Sunday, November 2, 2014

My Dirty Little Secret

Yes…..I’m embarrassed to say, I have a dirty little secret.

I have been a bit blogitorialy apathetic.

 After having over one full year of cruising under our belts, and finally solving our major problem of air in the fuel, which caused us to stop dead in the water with every passage (Yes – it was our Racor Filters), we find ourselves relaxed and almost taking for granted these beautiful Caribbean islands with turquoise to azure blue waters, that have now become our home. We periodically have to physically stop and remind ourselves how lucky we are, that this is where we live – every day - this wonderful nomadic and adventurist lifestyle.

We’re having so much fun in the Caribbean! Meeting new friends and exploring new places that I have found it difficult to interrupt the fun to bang out consistently regular blog posts. Shamefully, I have since taken a “shortcut” by way of my Facebook entries on our “Travels of Partners” page. But it’s not the same – and I apologize…. 

But ….Can you blame me? It’s exceedingly hard to focus on anything but the pure enjoyment of meeting new friends, exploring exotic islands, trying new tastes, and swimming in these gorgeous “50 Shades of Blue”! And I will catch you up on our adventures after completing a full circumnavigation of the Caribbean, as soon as I finish my spring cleaning and polish all the stainless!

You see…. it’s not always 24/7 fun and games for cruisers! We do have “work” to do with our boats. It becomes the main topic of conversation at cruiser get-togethers, too. We all discuss our different problems and repairs and often we help each other out. Sometimes one person is very much more knowledgeable about electrical repairs or generator stuff, for instance, and can help someone who is stumped. Or they may have the necessary spare part that you need in a remote anchorage where there is no chandlery from which to purchase it.

In our first year of cruising, my Cap blew me away with his knowledge of systems repair and his physical ability to collapse into a third of his size in order to access those remote areas of the engine room and boat! We also had such wonderful help from many friends to aid Cap with jobs that required more than “flashlight and paper towel holding” and handing him the tools. John Buzilow helped get our Pro Watermaker going on our maiden voyage and led the repair of the transmission oil cooler replacement, besides sharing his vast repair support and electrical knowledge with Cap. Once at dock in Longboat Key Marina, John helped us get our new dingy motor lifted to the flying bridge and installed on our Novurania dinghy "JP"(Junior Partner) Jeff Stevens helped us get and install the 400 feet of anchor chain, to ready us for any depth anchorage. He also helped us load our newly purchased Stressless Chairs and bicycles aboard, and taught us how to best use our Magma Grill, without making a mess! All our “dock neighbors” on LBK were so helpful with advice and stories to help us on our journey, Theresa and Rudy – who had firsthand knowledge, having sailed the Caribbean themselves, Pam and Ron gave us great encouragement as well as Nina Insinna, and of course where would we be without those great hats that Al gave us! 

In Prickly Bay, Grenada, Jim and Tammy Ennd gave us some cool (literally!) insulation material to replace our shredded sound shield on our generator and without Jim’s expertise, our bow thruster would have burnt our boat up. He did an amazing and unbelievably fast repair to some shorted wiring on our Vetus Bow Thruster, just when we were ready to cry! And he even re- strung Richard's electric Fender Guitar! 

Bill and Ann Miller were there for us when our beautiful trawler was conking out every fifteen minutes, by offering to “buddy boat” with us across the Mona Passage – a notoriously treacherous and unpredictable body of water between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, where the Atlantic and Caribbean converge and the seabed depths radically change. They offered encouragement, support and friendship at a time when we were unsure we could continue. 

Carol Buzilow, my BFF in Sarasota, and her husband John ( we call him FOJ - First Officer John - as he's guided our little ship over 1000 miles on her maiden voyage with Cap) - have given us an open invitation to make their home our “home away from home” and have done so much and offered even more, that we can’t thank them enough! My eldest daughter Jennifer and her husband Paul – giving up plans and hard earned salary to jump on a plane – twice now – to come visit us in Sarasota, when we do get a chance to return to Florida. And thanks go to our youngest daughter Georgina and her boyfriend David for putting up with us crashing in their Miami apartment, feeding us and shuttling us back and forth to airports, stores and banks There are probably many more instances and people that have helped us along the way, and I thank you all…..for your care and concern, your understanding and your friendship.

So now, here we are - in Culebra – one of the Spanish Virgin Islands, at the same mooring ball anchorage behind the reef in Ensenada Dakity that we took approximately two years ago when we  commenced our maiden voyage. We are once again with our good friends Bill and Ann and will enjoy several sunny days together before we part - but hoping and planning to meet up "down island" once again, at some point in the cruising season – that’s the way we cruisers roll. You make and meet friends and see them “up” or “down islands”. We are our own community and it’s surprisingly small. We see many of the same boats cruising in the same islands as we are and – voila! – a spontaneous get-together usually happens. From hiking up hills and to picturesque waterfalls and exotic jungle locations, to exploring via car rental or public bus, to swimming, snorkeling and fishing, to swapping recipes and dinners and Facebook addresses and boat cards, we keep in touch and enjoy each other’s company.

