyping, and problem solving. He spends some time out on the factory floor, but mostly in his office utilizing the design program he went to school for and the company’s drafting table. I am so happy for him because he is doing something that he loves and has always wanted to do, and he is getting paid to do it!

We are absolutely loving the Airstream life. We have stopped staying at paid campgrounds, not so much because of the money, but because we found them congested, full of people, the sites too close together, and didn’t enjoy the paved roads running right by the camper. So now we are staying at a variety of campgrounds provided for free by the Southwest Florida Water Management District. We can stay at each place for 6 nights before needing to move. There are so many places that we alternate so we only visit the same place about once a month, and they are all within 20 minutes of Kyle’s work. This is a different type of Florida than I have ever known. It is rugged, overgrown, completely private and isolated, wild, and filled with endless wildlife. Each day after Kyle gets back from work we go on an outing. Some days we go canoeing, others we go bike riding, and last night we simply went on a long walk. Each of these camping areas are located within thousands of acres of land, and they have miles and miles of trails. Altogether, just in this Southwest area of Florida there is over 449,000 acres of untamed land! On Monday after Kyle got home from work we hopped on our bikes and rode 3 miles down an over grown dirt trail until we came upon two lakes; one on each side of the road. You can only get to this lake by foot or bike, so it does not seem a very popular spot to hang out. Kyle and I were the only ones there and it was a magical evening. We pulled our bikes up to a grassy area and went and stood on the edge of the smaller lake. Kyle went to the edge of the lake to get his hair wet, and what he thought was limestone was actually clay and the ground he was standing on broke and he slowly slid into the lake. I watched the whole thing happen and it happened in such slow motion that it almost looked like he meant to go swimming, but he did not. It was quite comical, but we also knew these were fresh water lakes in Florida, so quickly got him out before any alligators came along. Kyle dried off a bit in the sun and then we walked to the bigger lake. I found a small trail that led to this overlook of the lake (this time it was actual stone!). We laid out our towel and cracked open the cold drinks we had brought with us. There we spent the next couple hours, just lounging, chatting, and watching the numerous alligators and turtles that were moving slowly through the water’s surface. The alligator to our left was a baby alligator, and the one to our right was much larger. We giggled at the turtles as they poked their heads out of the water and would quickly dive back down. The nearest road was miles away and nearest development even further. We were surrounded by water, trees, grass, and sunshine. We would have stayed all night, but knew it was time to get back and make dinner as we get in bed quite early due to the early wake up. We made our way back the 3 miles and I cooked us dinner. I made chickpea pasta with red sauce and pan fried brussel sprouts. We set the table in the kitchen as there were too many mosquitos to eat outside. A candle was flickering in between us as we enjoyed our meal together. We sit down across from each other each evening and have a nice dinner together- taking our time to eat slowly and discuss a variety of topics. No phones or distractions, just the two of us and whatever yummy meal we made.  Kyle is my best friend and I feel so grateful I get to spend my afternoons and evenings with him every day.

My parents have come to visit us a couple times on Sunday mornings. They bring their two dogs and we hike, make breakfast, and just enjoy each other’s company. Last time they came we celebrated both of their birthdays. They brought a little pool for the dogs and Marley very much enjoyed it. I love when they come to visit and we always have a wonderful morning.

A couple weeks ago we bought a 17 ft. canoe because many of the places we stay have a river. It is either the Withlacoochee River or Hillsborough River depending on where we are. The last place we stayed had the Withlacoochee River running right by it. We canoed 5 of the 7 days we were there, and it was absolutely amazing. The river is small and shallow, so there aren’t any power boats and of all the times we canoed, we only saw one other boat. There are cypress trees surrounding the river and sometimes right in the middle of the river there is a big cypress tree. I love the roots of the cypress trees and Kyle and I are always fascinated by their reflection on the water. The water of the river is so calm and glass like that the reflection has a depth to it that I can’t articulate. I can see every tree, every leaf on the tree, every pattern on the leaves of the trees – all in the water’s surface. It’s almost as though you can look at the river’s surface and if you didn’t know it was the river, you would think it’s the actual thing. Kyle and I quickly found a rhythm together on the river. Spending so many months in Solvi rowing down the Mississippi has given us a connection with rivers and with being in a small boat together. We paddle well together, not needing to communicate with words, but navigating just fine through the sometimes very narrow passages of the river. One day we took the river as far North as we could, until we quite literally ran out of water. We reached a very narrow passage between tall grass and pushed our way through. We then pushed our way through another area of grass on the water’s surface, until we came to one last open area in the river. But then we couldn’t see an end to the grass in front of us, so we decided we had reached the end. The river is so quiet, so peaceful and we feel we have the entire thing to ourselves. Just us and all the alligators and catfish. There are alligators everywhere- ranging in size from baby to full grown. They are very scared of the canoe so the moment they spot us they slide off the shoreline or log or wherever they were basking. If we see one swimming in the water in front of us we will stop paddling to try and observe it because we know as soon as it sees us it will dive down. Sometimes we’ll be paddling along and an alligator we didn’t see will surprise us when it splashes into the water. Kyle and I are fascinated by these living dinosaurs and have a lot of respect for them. We also know what they are capable of so proceed with caution when navigating the river and if we ever get out of the boat, do so carefully. Two different nights I packed us a dinner and as soon as Kyle pulled up from work we loaded the canoe in the truck and headed to the canoe launch. We then paddled as far as we could the other direction, and eventually the river was blocked by large trees. So there we floated, surrounded by tall trees, dense overgrowth, and some random water plants floating on the river’s surface. I moved to the middle of the canoe where I laid out our dinner. Kyle sat in his seat and I sat cross legged in the floor of the canoe. We had a picnic and sat quietly, barely talking in order to preserve the tranquility of our surroundings. One night we had veggie sandwiches with carrots and hummus and another night we had veggie tacos with chips and salsa. Both nights the food was delicious, the setting incredible, and the energy was filled with love and gratitude.

Overall, we are amazed with the life we have created. Nothing is as we thought it was going to be right now, and nothing went according to the “plan”. But we kept on keeping on and allowed the universe to reveal its path and we followed it, trusting that everything was working out as it was supposed to. Our days are quiet, calm, and reflective. We spend so much time outdoors and even when we are inside the camper, all the windows and doors are always open, only screens separating us from the outside. I am breathing fresh air 24/7 and feeling that I live in nature. When we’re together we aren’t distracted, and we are fully present, often times just sitting quietly and listening and observing the natural world around us. Sometimes we will watch a movie before bed, but as soon as we turn it off, we can hear the coyotes singing in the distance, the frogs croaking, and the bugs chirping. It’s like a symphony of wildlife. Last night it was a downpour, so we just laid in bed next to each other holding hands, listening to the raindrops on the aluminum roof of the airstream and the thunder so loud that we could feel it in our chests. It’s cozy in KoKo and we are very thankful for her and all she’s provided thus far. Life is good!

And now it’s time for me to get back to my book, but first a quick update for those who have been asking about Sirocco.

