30 September 2012

Another First in Our First Year

Pretending to steer - captain ducked out of sight - during our charter in Annapolis

Our first year of cruising has been full of "firsts."  Our most recent "first" sparked some reminiscing - along the lines of, "You've come a long way baby."

Here are some important firsts that happened BEFORE we started cruising.
First time we saw a catamaran - on the hard, in the snow, in Milwaukee. (Feb 2011) 
First time we sailed on a catamaran - a two-day charter in Annapolis. (May 2011) 
First sailing lessons - through the Hoofers of UW-Madison. (Jun 2011) 
First circumnavigation - of Door County, WI. (Jul 2011)
First days of boat ownership - we flew to Annapolis to visit "our" boat for a few days. (Sep 2011)

29 September 2012

The Backside of the Dream

We're coming up on our one-year cruising anniversary, and Ean and I have been reflecting on our new life. We're still pretty clueless.  We've found this life to be more difficult than we expected.  Things break all the time and we don't know how to fix them.  Ean misses toast.  I miss floor space.  We hate being mono-lingual and sand.

We read a lot of cruising blogs and check-in with several cruisers who have facebook pages.  These people, as I have noted previously, are mostly
younger and prettier and smarter and more creative than we are.  They fix engines, install solar panels, sew cushions, grow sprouts, revarnish their teak, and understand how their systems work.  In their spare time, they sketch, make jewelry, write poetry, play the banjo, kayak, scuba dive, take fabulous underwater pictures, and never watch television.
Recently, a few of these cruisers, in their spare spare time, have begun posting lovely scenes with life-affirming messages.  For example, there will be an image of a sailboat, at anchor off a perfect deserted beach, and inscribed across the top, in an aesthetically pleasing font, a sentiment about Living Your Life: mindfully, in the moment, to the fullest, or whatnot.

These cruisers - they are inspiring.  We admire and envy them.  Early on, we, too, aspired to be inspiring.  But as it turns out, Ean and I - we're more like a cautionary tale.  But that's okay.  We've come to accept and even embrace our identity. In fact, we've come to understand it as a mission.

This mission: to anti-inspire others.  We're here to maintain the balance of the universe.  Our message to aspiring cruisers, or anyone who dares to dream of casting off the ties that bind and living a life full of fun/adventure and/or intention/meaning:  Is it too late to get your deposit back?

Here, humbly presented, for the first time in graphical format, an Expression of Anti-Inspiration.

28 September 2012

A is for...

Well, it happened again. I knew it would, it does every time we meet non-American cruisers: that "I Am So Out of My League" feeling. The embarrassment began the minute we introduced ourselves--in English as we always do, as we must because it's our only language, but the second, third, or fourth language for whomever we are meeting. Linguistic survivor's guilt, I call it. Directly after introductions, there is the de rigeur ice-breaker, the corollary of "So, what do you do?"  For sailors and world travelers it's, "So, where are you coming from?" This invariably elicits an enviable enumeration of countries that either makes perfect geographical sense or otherwise begs questions with ultimately intriguing answers--if, that is, one knows where in the world anything is to begin with.

26 September 2012

Taking Pictures of "The Natives"

This is NOT the story of how we accidentally took a 17 mile hike up one side of a big mountain and down the other side. (You can see a map of the hike - with elevation changes! - here.)  It's not about my over-taxed cardiovascular system, and its valiant and ultimately successful efforts to keep my brain oxygenated during the first 300 meters of the hike (we're talking vertical meters: up, of course). Or my legs, which trembled with exhaustion as we stepped our way down a giant boulder staircase, while I wondered every time I committed myself to the next rock: Will this leg, at this moment, support my weght? Or my feet, inside my decade-old tennis shoes, performing like champs up until about mile 15, at which point they both failed catastrophically, sprouting huge and painful blisters.

It's not a story about Ean, who slipped off a rock while crossing a stream in the first few miles of the hike, landing with his full weight on his right thigh muscle. He ended up in the stream, which was shallow and sandy-bottomed - but still, a fear of drowning is hard to reason with. The psychological effects of the accident were magnified on the aforementioned giant boulder staircase, where the same slip and fall might have been deadly. Ean didn't own up to the terror, during the hike, nor to his blisters, rubbed raw in his Keens. And oh by the way, his thigh muscle would have really appreciated a day of taking it easy....

No, I'm not going to whine, here (or hardly at all) about how old and out-of-shape we are. Instead, I really want to talk about "the natives" - los indigenos - the indigenous folk - that we met along the way.

This woman was selling jewelry made of beads and seeds, and we bought a couple of bracelets.  There were amulets painted with the words, "love," and "peace." 
Yes, we DID have their permission to take this picture! Does that make it okay?

