Float Plane Obsessed

Thursday April 10, 2014

float plane 1

When we first pulled in to our little anchorage here in Bimini all the way at the end of the channel, there had benn a small orange buoy floating near the edge that we could not for the life of us figure out what it was meant for.  At first we thought that maybe a dive boat tied up next to it, but believe me, there is nothing interesting in this spot to dive on.  Or maybe there is and we don’t know it?  The water’s been a little too murky in this area to actually see what’s on the bottom.

It didn’t take us long to solve the mystery though.  While I was in town checking us in on Monday Matt was greeted with a roaring plane engine while he relaxed below.  Maybe this is a designated anchorage, maybe it’s not, but we have found out that it’s where Resort World Bimini, which we’re right next to, uses as an airstrip for their float planes and uses the mooring to tie up to if the dock is full.  Every hour or so there’s one landing or taking off right next to us, and I’ve admittedly become obsessed with them, running into the cockpit each time I hear those propellers running.  I’m sure the pilots are so sick me of aiming my camera at them each time they land or take off, but ever since our friends on Laho have moved over to this anchorage as well, Kim’s been taking the occasional photos too, so I don’t feel so deserted in my obsession.  Let those pilots stare, I have an agenda.  And it includes taking a zillion photos of them.

float plane 2

float plane 3

float plane 4

laho and plane

La-Ho!

Tuesday April 8, 2014

Radio Beach, Bimini, Bahamas

As if it wasn’t enough for our engine to die on us yesterday just as we were entering the channel to Bimini, air in the fuel line we think, we were trouble shooting the engine after dropping anchor and found out that the alternator bracket we’d just had made in Guatemala in December had a crack in it. Which meant Serendipity was not moving an inch until we had that fixed. We assumed that with Bimini being the third largest settlement in the Bahamas that there would be a welder around, and the number one goal was to find them and see what they could do for us. Heading to the beautiful Radio Beach that I scouted yesterday after getting us checked in was a close second.

Just like when I had gone to check us in yesterday, the dinghy ride to town was about 20 minutes. Still, I will say, the free wifi we’re picking up from Resort World Bimini which we’re anchored in front of, well worth the extra time. It took just a little bit of asking around once we were in town, but one name kept popping up for welders, and that was Rudy. The only problem was, finding him. Everyone knew someone to ask about where he might be, but no one actually knew where he resided. After asking every other person on the road, we were about to just give up and hit the beach but decided to ask one last group of people that were enjoying a cold drink outside of CJ’s Deli. It turns out that one of the guys not only knew where to find Rudy, but was a cab driver that would take us there! Finally it seemed that a little bit of luck was on our side. Until we realized that we’d left all our cash back on the boat. Apologizing to the man, we told him that we’d be back in about an hour if he was still around, after running to the boat to get money and coming back.

A friendly Bahamian gave us a ride to the dinghy dock on the back of his golf cart, and when we mentioned that we had been looking for Rudy, told us that he was just up the street a little bit further from where he was dropping us off. Hmmmm, if we knew where to find him, we wouldn’t need to spend the money on a taxi anymore. Then while grabbing money back at the ‘Dip we had another ah-ha moment. Instead of driving the dinghy all the way back toward town and wasting fuel, why not just tie up at the docks at Resort World Bimini and walk the rest of the way in? Getting permission to land there, as well as a description of Rudy’s place from the Harbor Master, we were off on foot. Only to find out, 20 minutes later, that what we should have realized that if the dingy ride was long, walking that distance was going to feel much longer.

It was just as we came up to Rudy’s that we vowed never to do that one again. We were able to get right in to see our new welding friend since the cab driver back at CJ’s had phoned him to let him know we were all to be on our way shortly. Taking the bracket out of our hands, he scruntinized it for a few moments before saying that he could help us out and hopefully make it stronger than it was in the first place. The whole thing only took about 15 minutes while we waited, off to the side of course so that we weren’t blinded by the welding. It’s kind of funny because Matt made sure to drill into my head not to look anywhere in that vicinity while the welding was happening unless I would like to blind myself. So I settled on a group of kids playing in a nearby field while the work was being done just off to my side. But I could still catch just a little bit of it out of my periferals. Suddenly my eye began burning and I silently cursed to myself thinking I’d just done permanent damage, and how am I going to explain this to Matt after he’d just explicitly told me not to look anywhere near there? Turns out it was only a beat of sweat that had rolled down my brow and into my eye, but for a minute there I thought I was going to have to explain the biggest let down ever.

Back on the streets we had a (hopefully) stronger than new bracket and were ready to spend a few hours relaxing at one of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. Sprawling out a blanket in the shade of one of the few trees there, I could barley keep myself still for 90 seconds before I was up and running around, sprinting into the waves like a little kid. There were some big breakers rolling in and I wouldn’t let myself get fully submerged in them, lest I be swept away, so I just played in the tide and let the waves crash over my legs.