Kyle and I had flights to Georgetown, Exuma, Bahamas for July 17th through July 20th. However, in order to be allowed into the Bahamas we needed a negative Covid test within 10 days of our flight. So we got the tests, and then waited and waited and waited for our results. They didn’t show up in time, so we cancelled those flights and bought me a ticket to go by myself on Monday, surely our test results would show up by then. But no, they did not. So we had to cancel that flight and now the 10 days had passed. So we scheduled another Covid test for me, and I was again going to try and go by myself the next week.. but then the Bahamas closed their borders to the United States. SO regardless of tests or flights, I would not be going to the Bahamas. This was extremely disappointing and difficult to deal with for the first hour after we found out. We had gone through so much logistical rigmarole by this point that finding out the borders closed was quite demoralizing. However, Kyle and I have a view on life that everything happens for a reason and that the universe has a plan, so we quickly changed our viewpoint, said our thank you’s because while it is not clear to us yet why we didn’t make it to the boat, we know it’s for a reason. But! That didn’t change the fact that Sirocco was still just sitting at anchor by herself and we are getting deeper and deeper into hurricane season. So yesterday I reached out to the person who we were going to rent a mooring ball from in hurricane hole 3. Within an hour two locals had picked up Sirocco’s anchor and towed her to her mooring ball using Skiffs. So she is now located in hurricane hole 3, the furthest hole in and the most protected. She is secured to a mooring ball that has been professionally installed and is checked every couple months. On top of this, we met someone via the Georgetown Cruisers Facebook page who is located in hurricane hole 2, right next to hole 3, and he will be staying on his boat for the rest of the season. He offered to keep an eye on Sirocco for us and to stay in touch. He even went and took pictures of her yesterday on her mooring ball for us so we could see her all secured. There are still a few logistics that we are working through because we are going to have her bottom cleaned and then are going to pay someone to go aboard and clean a few things up, remove her sails, triple her mooring ball lines, and double check that everything is battened down for any potential storms. As I’ve mentioned before, when we left Sirocco we thought she was only going to be alone for 13 DAYS. It has now been 5 MONTHS. So while we did a good job preparing her to be left alone, we didn’t do what we would have done had we known a pandemic was going to come through and separate us! So that’s why we want to have a few more things taken care of. Fortunately we already have someone lined up to clean the bottom, and to take care of the things onboard. We also have two different people looking after her, and feel that considering the circumstances, she is in the safest place there is to be. SO after a couple stressful days, we are feeling incredibly relieved and even more thankful for all the people in Georgetown who are helping us while we feel so helpless here in Florida. This has definitely been a situation filled with learning and growth, and mostly what I have learned is to let go. We have done everything in our power to keep our floating home safe. Kyle and I put so much time and money and love into that boat, and we were just starting to truly enjoy her when we got separated. It hasn’t been easy, but it’s also shown us that things always turn out as they should, and that people all over the world are good, and that asking for help from strangers is okay. So until we can be reunited with Sirocco, we will just keep on keeping on 😉

In the first photo the closest red circle shows where Sirocco was anchored and the furthest red circle shows where she was moved. The second photo is her safely at mooring in hurricane hole 3:

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“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I intended to be.” -Douglas Adams.

With love,

Flipper

Meet Our New Home

6/26/2020 

The sun is shining down through the tall pine trees and rays of light are casting patterns on the floor. Music is playing quietly through our black speaker, and the bugs and birds are singing their mid-morning songs. I am sipping on what is now cool coffee out of a green mug I have grown to really like. I look above my computer screen and out the screen door. In front of me I see grass, a dirt road, and endless trees and palmettos. It’s just me here, alone in this open, but shaded field, surrounded by dense forest and so much greenery. There was a downpour last night, so things are slightly damp and the smell of sunshine on the leaves and grass is wafting in through all the open windows. I find myself stopping from time to time in various places throughout my new home as well as when i’m outside and just being still. Observing, feeling, being. It’s been a while since I have done that so often, and I feel refreshed. Every few minutes I find myself thinking “I can’t believe this is ours. I can’t believe this is our life.” And it fills my whole being with so much gratitude and joy. We worked so hard to get here, even though we had no idea this is where we were going. And it all paid off and it’s so incredible that I find myself bursting with happy emotions. And for some reason being here all alone makes everything more intense, and I love it. I feel so free and as though I am part of the nature that surrounds me. There is a small beetle crawling across the table made from recycled pallet wood. He’s black and curious about his surroundings. These little beetles seem to really like it in here, and for a while I was putting them back outside, but every once in a while I see one and just let him be. I like to think about what the world is like from his perspective. Everything must be so big. His life seems simpler- eat, drink.. I don’t know what else beetles think about? Or maybe they don’t think at all, and that’s why they seem so simple. Anyway, I say hi to him and watch as he heads to explore the flowers that are sitting in the window sill. The sun is shining on the flowers as well and I like to look at the intricate patterns within the leaves. Life is good. 

—– 

That is an exerpt from my journaling this morning. But I figured I should interject and get caught up to where it is I am 🙂 

So as I mentioned in my last post, we got stuck in Florida, and now it’s hurricane season so even when we do go back to the boat, we aren’t going to go sailing again until hurricane season is over. So when we go back to the boat we will just prepare it for being left for 6 months and put it in a “hurricane hole”. Which honestly is just a name for a place that might protect the boat if a hurricane comes through. We are fully prepared for what the reality of this hurricane hole is, and just have to hope for the best! So anyway, we were planning on heading up to Virginia to work on developing some family property, while both working remotely part-time, but weren’t quite sure what we would live in and where. That’s when we decided to buy a camper. Kyle was pretty set on an airstream, and I didn’t have much of an opinion, but knew that I didn’t want something too generic. But we also didn’t have a lot of money and airstreams are EXPENSIVE. So after hours of online searching and going to look at various airstreams, we found one in Orlando. We went and picked it up and that very night started work. This was May 9th and we worked for 6 weeks straight. Of course the airstream we purchased was 100% stripped, nothing in it at all. It had been painted but then half stripped so half of it was a greenish/silver and the other an ugly very old peeling paint job. We went to work and worked all day every day- towards the end we were working 16 hour days every day. 

Half-way through this airstream renovation, Kyle got a phone call and was offered what I call his “dream job.” He wasn’t at all looking for a job, and we had the next 6 months pretty planned out in terms of working remotely, finding some labor work up in Virginia, and working on the property. However, the job he was offered was something we instantly knew we couldn’t pass up. He was offered the job of Design and Prototype Specialist at Century Boats in Zephyrhills, Florida. This is exactly what he went to school for- he wants to work on boats and help design boats, without all the physical labor of grinding fiberglass everyday like he is used to. So we decided to say yes and within 12 hours all of our plans were changed! (That has been happening a lot this year- I think for a lot of people). The only downside of this new plan is that we now had a strict deadline to get the camper done- which we are pretty used to with projects like this, so on we went. During the couple days after he received his offer letter I spent a lot of time on the computer trying to figure out where to live. I was thrilled for Kyle with his job, but was also pretty bummed that we wouldn’t be living in the mountains of Virginia. I knew we didn’t want to rent an apartment, and I do not want to live at an RV/Motor Home Resort type place. So what we decided to do is just cruise around between campgrounds, free water management land, and state forests. In the 30 miles surrounding Zephyrhills there are thousands of acres of water management land that allows you to stay for free up to 7 days and then you have to leave for a day, but can come back the next day. So between paid campgrounds, free water management land, and state forests, we have the next 5-6 months pretty much booked out. We will move somewhere new about once a week all within a 20 minute drive from Kyle’s work. Our airstream is 100% solar powered, so we do not need to be plugged in, and we carry enough water to last over a week. 

So then was the question about what I will do during this time. Since we were not planning on Kyle getting a full time job, we don’t have to worry quite as much about income, so it was decided that I will spend the next 5-6 months focusing on my book. I will work remotely about 10 hours a week, but otherwise will focus on writing. I have tried to write my memoir about our Mississippi River trip multiple times and have a good start, but things kept coming up and I feel like I need some serious uninterrupted time to get it finished. Plus I can’t really think of a better place to write a book, than in our tiny home that I LOVE surrounded by nature and sunshine. Everything about the camper is so cozy and homey that just being in it motivates me to write. I have always wanted to write a book, for as long as I can remember, and I feel the river trip is worthy of a book, so I made the decision to just sit down and do it. My goal is to have the first draft finished by December. On my white board above my desk I wrote “I will write a book and it will be a success”. I read it every day and I am starting to internalize it. I feel SO incredibly grateful for this opportunity and plan to utilize it fully. 