So, here we go! Starting into our third year as full time cruisers who are "dirtless" - M/V Partners - she's our only home - and we both agree - she's the best one yet! We've never been happier, and with God's blessing and a little bit of luck mixed in with common sense and  life and nautical knowledge - we just hope we can keep going for many years to come! Keep posted... More blogs to come as we cruise down islands!

Boating, Blogging and Bastardly Technology

I'm not even going to apologize for abandoning my blog.... No "Sorry folks"... no "Life is (too) Good to waste time indoors on a computer".  No.  None of that for me.

I'm just going to tell you that this past year has been.....real.

"Real what?" you say.

Well, it's been real life - on the sea - in the Caribbean. It's been so much real life, that I just didn't seem to have the energy or desire to interrupt it with - well - blogging. Staying inside, typing - on a computer (that works or doesn't work so well, depending on many things - including the operator), dealing with poor to non-existent internet service, often at an island no bigger than your neighborhood that has simply, an anchorage, a beach, a bar and a ganja salesman.

 We've had a wonderful second year of cruising the Caribbean. We've made many more good friends and felt a little more comfortable in our skins - as we re-visited many of the cherished anchorages we came upon in our first cruising season, as well as newfound anchorages too. And we've loved every minute of it!

Oh sure, there are the little "squabbles" that are so common to being a couple living together in approximately 600 sq ft of living space. "Do we have to anchor there?" "It's so hot I can't stand it!"  "Why won't you hike with me today?"  "It's so hot I can't stand it!" "Are you really going to wear that white t-shit again today? "It's so hot I can't stand it!" "Why do we spend all the money on your boat stuff? - I never get anything new!"  "It's so hot I can't stand it!" ... But somehow we've managed to stay friends and lovers through it all.

After a tumultuous first cruising year where we had to work out many of the kinks in our 30 year old Kadey Krogen, we have had a virtually smooth second cruising season - and it's been wonderful. We treated ourselves to a new Northern Lights 9kw Generator and had it installed at Nanny Key, Tortola in 3 days! Tim Dabbs and his team with Marine Maintenance did a super professional job and we would highly recommend them! We had new Lifeline batteries and a Victron Inverter installed in Trinidad last November and when we went to Martinique, we had the Victron Distributer there tweak it, as we were not sure the installation in Trinidad was working correctly. Tim Dabbs installed some heavier wiring, when he found a melted wire connection and once again we dodged a bullet. Now everything was running smoothly and between the new generator and batteries and the solar panels we found we only had to fire up "Mr White" once a day now. (Like many other cruisers, we name the various things on our boat, and since our new genny was white in color - and we'd just watched "Breaking Bad" - we named that mean machine Mr. White!)

We flew back to Florida in April 2014 to have a reunion with our children, grandchildren and my sister. It was lovely, but we did have to sacrifice seeing the Antigua Classic - which we were told was a fun and fabulous time with party after party, beautiful classic sailing yachts and many of our cruising friends there. We are hoping to make it this season and see firsthand what everyone is talking about!

Rather than blog - I did post many photos on our Facebook Page "The Travels of Partners" as well as my personal Facebook site. That is so easy, because our good friend Bill Miller had urged us to switch to T-Mobile for our cell phones. T-Moblile partners with Digicel and many other networks and as a result we had unlimited international text and data and $0.20 /minute for international phone calls. So it was easy to use my iPhone to upload pictures instantly. All of you back in civilization just have no idea of the limitations with internet usage!
But through Facebook and networking with other cruisers, I found I could install a Blogger App on my iPhone and do my blog there! So I should have more regular posts ... But I'm not promising anything just yet!

So what are our future cruising plans? Right now we are in Culebra - one of the Spanish Virgin Island of Puerto Rico. It is beautiful! And our friends Bill & Ann Miller have just arrived on their Krogen 58' "Ann Louise". We have been having lots of fun together, along with Bill's aunt and uncle Jim & Linda Miller, who accompanied them on their journey from Stuart, Florida.

Then we plan to move to a marina in Puerto Rico and fly back to Florida to see family, friends and doctors. When we return we will begin our passage south to explore the many beautiful islands of the Caribbean and the anchorages we've come to love, as well as new ones we've not yet seen. Follow along with us, there's so much more to come....

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Penny Saved is One-Sixth of a Penny Earned….

(**DISCLOSURE! –This is an older blog that I didn’t post on time – I have been remiss…I will try to catch up and get you on track with where we currently are - which is in Culebra, Spanish Virgins today!)