25 September 2012


Right there Under the RainbowThe Western Coast of HaitiSmall Village on Western CoastPierre Fish Market BoatHaitian Fishing BoatHarold (L) & Friends
Karma (L) and LoleEdissonJasmine (L) and MakendyKekePepeA Gift from the Guys
Boats docked for Market Day at Madam BernardBoat at Madam BernardBoats at Madam BernardMan Navigating in Madam Bernard HarborDonkey Parking LotEan Gets Adopted at Sister Flora's Orphanage
Cane Sugar for SalePay at the PumpHorse at Port Morgan HotelVita's HouseCalvesCow
Haiti, a set on Flickr.
A fond backward glance at a very special couple of days in and around Ile a Vache.

22 September 2012

Dolphins Send SEA-vite: "Big Party at Taganga, Dude"

I am not a morning person. People know this about me: especially, Ean knows. But yesterday Ean had me flying out of bed with a single word - and it wasn't "coffee." The word: "dolphins."

Flashback to the late 1970s.  This new adventure of ours continually reminds me of the other boat trip: the one that I did with my parents. Back then, dolphins were always news. That single word, "Dolphins!" would pull everyone to the bow. "Where?" "There!" It's notoriously difficult to get good photos of dolphins at play, but we tried, of course.

Twelve-year-old squinty-eyed Jane, on the bow of m/v Andante with a bunch of dolphins.
Flash forward: yesterday, Ean woke me up to a whole pod of dolphins having a party in Taganga Bay.

21 September 2012

A Time and a Place

Just a few of our many mental declutterers
When we started, many aspects of this lifestyle were foreign to us and that has made for a very steep learning curve. Any skill set from our former life that transferred has been an enormous relief. One such set is organizational acumen. I am loathe to think how much more daunting adapting to this would have been had we not been such well organized people already. It really has made all the difference.

Our boat specific organizational strategies have withstood being field tested for almost a year, we feel it's time to share them. They are few in number, but comprehensive in scope.

1. Lists
We are big list makers. We were long before we were cruisers. List making is one of our most frequently employed tactics in our overall strategy for reducing clutter, specifically the clutter in our heads. Compile a list and then it's not only permissible to forget the items on it, it's smart. Do or get everything on the list and then throw it away. Very satisfying emotionally. We have the obvious ones: grocery, boat chores, boat projects, boat repairs, things we'll get for the boat after we become wealthy from monetizing this blog. We even make lists of lists we should make. 

2. Logs
Logs are new to us. We have only become log keepers since becoming boat owners. Logs, we have discovered, are really the other half of a solid mental decluttering program. The way in which lists and logs work together for us is simple. Lists are temporary; logs are ongoing. The difference is clear from the names of the activities themselves: list making versus log keeping. Logs record what's been done and when it will need to be done again in the future. We are not quite as good at logs as we are at lists, it is true. We're actually good at making logs also, just not at keeping them. This has inevitably resulted in a reduced ability to remember all the logs we've made. When we have time (see below), we will make a list of all our logs.

19 September 2012

A Joyful Lunch

We don't get out much. I mean to say, we don't often go to fancy-pants restaurants. But every once in a while, the mood strikes us. This time, it probably had something to do with the fact that we had been in El Parque Tayrona for more than a week, followed by a few days in Taganga, and we were in need of a counterpoint. We took JOY around the corner, dropped the hook in the Santa Marta harbor, and put on our goin'-ta-town clothes. We don't always put on our goin'-ta-town clothes when we're going to town. We save them for special occasions, like eating in a fancy-pants restaurant.

The restaurant was called, "Made in Spain," in English, in Colombia. There we were, in the air-conditioning, at a table with a crisp white tablecloth, which is a kind of a cloth that people put on top of tables. (I'm pretty sure we've seen this type of thing before?) We were giddy. I think we seemed especially silly because the only other diners in the small restaurant were a little crabby. The couple were boaters, apparently, and they were pretty upset with our friend and agent Dino. As far as we could tell, they were having trouble getting one of the 37 different papeles that he had told them they needed. I think it's safe to say that they were NOT enjoying the Bienvenidos a Santa Marta game (click here to read Ean's description of the game).  Eventually, the conversation was taken outside, so I guess we'll never know if they were able to score some bonus points - maybe Dino saw the error of his ways and decided that the Colombian government really wouldn't mind so much, if they didn't have that one papel. The boater couple returned without Dino, the woman apologized for the unpleasantness, and they sat down to finish their now-cold lunches in silence. Then they left.