Speaking of feeling grateful, I had a bit of a hard time sitting down to do these blog updates. There is so much happening in the world right now, and a lot of it not very positive. I found myself feeling a bit of guilt for writing about how wonderful everything is for us. Because for a lot of people, it isn’t. But I decided that I am doing my part as best I can and educating myself, having conversations, and helping in anyway I can/know. I have an open mind and I don’t take lightly all the opportunites we have.  I take time every single day to say my thank you’s, check-in on people close to me, and do my best to spread light and positivity. Gratitude feels like an understatement, and I want to do more. Be more. I hope that by putting it out there in the universe, opportunites to help will arise. 

Well, that’s the general update. I plan to update this blog about the places we visit and live in the airstream, as well as when we make our trip to the boat, Virginia, etc. I am also working on a time-lapse of the airstream renovation, but that will take some time. In the meantime, here is a bit more about the renovation and the photos!   

As I mentioned above, this is a 1965 Airstream Camper. It is 55 years old and we purchased it from some people our age that had hoped to renovate it, but it didn’t work out. When we got it, many of the windows were broken, the interior had a strange step-up that made the ceiling height low, and there was a big back door cut out of the back. We really liked the idea of the door, but there was a poorly built frame and piece of very thin plexi glass in it’s place. We knew we would have to build a new door and replace the windows, but other than those things, the skeleton of the camper was in pretty good shape for its age. The night we got it we stayed up until 4am stripping all the old paint off. It looked pretty bad and we didn’t want it sitting in my parent’s driveway looking like that for long, so we got it all done in one go. It was a pretty fun night because we would put on the stripper, then would have to wait 15-30 minutes before we could go scrape, so we’d go inside the camper and drink a beer and discuss our plans for the interior. By 4am all the paint was removed and we had an interior plan! The next day we started taping for primer and within 48 hours of purchasing the camper it had its first coat of primer and that evening we did the blue paint. 

Next it was time to start on the interior. I sanded the entire interior, and the next day Kyle used the paint sprayer and gave it a fresh coat of white. The painting really wasn’t that bad, it’s all the taping and prep that is so tedious and I really don’t like that part. We then did all the plumbing and electrical because we knew we would want to run all the wires and plumbing pipes before we started building. This job was again, very tedious. I had never used a “fish” before, but let me tell you, I got very familiar with a fish! We used it for every wire and pipe. It was one of the most important tools in the build. The next 5 weeks were spent designing and building out the interior and purchasing supplies. There were a couple days where all we did was run errands. We tried to do this on quite the budget and we used a lot of recycled or used materials. Pallet wood, second-hand plywood, water tanks and random parts from a marine salvage place, hinges, hardware and other random parts from a boat Kyle worked on a while ago that were being thrown away. However, I will not try to pretend that we didn’t spend a LOT of time (and money!) at Home Depot and Lowes. Kyle designed parts of the interior on Solidworks on his computer, and then we would build it as he designed it. We work very well together and were able to get a lot done in a very short period of time. We built every little thing from the curtain rods to the cabinet faces to the light fixtures to the trim and the walls. My parents helped paint, stain, and take apart pallets. They were very involved with this project and provided endless help and also always provided food which was AMAZING because it was one less thing we had to worry about taking up time in our already tight schedule.  THANK YOU! 

In trying to write about it, it almost feels like a blur. We just worked so hard and then all the sudden it all came together. There were so many little details and on the very last day (literally finished 1 hour before we left) everything came together so perfectly. The colors, the feel, the fit, just the whole thing. I haven’t even really processed it all yet! But when I look around I see something and think “oh yeah, I remember working on that in the garage before I even knew where it went in the camper!” 

So anyway, it was hard, but it was so much fun and we all had such a good time putting it together. And now that it’s done, we have a tiny house on wheels and knowing that we did it all ourselves makes it so much more rewarding and I love every inch of it. Plus, it feels SO much bigger than the boat and we have a separate shower with hot water, and a separate bathroom with a bathroom sink!  It feels so fancy 🙂 Enjoy the photos and video tour. Stay tuned for a time-lapse and a more in depth tour later on. 

P.S. We are still trying to name it.. we are having a hard time coming up with a name we both like that we feel fits. If you have any ideas please let us know! 

An Update

So much has happened and changed over the last 6 months that I didn’t know where to start with this blog update. So I finally decided to just start where we left off, and take my time getting caught up to the current time- which, by the way, I would have never believed someone if they told me where i’d be sitting right now. Life is full of twists and turns and I am thankful that I have just been able to sit back and enjoy the journey. Kyle left you guys off with his last post of amazing scuba diving. During all his posts, I was living at an Ashram in the Bahamas doing an intensive yoga teacher training. So I guess i’ll start there. That experience is a difficult thing to put into words and honestly, I am still processing everything I learned there. But i’ll give it a go. 

There were 36 of us in this particular 200hr TTC (teacher training course). There were only a few of us from the United States, everyone else was from various countries around the world. We quickly became very close as we spent from 6am-10pm 6 days a week together. The schedule of the training was very strict and very demanding. It went something like this: 

Wake up Bell: 5:30am 

Satsang: Silent Meditation and chanting: 6am-7:30am

Yoga Class: 8am-10am

Brunch 10am-11:30am

Philosophy/Lecture: 12-1:30pm

Bhagavad Gita/Chanting Class: 2:30-3:30pm

How to Teach Yoga Class: 4pm-6pm 

Dinner: 6pm-6:45pm

Karma Yoga: 6:45pm-7:45pm

Satsang: Silent Meditation and Chanting/Lecture: 8pm-10pm

We had Thursdays off, but still had to attend Satsangs and had to study and do homework as there was SO much homework and studying. The housing varied for each person depending on what they chose. I, of course, chose to camp. So my tent was set up in a nice shaded area and I lived out of my tent for 30 days. This particular Ashram is also a yoga vacation center, so there are many more people than just the teachers and TTC students. Sometimes there were over 300 people at the Ashram, other times half that. But basically it was a busy place filled with people from around the world all taking time to go inward and focus on themselves and disconnect from the outside world. This experience was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done. I thought that hiking the Appalachian Trail or rowing down the Mississippi River would be more difficult, but I was wrong. This course challenged me so incredibly much both mentally and physically that it broke me down many times. There were days that I would find myself in tears all day. I was unable to understand why this was happening and it wasn’t just happening to me. It would happen to people randomly throughout the course. Through all this yoga and chanting and intense breathing exercises we were cleansing ourselves physically and emotionally, and with that, a lot of emotions and feelings that I didn’t even know existed were surfaced. We were forced to go within and find silence. Finding silence within is so incredibly difficult and a bit scary. The mind does not want to be silent, it just wants to keep going and going, but my teachers taught me how to silence the inner voice. How to sit and be completely present. I learned how to gain control of my mind and my thoughts and realized that I am separate from my thoughts. I can control my thoughts, they do not control me. All of this was very profound and has been impacting my life greatly the last 6 months. I left the Ashram after 30 days with the title of a Yoga Teacher, but really I left with some of the most amazing friends and a much deeper understanding of myself and the universe. And most of all, an extreme urge and need to delve deeper into the teachings and practice of yoga as a whole. Here are some photos from my time at the Ashram. I’ll leave it at that, but if anyone has any particular questions, please feel free to reach out.

Kyle was able to join me at the Ashram for about a week. He slept on the boat which was anchored right off the Ashram’s dock (you can only get to the ashram by boat) but otherwise spent his days at the Ashram partcipating in a meditation course and joining all the meals and yoga courses. I didn’t get to see him a lot during the day, but it was nice to share meals and I was so grateful he was able to meet all the friends I had made. The day after I graduated Kyle came and picked me up in the dinghy. It was a Sunday and we went to the grocery store in Nassau because we were leaving the following morning for the Exumas. I hadn’t left the little world of the Ashram for over a month, and going to the grocery store in Nassau was quite the shock. Cars, noises, colorful signs, bright lights, etc. It took me a minute to adjust, but we enjoyed the rest of our evening gathering supplies for our crossing the next morning. 