Having one more goal in mind for the day, I set off down the beach alone. It turns out that we happened to arrive to Bimini the same time as another young cruising couple, and the two of us have been trying to meet up for months now. Kim and Jereme of s/v Laho and Lahowind are brand spanking new to cruising, but Kim and I have been conversing through Facebook ever since last summer. Back when we were in Mexico and waiting for a weather window, I kept hoping that we’d make it to Key West right when they were heading that way from Naples, and even though I thought we were going to be the ones held up by bad weather, it turns out they were held up by a never ending list of boat projects and didn’t make it to the keys until after we got to Ft. Lauderdale. I thought we’d missed our chance to ever meet up and possibly do some buddy boating, but the fates smiled on us and led both of us to the Bahamas right at the same time.

I had mentioned to Kim this morning that after some errand running around town, Matt and I would be hitting the beach and we hoped to meet up with them there. Every time I saw a new face arrive I’d quickly sprint down the beach hoping it was our new friends, but each time I’d find out that whomever had just wandered onto the beach, did not even come close to fitting the description of a young cruiser. We hung around for a little bit longer and enjoyed the turf, but since we’d had such a late start due to fixing our engine issues, it was already late afternoon. Taking the long way out (while making sure to avoid the cab driver that never did end up getting our fare), I showed Matt this cool shipwreck on the beach that, from the front, reminded me of a beached whale. This path took us right out to the entrance of the channel, and we watched the current rip through there, shuddering at what might have happened yesterday had we not been able to start the engine again.

beach at Bimini

beach blanket

walking through surf

strolling on beach

rocks on Bimini beach

shipwreck on Bimini

shipwreck on Bimini

 Wandering back through town and towards the dingy dock we came across Brown’s marina where I knew Laho was staying. Luckily they were the closest boat to the road, and as I peeked my head through the chain link fence, I saw movement in the cockpit. “La-ho!!!” I yelled out, hoping to get their attention since this marina has a locked gate and we couldn’t just stroll right in. It was Jereme that heard my call and just a moment later Kim poked her head out too, while the two of us frantically waved at each other as if to say “We finally caught up with each other!!”. Moments later they were at the gate to let us in and walk us over to Laho.

Once on their boat we had the chance to meet their cute little poodle, Oliver, and instantly went into boat talk, poking around at the different electronics, and Matt instantly falling into a spiel about his latest research on all the gadgets they owned.  Even though all four of us were sitting in the cockpit, the boys kept talking shop while Kim and I would try to interject little bits about actually traveling over their comments on radios and antennas.  Unfortunately we didn’t get in as much fun girly talk as we hoped while the boys were prattling on since a storm looked like it was coming our way and Matt and I still had a long walk back to Serendipity.  It sounds like we’ll all be here a few more days, so we’ll have to make sure we get together again, this time where Kim and I can run off and talk travel and photography.  Hopefully over a glass of wine.

s/v Laho

Kim & Jerme

Matt & Oliver

The Bimini Road

Monday April 7, 2014

sunrise on the Gulf Stream

As with any late timed departure that we need to make for a passage, we can never seem to wait long enough for the alarm to actually go off before we get to anxious and want to get underway. Usually there is a forced after dinner nap which never actually happens, and instead of waiting for the clock to tick by extra minutes as we lie there awake, we figure it’s better just to get the show on the road. Luckily this has never afforded us a before sunrise approach yet.

Looking at the clock as it dragged to only ten o’clock, three hours before our intended departure time, we figured it was better to get in too early than too late. Even if we could manage the 48 miles from Ft. Lauderdale to Bimini in ten hours, it would still be light enough for us to make our way in the harbor. Raising the anchor as all the boats in the lake were silent and still around us, we navigated out the tricky entrance and into the ICW. Hailing our friendly bridge operator at the 17th St. Causeway, we slid under and were quickly on our way out the Port Everglades inlet with our bow pointed a few degrees south of Bimini to make up for the push of the Gulf Stream. After verifying our course of 120 degrees and sitting with Matt until we were out of range for the late night shipping traffic that was exiting with us, I took my leave to get a few hours of sleep.

17th St. Causeway at night

ICW at night

Since we had both basically been up all night my sleep was cut short after only an hour and a half when Matt’s head starting nodding off too many times and he needed to seek refuge in the comfort of the sette. Harnessing in and taking my spot in the cockpit, I was pointed out the numerous cruise ships that were transporting their hoards of tourist between the Bahamas and the States, but told that everything else looked fine. It wasn’t until Matt was (quickly) snoring below that I noticed that one thing wasn’t quite as I had hoped. We had obviously entered the Gulf Stream, and that 120 degrees we had been holding so perfectly was now faltering to a mere sixty degrees.