Meanwhile, I was ecstatic about my drink, which was the house specialty, the most beautiful drink I'd ever seen and the yummiest drink I'd ever tasted. It was mango on top and strawberry on bottom, with rum throughout. We have no photographic evidence of the first "Made In Spain" Cocktail, but here is the second, which was delivered by Judy, who thought we were hysterically funny, but was very polite about it.

We had an excellent cheese plate as a starter - the only thing that would have made it better was some sharp cheddar from Wisconsin. It's true, even Ean the cheese schnob is missing cheddar cheese. Then, on to the main course.

14 September 2012

Committing Culture Shock

Fun, but I don't think it would have helped.
There we were, just minding our own business on an ordinary morning of an ordinary day. Doin' the usual stuff: hopping in a taxi, heading for nearest shopping mall, sitting in the food court before any of the vendors opened up for the day, logging onto their wifi network and trying to upload our latest blog post before noon EST, per our agreement with our fellow raft-up bloggers.

With us on this race against time, were our laptop, both iPads, our camera, and our card reader. The efficiency with which we unpacked and set up our equipment would have impressed any local or national law enforcement agency, at least as they are portrayed on American TV.

13 September 2012

Three, Two, One, Taganga!

Ensenada de Gayraca has been our favorite of the bays so far. It is calmer than the others and the snorkeling was good. Its one drawback (for us) is that a small settlement of fishermen lives there. We almost met a couple of them as we reconnoitered the bay in our dinghy. They saw us and beckoned us on shore, but it was too steep and too rocky to run our dinghy up onto. It would have been impossible to explain that from a few hundred feet away...over a noisy outboard motor...in Spanish. We hoped we didn't--but suspected we did--come off as rude, but it couldn't be helped.

We saw the fishermen come and go during our couple of days there. Another cruising myth disabused: no one tried to sell us any fish, dang it. As appealing as it seemed to stay a while  longer, we still had two more bays to visit before both our food and room for garbage ran out. Jane stowed a few things, but didn't make any excessive preparations since the next bay, Ensenada de Chengue, was literally around the corner of a rock formation. I did a quick, "pre-flight" engine check. From down in the starboard engine room, I could hear her talking to someone and knew it wasn't any of the cats since she has never conversed with them in Spanish. It turned out to be one of the guys who had motioned to us the other day. Jane was having a merry little chat with him. He had paddled over in what I guess is the coastal Colombian version of a mango wood boat, only minus the leaks and, sadly, any fish.

11 September 2012

Backwaters: Back on the Horse and Back in the Water

We've spent a week now, in el Parque Tayrona. Yes, we are definitely in the backwaters, which for us is anywhere without internet. Not even a cell phone signal! But this is what we needed: a break from the noise and busy-ness of Santa Marta. We've anchored in four beautiful bays so far.

Bahia Cinto

04 September 2012

Cast Off!

It's been a long cuatro semanas, but Jane is back to being her old left-handed self. We could have gone back to La ClĂ­nica Prada, the urgent care facility, but really, what have they got that we haven't got?  So for all you do-it-yourself types, here's how to remove a cast in a few easy steps.

Tools of the trade

First, collect all the necessary tools and supplies:

  1. A towel to sop up drips
  2. White vinegar
  3. A hacksaw
  4. Kitchen shears
  5. A bucket of water

02 September 2012

Raft-Up: Branding Our Boat?

This month's Raft-Up topic is about "stuff." Well, okay: with more specificity, it's about stuff that has your boat's name on it (personalized hats or tshirts, for example) and stuff you give away to local folks when you're cruising. How are these two types of stuff connected? Honestly, we're kinda new to the whole cruising scene, so we're learning as we go. The personalized stuff is called SWAG, short for "stuff we all get." In the world of commerce, a company gives away SWAG to "build its brand" and promote business. Apparently, some cruisers give SWAG to people they meet in the foreign countries they visit.

We don't have any SWAG yet, but we do have a logo, a website, and a "boat card," which is the cruiser's version of a business card.

01 September 2012

Operation Go Great Inagua!

An other-worldly landscape; doesn't it deserve some attention?
After an eight-day visit to Great Inagua, I've become a booster. If Great Inagua had a facebook page, I'd "like" it. It ticks me off, that this, the third largest and most southern of all the scad-zillions of Bahamian islands - this majestic and beautiful place - has been so overlooked. Hence the need for Operation: Go Great Inagua (or OGGI).

I've already completed OGGI Phase One, by reaching out to my fellow cruisers. The most common Bahamas cruising guides give hardly a mention to this far-off edge of the island nation, so I started a thread on the Cruisers Forum, "Go to Great Inagua!" And since specifics were lacking or out-of-date, I created a Google Map and wrote a detailed report for Noonsite, the reference site for cruisers.