On Monday morning we motored out of the incredibly busy Nassau Harbor and turned South towards the Exuma Island Chain. Kyle had been stuck in the busy harbor on and off for a month, and was SO excited to be leaving. I was just excited to be back on the boat and continuing on with our journey. We had a perfect passage with the wind in our favor and calm seas. I had forgotten just how clear the water was, and found myself transfixed on watching as Sirocco surged through the subtle waves. That night we arrived at Highborne Cay just as the sun had set. The next day we went swimming and snorkeling and explored the area a bit. We had some friends from St. Petersburg who also had sailed to the Bahamas, and we finally met up. So when they arrived that night we all met at an inhabited little island and had a bonfire. We shared drinks and stories and experiences of our similar but also very different journeys from Florida to the Bahamas. It was awesome to spend time with some friends our age and we made plans to meet up later on in Georgetown, farther down the Exumas. 

At this point it was the beginning of February, we had to be in Georgetown by February 20th in order to catch a plane back to St. Petersburg. Right around Christmas time we received news that my dad had been diagnosed with late stage throat cancer. Obviously it was very difficult and scary news, and we knew that we would be flying back when his treatment started. So during my time at the Ashram I purchased plane tickets for Kyle and I to fly out of Georgetown on February 21st. Being that we were on a bit of a time crunch, we decided to choose places we were most interested in seeing, and island hop to those places. The Exumas consist of over 365 islands (most of which are uninhabited) and span over a hundred miles. Within the Exumas is the Exuma Land and Sea Park, which is 176 square miles and was the first land and sea park in the world. Many of the islands within the park have moorings that you can rent for a few nights, which Kyle and I did at a place called Waderick Wells. We enjoyed a 4-5 mile hike across the entire island that took the entire day. It was unreal. Cliffs (well the Bahamas version of cliffs) overlooking the crashing waves of the Atlantic Ocean and half a mile in the other direction crystal clear calm water of the Exuma Sound. It was by far my most favorite place in the Bahamas, and we enjoyed every moment of our time there. From there we continued South and stopped at various islands along the way. We found awesome snorkeling, ruins to explore, and lots of really great sailing and anchorages. I didn’t write much during our time in the Exumas, so will allow the pictures to speak for the rest of our journey there. 

Once we arrived in Georgetown we enjoyed a few days of going to the bar, checking out the town, and hanging with our friends who were also there. It was hot, so we spent a lot of time swimming. Georgetown is a huge meeting ground for sailors, and while we were there, there were over 300 cruising boats from around the world. 

So, then February 21st came along and it was time to fly out for what was supposed to be 2 weeks for Kyle and 4 weeks for me. So we secured the boat at anchor, battoned down the hatches, and had our friends keep an eye on it. We didn’t feel that 2 weeks was a very long time to leave the boat, so while we finished off all the perishable food, we didn’t empty our water tanks or pantries, we didn’t take down the sails, we didn’t do A LOT of things we would have done, had we known Covid19 was going to come and change everything. We had planned to sail for 3 more months this season and end in the Dominican Replublic. So anyway, we made our way to Florida to help my dad through his 7 week cancer treatment. When we arrived he was already in week 3. There is so much to say about his treatment and what it was like. But I am not sure if I want to share that yet, so I might save that for another day. I will say though, that he is a fighter, and I could have never imagined how awful it would be, but also how much learning and growing would be involved. (He is now 3 months post treatment and healing- slowly but surely! And we found out yesterday that his treatment WORKED!!) 

So while we were at my parents house for the treatment, the virus hit. It all seems a bit like a blur, between my dad’s treatment and Covid19 and lockdown and quarantine and finding out that the Bahamas had shut their borders. But basically what happened is in March the Bahamas shut their borders and our flights were cancelled and we have been stuck in Florida ever since. And Sirocco is still just sitting at anchor 4 months later. We had friends to look after her for the first couple months, but now all the boats have left and she’s one of the few left. It’s hurricane season and she isn’t in a safe spot. It’s been rough because it is so completley out of our control and there is nothing we can do except be patient. We didn’t pack very many clothes or personal belongings and as I mentioned above, did not prepare the boat for such a long separation. But after a few days of the reality of the situation setting in, we decided to just be grateful. Grateful that we even have a boat in the Bahamas to worry about. Grateful that we were able to stay with my parents through the entirety of the treatment all the way into the healing stage, grateful to have a house, food, and a garage to work on projects. Kyle and I try to plan and prepare for every situation we can think of to keep ourselves and our boat safe, but there was just no way to plan for a global pandemic- so instead of being hard on ourselves about being “unprepared”, we let it go and moved on. Sirocco is our home and we miss her greatly, but we just keep praying that she’ll be there waiting for us when we get to her. We currently have flights for July 17th for the weekend and plan to move her to a safer spot for hurricane season. Crossing our fingers this second wave of Covid doesn’t change that. 

And so being that Kyle and I seem to be incapable of sitting still.. we took on another, totally unexpected project. We felt a bit displaced when we were separated from the boat. We had my parent’s house which was awesome, but we didn’t like that we didn’t have a place of our own in the US if something ever did happen to the boat. We aren’t interested in buying a house (nor do we have the money to do so) or renting an apartment.. so instead we bought a 1965 airstream camper! And as is our style, it was completely gutted and had to be completely renovated. It took us 6 weeks of working 12-15 hours a day. It was a major project, but so much fun and turned out AMAZING. Stay tuned for my next post to see photos of the camper and a final update of what we are up to next (Kyle gets his dream job!) Cheers! 

Sunken Ships

Kyle Runs Solo: Post 3 of 3 

Written by: Kyle Hawkins

Now Max2 had never been sailing really. I had taken him out on the lake on a Buccaneer 18 once and he had since tried sailing a Sunfish on his own without much success. But we have known each other since we were young teens and had grown up together thick as thieves. We had lived together a couple of times while snow-bumming out West and we both consider each other brothers in the truest sense. Some of the adventures and mis-adventures we had and went through as kids certify this title as irrevocable and as it goes with good friends and some family, it never matters how long since you last spoke- you never missed a beat, maybe just a story or two. 

He arrived at the airport only slightly delayed due to weather; leaving behind sub-zero degree temperatures for the comfortable mid 70’s weather we were having in Nassau was easily done and he was in high spirits. I began to introduce him to some of the nuances of traveling here and we instantly were having a good time. His goals were diving. Him and I had shared a few diving and snorkeling adventures in the FL Keys and now that we were both actually certified, we had our sights on wreck diving. I had found us 5 wrecks that were under 65’, which is perfect diving in my opinion and only had a day to kill before the weather to move the 15 nm west to Cliftons Bay became available. We sight saw and toured downtown Nassau, Max2 actually wanted to see the forts, which I enjoy so the day was easily spent. We enjoyed some fresh Conch Salad, and this time I remembered to bring crackers to go with it- something more than one local commented they had never seen before, which I find a bit odd, since that is the way Ceviche is served all through Central America and at many restaurants. Conch salad is really just conch ceviche anyway it seems. 