We’re still in Trinidad, but we are planning on a short trip back to Florida to visit friends and relatives ….and doctors and dentists…. I have a list three pages long of what I would like to check on or get when we’re back in the states. I was just getting used to substituting new Island foods and products for long-loved USA ones…. I felt like a true islander. But tempted with the lure of the familiar, my list is growing. I’m probably going to need a small loan to purchase everything on the list, so I have started by saving Trinidadian pennies.

The exchange rate is $6.25T / $1.00US! That makes 6 Trinidadian pennies equals one USA penny! Trinidad pennies are so UN-valuable that locals just throw them away! When I first arrived here I kept seeing all these pennies on the street. At first I picked up the ones with the “heads” side up – for good luck. Then one day I went into Port of Spain with some girlfriends and everywhere in the streets were pennies. Every time I came out of a store and looked down – there were at least 6 – 10 pennies right there on the ground! I just couldn’t ignore it anymore and started picking them up and keeping them!
Walking to the bus in Trini
Eccentric? …. Maybe…. But I have never been able to tolerate waste, and this just perplexes me as to the sheer quantity of pennies that are discarded on a daily basis. So I have started making it my mission to collect them and I will see how many I can accumulate in the next month. My friend Ann Miller (M/V Ann Louise) thinks I’m so funny, that she has taken to being the “Penny Fairy” and scatters pennies along my dock when she takes her morning walk! She can make fun – but Benjamin Franklin would have loved me, if he were still around!

The money exchange in the islands is one of the reasons you needed to take math in school! Every time I shop, I have to do a mental calculation of the cost of the item. At first I thought everything was so expensive….a carton of milk is $12! (TT) “Wow – that’s a lot! - I think – then I mentally divide by 6 and – whoa!.... It’s only two bucks US! When I go to the local grocery store, I panic when it totals $180.00 (TT) – but then I realize that’s only $30 bucks!  I’m starting to get used to it now – just when we’re planning on leaving! Then back to EC or Euros – which are a whole different calculation! I could use my iPhone calculator or my currency converter – but I think it’s really best to keep in the habit of doing the mental arithmetic. After a year cruising and rarely knowing what day it is, brain usage is becoming imperative!

We hear from other cruisers about which country is the best for flying to different destinations. Luckily, we have learned that going to Europe – especially the UK is less expensive from Tobago, and Trinidad is less expensive than Grenada when returning to the US. Of course that’s always changing… but it helps to hear from other cruisers experiences.

The latest catastrophe was with our Washer/Dryer unit. I was giving Cap a haircut out on the dock and forgot to get his electric razor for trimming – so I went back inside to get it and found smoke billowing out of our laundry unit.  “FIRE!!!!!!”  I shouted to Cap, and he jumped up and ran in. We thought our dryer was the problem. It was stopped mid-cycle and so for the next hour we proceeded to clean out all the lint from the dryer hose. This is no easy task as it is located in some big hole with a tiny door and you have to be double-jointed and about 3 feet tall to get into it and reach the hose.  Of course this is a job that is sure to cut and scratch Cap. He starts bleeding right away. This is what happens with “jobs” on a boat. After we have every last shred of crap cleaned out of the dryer, we gingerly turn the circuit breaker back on and turn on the dryer …..And Lo and Behold! It works!  The two of us are jumping for joy – another problem – SOLVED! We go make a cup of tea, as we are both exhausted. As I am sitting sipping my cuppa, I remember I had wash in the machine too! I’d better go put it in the dryer…. But when I open the washer, I find the load has stopped mid-cycle and the tub is filled with water. I turn the dial back on and…..Nothing…. That’s when we realize – it wasn’t the dryer – it was the washer that was smoking!

So I bail out the water and take the wash to the Laundromat. We talk about it and look up numbers for repairmen – but after a little research, we realize our washer/dryer is over 25 years old and that they no longer even make the parts for it! We decide to avoid trying to repair a relic and opt for scanning the internet to find a replacement.

 Cap with W/ D at Customs
removing the old W/D
This takes about three days! Long story short – they don’t make any of those units in the same size as our old one – and none will fit the spot we have for a washer/dryer! When I try to commiserate with my sailboat friends about this dilemma – they all look at me as if I had two heads! Most sail boaters don’t have a washer or dryer and do their laundry in a bucket – like the pioneer days! So no one is feeling very sorry for me…. Cap and I finally find a separate washer and dryer that fit our existing space without needing extensive carpentry, and immediately put an order in with Fanny at Marine Warehouse, in hopes that they can get it on the next shipment, that would arrive before we leave for the states.
Installing new W/D!
Oh no – that would be too easy…. So it will arrive just when we are away and who knows how that will work out…..I sure hope it doesn’t get lost! We will have 3 days to get the thing installed and working, before we have to leave the marina. This could go smoothly-or- it could be a complete disaster – depending on ….luck!  
Well - finally we've got our mojo back! The removal and install couldn't have gone smoother and we are so happy with this brand!
 Voila! My beautiful new Ariston W/D!
And my even more beautiful family! This was from our visit back to Florida last November 2013.