This was to be his first adventure aboard a full size sailing yacht. His first offshore sail, and his first time sailing with me now that I had a little experience. We went to the fuel dock and filled up on water and bought 5 gallons of diesel. We had a great time with the guys selling fuel, who intimidated Max2 with shark stories concerning some of the wrecks we planned to dive. They knew me on sight by now and we have a good rep-or going. We cleared harbor control and motorsailed out past the cruise ships, everything for Max2 was so new, he had lots of questions and took lots of photos and we had a marvelous time talking about everything. Once we were out into the tongue of the ocean, the swell still a bit large for a first timer, at 3-5 ft with a few double ups thrown in of course, Max2 showed some uneasiness, but never faltered and kept plenty calm. He was a great help on the sail over and seemed to enjoy the trip after we settled in a bit.  Sirocco whisked us along and we even surfed a few times at over 9 knots, which Max2 seemed to enjoy the rushing of it all. Before we knew it, it was time to turn in towards the entrance. I had chosen to come into the first entrance to the bay, on the north side, as the swell was less intense on the lower NW edge of the island. I left the mainsail up thinking we could motor sail in, but it became quickly apparently that it needed to come down as all it was doing is flogging in 15-20 knots of wind. I left Max2 at the helm and went ahead to pull it down and although we swerved a bit on our course, once the main was down it was an easy run up to anchor. We both seem to feel good about the entire run down, me having grown confidence in my new shipmate and him some confidence in the boat on the sea. We really looked forward to our dive the next day. I needed to go over the side and look at the anchor and Max2 lost no time in joining me, we spent the next hour or more exploring the sandy bottom of the bay. Came up, boiled some water for our rinse, and enjoyed a warm shower/rinse off. 

Danielle and I have used a fresh water shower system devised by Hal & Margarette Roth for our entire boat life, its an all black (to block UV) commercial air pump pressurized chemical sprayer that we put a kitchen dish rinsing spray head on the end of its hose. We have had it 6+ years and it has only needed a little lube and a new hose thus far. Warm pressurized water makes you feel so much fresher than a sponge bath. The entire shower goes something like this: first attach the short stainless shower hose with valved (on/off) garden “shower” sprayer head to the electrically pressurized salt water outlet in cockpit footwell and tie the spray head up under the boom to form your endless pressured shower head. Next, either jump overboard (preferably off the bowsprit in a backflip motion) or simply turn on the garden shower and have a complete shower- soap, shave, rinse, whatever. Last, pour the boiling kettle of water into the 2/3 full chemical sprayer and pump until fully pressurized- enjoy a hot rinse in fresh water and maybe a second soaping if needed, depending upon how long you have sustained without washing. It leaves you feeling as clean as any shower I have ever had ashore. Agreeably not as convenient, but just as effective. 

We made a big dinner of lackeis. My Jewish friend Max1 taught me how to make them, they are a traditional food of the culture, essentially a fried potato pancake and typically eaten with applesauce and sour cream: amazing. We both are early to bed early risers, so turned in after dinner. We were up plenty early, but didn’t have anywhere to be until after 10am (when the sun is highest). So we just hung out at the boat catching up and made a huge breakfast of egg sandwiches. 

The first dive was called Tears of Allah and is an big tug boat sunk for a James Bond movie along with a plane in the same spot. We really enjoyed it. Stuarts Cove is a large dive charter outfit on the south western end of New Providence and they have sunk many wrecks and done huge amounts of work to keep this area clean and diver oriented. We went back to the bay and after putting down the anchor immediately went snorkeling nearby in the dink. Upon our return from snorkeling we decided to go on a mission to fill our two dive tanks at Stuarts Cove dive shop. We loaded up the dinghy with the tanks/cart and set off for the shore. We had not walked long with our thumbs up when a nice young couple stopped and picked us up. There is only one road on this end of the island, so hitching rides is very easy. They were headed right past Stuarts and so dropped us off. We got the tanks filled without an issue, but found that renting a second set of tanks for tomorrow was not really available. It was the typical situation of “some moron before you ruined it for everyone, sorry” these types of situations are very prevalent in the USA, as it seems everything must be idiot proof these days and cater to the lowest common IQ denominator, but it made me a bit sad to run into it here in the Bahamas. One of the things I loved about Central America was there was no warning labels anywhere for anything- so nice. Here in the Bahamas its a mixed bag, depending on the origin or intended market of the product. 

Now that our tanks were full, we were talking with the compressor technician about the idiots/jerks that ruined our chances of renting some tanks when a big tall Bahamian approached us asking if we were ready to leave- leave? “Yeah, the bus is leaving soon and I take you back”, “we are on a yacht at anchor in Cliftons Bay”, “no problem mun- I go right by there”. So we wheeled our tanks over to the bus and got aboard. It was a short ride and we told the driver (who had never in his life been diving as he was afraid of sharks) he could drop us off at on the side of the road, “no mun, I want to go see the water, I will bring you right down to the beach” and so he did. We barely walked 50’ on the entire way back. It was a great adventure filled with friendly people and laughter- as usual. 

The next morning we were discussing what to have for breakfast when I mentioned putting eggs in sweet pepper rings and since Max2 had never had that before, that’s what he cooked us, with the rings stuffed into sandwiches of buttered and mayo covered toast with cheese, epic. Our first dive was at a large and famous wreck called: Ray of Hope. They bait/feed sharks at the wreck site and there is a very health wall dive nearby as well, so this dive was full of anticipation and not only did it fulfill, it succeeded. By far the best dive I have ever had. Big sharks, big wrecked ship, lots of fish and sea life, super huge wall- falling almost 2,000’ and overall just an awesome experience. The Ray of Hope is about 300’ long and nerf sharks live under it, while Reef, Mako and Black Tip cruise around it in case of chumming/feeding. We only encountered Reef sharks of 6-8ft in size close in by us, but in the distance the big sharks estimated at 8-12’ were on patrol and clearly visible. We were careful to dive shoulder to shoulder or shoulder to hip in tight formation whenever we were out in the open in order to seem as large as possible. These sharks deal with divers every day the conditions allow diving and often multiple times a day, so they are very desensitized to our presence, and non aggressive, but this defensive diving technique also gives you and your dive buddy some confidence since we are just a team and not a group. We also had a pre-dive refresher on our hand signals and came up with a plan of action in case of aggressive behavior: essentially a back to back ascent to 20’ and then a side swim of locked elbows back to the boat allowing us to always keep our eyes open to all available approach angles and legs/arms in a subsequent defensive position for each other. Sharks, like any natural predator, want an easy lunch, not a fight, and while none of this was really necessary on this dive, sound thought and practice none the less. Lots of high fives after the dive. 

We sailed 2 miles over to Stuarts Cove private canal and anchored outside, rowed Lucy ashore and got our tanks filled. We were the talk of the town to say the least, rowing up in 7’ Lucy with dive tanks to fill. Everyone, especially the tourists were saying something. “That little boat is SO cute” is the most common thing I hear about that boat. But as usual it was a simple thing and off we went with another full set of tanks. We next dove the “Willaurrie” wreck, with is actually 3 wrecks right next to each other. One being an awesome classic tugboat laying slightly on its side so you can see the entire thing, like a model on display. There is also some very awesome reef striations all around, which were fun. Another great dive, even though we only found 2 of the 3 wrecks on the chart, we couldn’t have been happier. Our anchorage was only 10-15 minutes away and we were still riding high, to cheers a cold drink and watch the sunset. Dinner was good, but not memorable enough to know what we ate. We were able to put everything away dry before bed and sleep came easy. We were sailing early the next day, but into headwinds and so we had the boat buttoned up tight in preparation.

We were underway before 7 and had a somewhat slow, but comfortable sail back to Nassau. There is a tidal stream that runs all along the edge of the island in the tongue, bringing water from the deep (3,000’) “Tongue of the Ocean” on and off the banks which are very shallow (10-30’). Sirocco is also not a hull design that points well, her strengths are carrying capacity and motion comfort, but motoring is so lame on a sailing ship, so we took our time and enjoyed ourselves. Max2 also enjoyed the windvane “I don’t understand why every boat wouldn’t have one of these”.  He says to me, “so fricken great.” I heartily agree of course, Danielle and I being windvane worshippers ourselves. On our way south, Max2 and I hand steered, the conditions and length of the trip were so that we didn’t really need the windvane. But no human can steer so well into the wind as a proper windvane- every lift, every drop, perfectly accounted for, always sailing the ship as efficiently as the hull allows- endlessly without fatigue or a moments delay. A big thank you to the men who contributed so much to sailing and brought such a device into existence. 

After arriving into Nassau, Max2 and I anchored up right in front of the ashram, we actually had a time of it too. Which is unusual for Sirocco. But Nassau harbor is famous for being poor holding and full of debris. So over the side I went and picked us a nice spot, we set the anchor well since I would be laying to it for a couple weeks and the usual cold fronts were coming. Then we went to visit Danielle on her day off and spent time on the beach. Max2 and I had not spent any time on the beach yet and its a good beach. We enjoyed our time with Danielle, especially me as you may imagine. Toured the Ashram and laughed a lot with the three of us sharing stories of the things that have been happening in our lives. We enjoyed a vegan dinner together at a picnic table in the garden of the Ashram and afterwards said goodbye to Danielle so she could do her karma yoga. 

Another great day and Max2 was leaving the next one. So we he packed up most things and got kinda ready. He was trying not to forget anything, a curse it seems all humans suffer from. The next morning we cleaned the boat out and I went ashore with him and we had lunch at a local restaurant, it had the most peculiar decor, all done in neo-modern black and white, everything black and white. But the food was good and I got him on his bus with a full stomach and snacks in his bag for the plane ride back to freezing cold WI. He missed his daughter terribly and was very excited to see her, so the cold didn’t seem to phase him in the least. We exchanged a big hug and off he went. I went into a shop I was familiar with and bought a couple of little ginger buns made locally that I am quite partial to and started my walk home to the empty boat. 

The next few days I did all sorts of projects around the boat, stuff I had wanted to do before we left FL, but had been to busy living and loving the moment to deal with. I reached out to a few friends on the phone and generally just enjoyed some quiet time. Years ago, time alone was hard for me, I would put myself into dark and brooding moods and languish around in a mild depression. These days I enjoy it, I like me and my life and I get myself into all sorts of wonderful tangents, allowing my mind freedom to explore and be creative. Unfortunately my design computer is not in working order right now, it has suffered some sort of BIOS (basic input/output settings) malfunction and so I took to sketching on paper and making notes- something I have been doing for many years. 99% of the time these ideas never make it past this stage, sketching/notes finds all sorts of holes and unusable parts in them, but I find this free thinking and problem solving so enjoyable and positive that I always encourage myself. For example, one million seconds is 12 days and one billion seconds is 31 years- the lottery is 5 billion to one and while I have no doubt I may spend my entire life on the these ideas and never get an idea of monetary success, that is not the point for me and I’m happy just thinking my way through them. 

I then spent 5 days at the ashram, living in a way very close to how Danielle had been for weeks. It was great fun to share meals together, meet her friends, and learn about her journey a little. I then came back to the boat 3 days before her return and spent a lot of time cleaning. Max1 and Max2 had quite graciously helped me clean the boat thoroughly before each of them had left, but this was bigger than that. I got everything ready for Danielles return and our departure. I was very ready to leave Nassau harbor for good. It had treated me as well as it could, but my patience for the place was used up. We were to sail very soon after she came back to the boat. 

I picked her up on a Sunday, we came home and laughed and talked as she unpacked, we went grocery shopping and get the boat ready to leave. The next morning we got water/fuel and sailed for the Exumas! Off on another adventure. 

 

 

 

Eleuthera

Kyle continues from last post..

A staging anchorage is one of my favorite cruising tricks. Topping off our tanks and moving the 5-6 miles to Rose Island were the only things we had to do that day, nothing rushed- lots of time to talk and laugh with the locals at the fuel dock. This move saves (stages) us at least an hour ahead on our passage and prevents any harbor or traffic delays in getting underway the next morning; as well as getting the boat and crew into “Passage Mode” on the sail over. We also took a specific route into the anchorage that made for a longer trip into it, but gave us the opportunity to lay a GPS track and get our eyes on the path through the reefs we would be taking in the dark the next morning.

We went ashore for some fresh coconuts, came back to the boat and dined on a big meal. Set up everything for our breakfast, and turned in early.

Danielle and I were first introduced to Max1 at the Municipal Marina in Downtown St. Peterburg. Danielle had valiantly helped me get our first boat and home together down to FL from WI. A 1972 C&C 27 MK2 (tall rig). I had spent over 2 years revitalizing her in WI and thanks in no small part to the help and support of loved ones she had arrived in FL and was eventually launched at Salt Creek and motored into her slip right across the alley from Max1’s 1970 C&C 27 MK1. We never really spoke until Danielle left to hike the Appalachian trail and I dinghied over one afternoon with a couple beers in my hand, across the alley to make his acquaintance. Although he admired my choice to row over rather than walk and enjoyed the beers, our first meeting put him on edge slightly due to my incessant questioning, a habit that is no better today than it was then, but after some reassurance from a mutual friend, we quickly became close friends, sharing a passion for self sufficient exploration of the earth under sail. For those of you who have been following Danielle’s writing faithfully over the years (thank you) but you will remember our adventure aboard his 40’ Dufour A9000 through the western Caribbean, Panama Canal and up to Costa Rica. So Max1 and I were no strangers to sailing together and we split no hairs about our goals for his trip.

We woke at 4:30, much to Max1’s chagrin, but he was a good sport and we had eaten a big meal of oats and GORP (good old raisins and peanut butter) and with coffee in our mugs, we upped anchor at 5 and were headed out in a nice breeze. We motorsailed through the reef (1 mile travel) before turning east and pointing for Eleuthera- 45 miles to go. We were pinched up right from the beginning, but not so hard that we couldn’t sail happily along. We had good conditions and made good time arriving off the coast without trouble in less than 9.5 hours. We had aimed high on purpose, it gave us faster sailing and the 5 miles north of our intended anchorage of Hatchet Bay allowed us to survey the entire “climbing zone”.

During our survey Max1 set his sights on a large spire standing alone and about 60’ tall. Despite the fading afternoon light (we had a lovely sunset view by the way), we anchored up in the open sea and dinghied in under oars. Max stood upon the back of the boat and grabbed the wall “Let me know when” I said as we moved in the swell, he said “Ready” and lifted off the dinghy and I quickly paddled out from the wall and took up position as amateur photographer. He was delighted and climbed 30-40 ft and stood to one side on a big ledge, proud of the climb and nervous of the jump. It took him some time to get ready to leap off the ledge, but landed safely enough. I personally found it funny that the climb was of so little effort but the jump gave him such pause. For me it would have been the opposite.

After such an unexpected early success we motor to our anchorage sighting new climbing lines along the way for tomorrow and feeling quite happy with the trip already. The next day we climbed in the morning, Max1 finding another 2-3 routes up the walls on the coast. Then snorkeled some off lying boulders, having forgotten his mask, Max1 and I took turns sharing mine. I sighted a big ray, which he missed, but he got the best sunlight, while I found lots of cloud cover each time I descended.

We then came into anchor and decided to make a shore excursion and see if we could get a look at a popular big cave near the anchorage aptly named Hatchet Bay Cave. We dinghied in towards a rocky shore and threw our anchor astern as we came near, we then tied the anchor line so the boat was just in reach of the dock, after unloading both of us and backpack (we carried lots of flashlights, water, some snacks), we then walked the bow line of the dinghy up the shore. This walking up the shore puts the anchor rode at an ever increasing angle and subsequently makes the line to short for the boat to reach the shore. You then tie the line off on a tree/rock/whatever and the boat is safely out of reach of the shore and left to float serenely on its own, the anchor keeping your dinghy out of reach of the rocks, jetty, and whatever other floatsam you might wish to avoid.. Or curious walker by’s as well.