Granddaughter Grace, Daughter Lavinia
Youngest Daughter Georgina and David
Lavinia and Jennifer at Ringling

Grandma with Hannah

Eldest Daughter Jennifer and I at Ringling Museum
Matthew, Cintia, Grandma and Hannah

First Mate and Cap taking our walk in Miami

Sunday, October 20, 2013

When I’m Sixty-Four…..

Ugh! I'm really 64?
Yes, this is the year folks! 64! I woke up and looked in the mirror and saw a beautiful 24 year old – but of course I didn’t have my eyeglasses on!

It’s just so hard to believe that I’m actually sixty-four years old! It seems all my life I’ve wished to be older – when I was 16 – I wanted to be 18 so I could drink legally in New York. When I was 18 I wanted to be 21 – the magic age of independence. When I was 30 I wanted to be older and more sophisticated – and maybe drink martinis. When I was in my 50’s I wanted to be 62 and retire from all the hoopla of the rat race. Even now – I’m looking forward to NEXT year when I no longer have to spend half the entire cruising budget on health care! I will qualify for Medicare!
…But then I realize I’m in the last semester of my life and maybe I should start taking this trip seriously. Maybe I should stop wishing and start doing.  And so here I am….finding myself on a little ship floating through the Caribbean with the man of my dreams and the colors of the rainbow and the smells of the jungle and the feel of the trade winds touching my skin and blowing my hair and freeing my soul.

I have so many wonderful memories of this life – my childhood family – my marriage family – my schooling and higher education – my work career – my loves – my lusts – my passions. I am no different than you – with hopes and dreams and fumbles and foibles.  But these memories of our travels here – in these beautiful turquoise waters – have been some of the best so far.
Leaving Longboat Key dock

Those of you who have kept up with our blogs know something about our experiences. We started in Sarasota Florida – said good-bye to our wonderful friends and family and cruised off to a life unknown, on foreign lands and strange customs. And it’s been wonderful and freeing and scary and intimidating and easy and difficult, and everything in between. We had a goal of reaching the southernmost end of the Caribbean chain of islands – to Trinidad – 2157 nautical miles from the start – to take a “rest” and harbor our little ship and ourselves from the potential trauma of hurricane season.
We’ve been here in Chaguaramus, Trinidad since August 27th and plan to restart the trip north by mid November. Below is a small photographic retrospective of our voyage to date. When I look at the hundreds of pictures I have taken since starting this voyage, I can only smile with my heart.  I feel truly blessed to have the luxury of time and serendipity to experience this beauty at our own pace and in our own parameters. Cheers to another decade or three of this wonderful and mysterious life!

Key West
Approaching Key West

Partners in Key West

Dolphins riding our bow

Nassau, Bahamas
Chubb Key Marina, Bahamas

Allen's Key Bahamas
Staniel Key, Bahamas

Wild Pigs Swimming at Big Major Spot, Bahamas

Chat 'N Chill Beach, Georgetown, Bahamas
Galliot Cut Sunset, Bahamas

Warderick Wells, Exeumas

San Juan Puerto Rico
Dominican Republic
Breakfast on the Aft deck
Ocean World Marina - Domincan Republic
Anchorage in Dominican Republic near Samana
Ann & Bill with us at Las Terrenas, DR
Salinas, Puerto Rico
Cap and Roberto at Cerro de Nandy
Dancing at Guavate, Puerto Rico
Puerto Bahia, Samana, Domincan Republic
Resting with M/V Ann Louise at Mona Island
Ann and I in Dominican Republic

Maho Bay, St John, USVI

Whale Skeleton at Warderick Wells
Cap and our neighbor Sara in St Kitts
Carriacou Hikers

Rainy Day in Carriacouo


Leverick Bay Boat Races, BVI

Mayreau anchorage, Grenadines
Sloops in the Carriacou Regatta
Haul Out in Carriacou
On to Grenada!

Carriacou Hikers

Hiking Vista on Carriacou

Cruiser friends at Saturday Barbeque in Carriacou

Meeting Paul & Sheryl Shard from Distant Shores!

Through the Bocas (Dragon's Teeth) to Trinidad
Partners at her Trini anchorage in Crews Inn

Beautiful trip to Asa Wright Nature Center

Meyka and Judy at Asa Wright

Beautiful Asa Wright Nature Center

Maracas Beach, Trinidad

Lavinia enjoying the anchorage!

Anthony arrives for a visit to Trinidad!

 A Visit to the Pan Yard

Cap and Antony exploring Scotland Bay, Trinidad

 Celebrating our Journey's end and my 64th Birthday!

Stay tuned for the next chapter........!