We walked out to the main highway “Queens Highway” and stuck up our thumb as we walked and not long after a nice lady stopped and offered to take us to the road. She shared some local advice and lively conversation with us for the 5min ride and then we said our goodbyes and walked down the dirt road. There is a sign on the highway that says “CAVE”. We had read the entrance was not easy to find, with some people complaining rather loudly, but that turned out to be laughable. There is a culdasac of mowed grass/brush and the cave entrance is the only path leading off the circle, it made me think that those who did not find it, should not have found it. Admittedly, the path is not big and a bit obscured by grass and brush, but it seemed pretty obvious to us.

The cave is vast, far larger than we would have ever guessed. It’s absolutely beautiful with some very large formations and interesting creatures. Like hermit crabs feeding on guano and some tiny little bats chittering. Few roaches, but not too many, I imagine the hermit crabs keep their population under control. Sadly the entire place is covered in spray paint signature graffiti, not the incredible art of an inner city, but just poorly done names and scribbles- zero talent vandalism. Many of the signatures were from visiting yachts and that particularly broke my heart. It is my opinion that every human has a responsibility to the next generation, but we vagabonding sailors especially have a responsibility to our cruising community to always be on good behavior because like it or not, we are all judged together. They say the US is the land of the free and in a business sense, we certainly are beyond compare, but due to our population density and subsequent number of visitors to these types of special places, as well as our entrepreneurial spirit, a cave of this caliber would certainly require a fee and be restricted in the US. You would have to come during specific hours and if you didn’t need a reservation, you would certainly need to pay for a guide and only be allowed to see a small portion of what Max1 and I enjoyed. But in the Bahamas as with so many of these developing counties, true freedom is at hand! We showed up just before dark, and were free to roam through every nook and cranny, touch (carefully/lightly with one finger) anything we like and generally had no-one and nothing to stand in our way of experiencing the full glory of this natural wonder. An amazing experience. After we made our way through the entire cave, you end up standing below a large hole in the ground with a random and somewhat untrustworthy looking rope ladder as your only way out. Unless you want to walk all the way back.. So we did a riggers safety check, chugging our weight down upon the lines individually, testing their strength and feeling satisfied, we climbed to the trail above to enjoy second sunset over the ocean and descending farm fields before us.

After hitching our way back to town, I had a beer at a local bar while Max1 smoked the local hand rolled cigars and watch the basketball game. Everyone is incredibly friendly and genuinely curious of us and we subsequently enjoyed ourselves fully. Before leaving we enquired around about where to have dinner and set off with some vague and seemingly random instructions. Based upon passed experience we knew we were most likely looking for someone’s house with some extra tables/chairs in the front room. We asked a couple other folks, stopped in at someone’s personal front yard BBQ, which they have all set up right against the road on impressively large double length drum grills and finally found our destination. We both had fish, but of different types and the helpings were generous and very tasty for a modest amount. The food is not as inexpensive and Central America, being that so much of the Bahamas is comparable or even more expensive than typical US prices, but once you get away from the cruise ships, it at least becomes reasonable again. We carried the table and chairs back inside the house, as we had brought them onto the porch for our dinner, said our thank you’s and headed back to the bar for a football game Max1 wanted to see “at least one quarter”. As we came in we were offered our old pair of seats and it looked like someone was sitting in one them, but we were encouraged and not 5 minutes later someone came to get the can of soda from the spot- it certainly was were he was sitting! We got up to move and he would hear nothing of it, in one sip, he finished his can of soda and walked over to a new seat. The prodominant way of drinking at this establiment was to spend $6 dollars on a small bottle of your choice and then simply buy cans of soda as you need them. This man said “I am finished! I am finished! (Holding his empty bottle) sit, sit, sit!” So we sat and enjoyed the game, me with my beer and Max1 with his cigar. The lines of loyalty to the football teams was of course a great discussion amongst the watchers and people were a bit surprised I had none. But while I played the sport quite a bit when I was young, I have no interest in watching it and consider most of it a bit over the top and dramatic. A little to “Reality TV” for me. Amazing athletes to be sure- but the game is presented in a way I can’t handle. So many breaks, so much dead time and the ads- ugh. But the reality is that I don’t really follow any sports at all. I sometimes follow a few offshore sailboat races online, I like the solo sailing speed record attempts of ocean crossings, or any of the solo round the world racing, especially their machines. Unless you’re a sailor its hard to understand or even really guess at the mental stamina and discipline to race a sailboat for 40-60 days straight, alone, in one of the harshest environments on earth. Feeding yourself, sleeping, weather routing, repairs, sail changes and of course keeping the machine moving as fast as you can at all times. I also still like snowboarding comps, or trials bikes, some of the off-road racing, things where the majority of the participants are underpaid, overworked and generally speaking entrepreneurs of their own creation- you know, real sports of passion and sacrifice- no whiners and very little glamour. Worthy of admiration in my book.

Anyways, sitting at the bar with (for me) not much to do, we were soon approached by a believer of the good book who wanted to have an in-depth discussion on the spot about our creation belief mythology. He had had a couple drinks and I expected this to go badly in a hurry, but on the contrary he was very open to listening and took what we had to say seriously and so we in turn gave him the same respect and a fun and engaging discussion was had by all.

Max1 felt as though he had seen enough of the game and was so we hiked back to the dinghy in order to go to our floating home. We both agreed it had been a complete success of a day!

When it comes to anchoring, Danielle and I have taken on the style of the high latitude sailors: we carry a our “storm” sized anchor as our main bower and use it every time we anchor and so do not carry a second bow anchor nor an anchor stored in the bilge. Our main anchor is a true “storm size” about 2-3 steps above the manufacturer recommended size for our boat. It’s always ready to roll as we never remove it, as is our kedge anchor(stern anchor), also kept ready to throw into the dinghy anytime we need to point our bow into the swell or pull ourselves off the dirt. Both anchors have 300’ of rode, the bower all 3/8” chain, the kedge some small chain and 300’ 3/4” nylon. So if we needed it, say to anchor offshore of a challenging entrance for the tide, we could easily rig 600’ for our bower or disconnect the kedge and run the line ashore for a med-moore. The stern rode is kept figure-eighted in our starboard cockpit bench and the bow anchor has a dedicated anchor locker. The point of this digression is to help you understand that with this configuration it free’s up one entire anchor locker and Sirocco being a classic design has spacious anchor lockers, so we keep a pair of folding bikes in the spare one. Since the oracle (weather app) said it was blowing 20+ knots all day and our morning coffee in the cockpit agreed with the oracle, Max1 and I got the bikes out and went ashore to explore. We planned to bike all the way to the glass bridge, about 8 miles each way. Before we left we made veggie sandwiches for lunch and stocked up heavily on snacks/water. We anchored the dink in the same style described above, but this time off the commercial stone crab peer, were we met Ralph. Ralph took us to the refrigeration building, gave us tour of the facility and sold us some fresh stone crab claws at a generous price. He was proud of the sustainability of Stone crab and the safety and efficiency of their current process. We immediately put a couple in our sandwich cooler and with a large amount of anticipation regarding lunch, peddled off. About 4 miles into our trip we stopped at “Surfers Beach” for lunch. It was a very enjoyable and beautiful spot, a wonderful offshore bar break and a small point break were the Atlantic Ocean swell could curl and blow off its endless energy. There are some hardcore “leatherback” locals who have assembled basic huts on the beach from floatsam garbage with plenty of good seating. At lunch I began to notice, I was very fatigued and had a strong general malaise. Max1 had arrived with some sort of cold brought down from the north land, but had felt he was not contagious. This proved unlikely as what followed for me was easily predicted by him based on his recent experience. We turned back and biked homeward due to my fatigue. We made a nice long rest stop primarily for me to pull myself together, at a “7 to 11” gas station/general store for Klondike bars and local people watching. By the time we got back to the boat I was basically delirious with fever and fatigue, completely overtaken and wiped out. I bundled up against the 75f degree (freezing!) temperatures and laid upon the settee moaning my agony between naps while Max1 cooked us a dinner of Annies Mac-n-cheese. After napping for a few hours before, I pulled myself together to joyously fight my way through some claws and then collapsed again while Max1 did all the dishes and cleaning up as well- a real trooper! I told him “ Thank you so much my friend!” His response “ahh, only fair for bringing this plague upon your house” -cracked me up.. Although, that may have been true, its hard to know the gestation period of an cold. The Mayo Clinic says “1-3 days” and it had been two since his arrival, but I would have encouraged him to come cold or not anyway and so did not cast blame or complain to him for it.

The next day we went on a dinghy mission, Max1 climbed 3 new routes and even snorkeled a bit. I was dinghy support man in my pants, long sleeve and sun hat – mid 80’s temps. We then went back and moved Sirocco north along the coast, stopping along the way for climbs, keeping the dink lifted up along side while underway. We sailed the entire way, sailing on and off the anchor as we went along. I made one climb up a short and simple ledge to gain the top and sat down to enjoy the view. We also discovered a sea cave and this was the first time in my life that I caught the fire and wonder of treasure hunting. The near vertical limestone coast of Eleuthera has been hollowed out right at tide level to make a nice undercut, as you might have seen in some of our photos. Well there must have been a cavity of very soft rock, or perhaps at one time a descending rain stream, because as we laid low in the dinghy to push ourselves under this ledge it opened up into a magnificent cave! 15-20ft in height with multiple caverns in front of us and beautiful color variations in the rock and even a little lagoon for the dinghy. I tell you it was straight out of the books of movies about pirate treasure and made the discovery very exciting. As we walked the 20 yards down the large cavern, there was the usual collection of roaches enjoying a life of infinite guano and while that part is certainly not pretty, it did not dull our ardor to push on to the end of it- just to make sure there was not a pile of silver to be found out of site.. haha I would imagine there are more caves located along their coast. It would certainly not be a summer wasted spent swimming along it each calm day and exploring them.

We ended our day at Pittman’s Cove. Is a very cool little bite out of the limestone coast and has a nice waterfront access to a small town (same one we had stopped for Klondikes at the 7 to 11 previously). We set two anchors to hold us in the proper position, a maneuver Max1 had never performed and enjoyed. We covered the sails and discussed dinner options. Max1 rowing ashore for his favorite Sour Patch Kids candy and soda. We made a Duff for dinner based on a recipe from a Honduran grandmothers “famous” Duff. It was honestly pretty terrible. The steamed dumpling though which is the true core of any “duff” was quite good. I am great admirer of William H. Tilman and having recently finished a collection of his 8 sailing/mountain exploration stories and hearing endless praise for the “true belly timber of a good duff” I had dreamed of this duff for a long time and so was a bit sourly disappointed.

If anyone knows of a British Duff recipe PLEASE post it in the comments. My search has been fruitless. It seems that at one time this sort of dish was so common and variable that no one seems to have written it down for todays age.

The next day we were off on the bikes again, this time it was only 3 miles each way to Glass Bridge and we would not be denied! It was a great mission with a stop at “The Queens Baths” and some seemingly risky climbing all over the Glass Bridge ravine. Quite enjoyable though and we made it back to the boat for a relaxing lunch of veggie sandwiches and fried plantains. We then went on a dinghy climbing mission and exploration of the nearby area farther north. There is a rather fancy golf club that looks hilariously out of place on the coast up past Annies Bite. We also say a little raccoon sleeping in the face of a high sea cave enjoying the sun, he never paid us any mind and seemed quite content. I was led to believe that raccoons experience a rare respect here in the Bahamas.

Back at the boat, we readied the ship for passage. Putting up lee cloths and stretching sheets on the beds, while putting everything in its home along the way. It was time to head back to Nassau and we had decided the best weather for doing so was a night passage and the moon being nearly full, we were very excited! Few things have the romance of sailing fast at night under a full moon and the weather app made it look like it would be a wonderful passage. We put together a great hearty soup for dinner and added the rest of our steamed dumpling (duff) into the soup for the last two minutes of boiling. It was really a treat and made our soup something powerful. We then took disco naps and started picking up anchors at 11pm. We were motorsailing on a nice reach in a light breeze when I went down for some sleep about 23:30 with Max1 on first watch. When I came up at just before 2am to find we were making 6+ knots I began to laugh a little and quickly shut down the engine. By the end of my watch we were sailing in the mid 6’s and surfing to mid 7’s under all plain sail over a calm sea with the moon making it seem a magical type of mood lit daylight. The wind vain doing all the work and the boat practically leaping with joy as she rushed through the water, bouncing merrily along to her song of wind and wave. When I came up at about 6am, Max1 was thoroughly enjoying himself and we romanticized about sailing in the cockpit a minute before he went below, him commenting Moitessier’s famous quote “People who do not know that a sailboat is a living creature will never understand anything about boats and sea.” He felt the wind vain and the movement and motion of the boat because of it was the pure definition of this quote and greatly enjoyed our sail. We made great time. We arrived just off Rose Island harbor in less than 7 hours, an average of over 6 knots.

After we anchored up and caught some sleep, we got out the hookah hoses and put everything into the dinghy for a dive excursion. There was a mark on the chart saying “Landing craft” and we wanted to go see if we could find it. We searched and searched and covered lots of ground, but never found it. We ended up snorkeling around the same area. During our snorkeling the wind continued to build and when we decided we were cold and ready to head back to the mother ship, it was blowing a nice 20-25 kn against the tide, which is exactly why we made our passage during the night. Opening my mouth too soon,  without realizing we were being protected by the reef, I said “Lucy is going a great job out here as a dive boat- totally viable!”. As these words left my mouth we left the protection of the reef and were immediately taking large quantities of water on board and climbing 3-5’ seas in 7’ Lucy. Max1 looked at me and said “Oh yeah- totally viable”… I died with laughter. Asked him to get out the bailing bucket and scoot forward as we pounded along to windward. For the next 1.5 miles we were soaked at every crest with water and bailed Lucy for the entire ride, I was laughing hysterically “totally viable” was said 20 times or more and Max1, although not quite as entertained as I, was none the less laughing and shaking his head as we went along in good spirits. Nelly the Nissan 3.5 outboard never flinched and motored us home without trouble. Thankfully, we were wearing full wetsuits anyway and so being wet didn’t bother us. I had shuttered a bit at the thought of rowing us in those conditions, but honestly think, though slow, would have been possible- but for me, rowing hard for an hour or two holds little intimidation and I’m not sure how many others would quite agree.

Max1 and I brought the boat into Nassau harbor in a hurry with the strong wind being fair under engine and genoa. Settled into a good spot, put everything away and after dinner, went to sleep. Next morning we cleaned the boat stem to stern down below, and did our best to make her as clean as when he came aboard. Then in rather fresh conditions I dropped him off at a commercial pier, just a short distance from downtown. Max1 had by then bought himself a ticket to ride a cruise ship back to Ft. Lauderdale and would fly on from there.

It had been a great trip with a great friend! Many awesome discussion and good times with nothing to complain about (hopefully on both sides). It had been a pleasure to have him come and it was, as it should be, a bit sad to see him go. My passionate interest in all things boats and sailing is hard to handle for most folk and as such one of the great things I like about our friendship is that he is very excepting and even dare say usually interested in my constant discussion of them. A wonderful change over my average company, which finds me trying to be polite and restrain myself.. haha

I took Lucy over to spend the afternoon with Danielle and share a dinner with her on her day off. It was my first time exploring the Ashram and its a very beautiful and peaceful place. She was in high spirits and I could tell even then, she reveled in the challenge of the schedule and work to be done. They are essentially busy from 5:30 to 22:00 and its no small task what they are asked to learn and understand. We gave our hugs goodbye and snuck a soft kiss and I went back to Sirocco to get some sleep. Max2 arrived the next day. More next time!