We had expected to be pushed a few miles north of where we actually wanted to be, and anticipating this, left ourselves plenty of time to make it there once day broke. This is why we had felt so comfortable leaving at such an early time in the night. Trying to send all the good vibes I could from myself and into the boat, I tried to mentally convince it to point further south. When this didn’t seem to work I took to reasoning with the stream itself, begging for it to end as soon as possible. Once we didn’t have the force against us we could head directly south if we needed to, I just hoped it would be sooner than later. By the time my three hour shift was up, none of my reasoning had done any good against the stubborn boat and the stubborn Gulf Stream. Having the opposite effect that I’d hoped, I actually seemed to infuriate both of them and they conspired to work against me, pushing us off course even more into the fifty degree range. I gave up and hoped the master of sail trim coming up to replace me could work his magic on the situation.

Gulf Stream Sunrise

Serendipity on the Gulf Stream

The next time I was up on deck I had not been greeted with the results I was hoping for. We weren’t doing quite as bad as when I had left, but we still weren’t able to point ourselves toward Bimini. This is the day the stream decided to take up the whole expanse between Florida and the Bahamas. When we had finally reached a point that we were at least in the same longitude of Bimini, we pointed the bow due South, and right into the wind, and motored on with the most pathetic progress I’d ever seen. I’ve become quite used to our downwind travels of at least five to six knots, and the fact that we weren’t even doing close to that was complete torture. And it seemed like no matter how far east we were, we could not escape the clutches of the stream. Even though our heading was pointing us toward the safe haven and peaceful night of slumber that is Bimini harbor, our course was slowly but surely sneaking in a southwest direction. Eventually I had enough and tacked the boat so that we were pointing, both with heading and course, directly into the middle of the island. I’d run us up on the beach if that’s what it took to escape the forces working against us.

This plan seemed to actually do the trick. We crashed through the building wind and waves, but we were finally heading in a direction we actually wanted to go. Normally the last two to three hours of a passage will drive me insane, seeing your destination right in front of you but knowing you’re still a few hours away from actually getting there, but this time I could do nothing but smile that we would actually make it there before dark. Coasting in from thousands of feet to only 40, I waited until we were just a few minutes from the channel entrance before waking Matt from his afternoon nap to have him help me navigate in.

Matching up the multiple sets of charts we have to make sure the buoys were correct and marked what they claimed to, I figured this last bit would be a piece of cake. I was just about to cross in front of the first green buoy and round into the channel when out of nowhere the engine cut out on us. By this point we weren’t actually in the channel yet, but depths had gotten down to fifteen feet and a very swift current was about to send me directly into green buoy number 1. While Matt was having a quick panic attack and a cuss storm a few feet ahead of me, I calculated my options. Try to start the engine again? Roll out the headsail? No, not enough time. Steer into the current to avoid the buoy but then put myself in the channel and possibly the shoals without total control?

Within ten seconds, of which felt like an eternity, the engine was purring again and I was able to narrowly avoid the buoy as I gunned us into the channel under full throttle, afraid to douse it any for fear it might shut off again. Shooting into the channel at seven knots, I was not able to regain my breath until we had gotten through the worst parts and were now passing by the marinas lining the entrance to the harbor. Confident that we could drop the anchor in this part of the channel if absolutely necessary I let myself pull back on the throttle while Matt brought down the main and we continued to cruise in at just over four knots now.

Still trying to avoid marinas since we like to be at anchor whenever possible, we noticed the first marked anchorage just past Bimini Big Game Club was a little too crowded. Resigning ourselves to the only other anchorage, a mile down the channel, I tried not to let myself get upset about the long dinghy ride in my near future to get us checked in, but only focused on the fact that in just a few minutes the anchor would be down and I could spend the rest of my day night fighting the elements. I don’t know if it was just bad luck that we received or if I should have heeded the warnings that it’s better to cross from Miami than Ft. Lauderdale, but I will give this one tip. Don’t ever cross from Ft. Lauderdale. Spend the extra day and get yourself down to No Name Harbor first. You’re likely to have a much better crossing than we did.

dinghy dock in Bimini

Last Sunset in Florida?

Friday April 5, 2014

sunset on Lake Sylvia

This morning we were Bahama bound. At least, we thought we were. It’s not like this is our first rodeo, so we thought we had done everything necessary to get ourselves going. We had a good weather window, the diesel was topped off, provisions for the next 4-6 weeks had been tucked away (I know you can still buy food in the Bahamas, but come on, at those prices?), and we had just found a killer sale at Publix on their soda for 2-for-1. Yes, we were ready to head back to those crystal clear waters and white sand beaches.

A few unsuccessful naps had been attempted in the afternoon and evening, but by 1 am we were awake and finishing the last minute preps to get underway. Everything that was susceptible to gravity was put away and Georgie was wrangled, quite easily this time, into her harness. The engine was purring and all we had to do was get the anchor up and get on our way. Then curse words started flying back at me from the bow, spoken quietly enough though as not to wake our sleeping neighbors. Our bow navigation light that we had just replaced in Cozumel was now corroded and no longer working. We no longer had running lights for this trip. Kind of an important thing when you’re jumping across these shipping lanes in the middle of the night.

We talked about our options. Back in Cozumel when we had run into this issue, it wasn’t until we were coming into the harbor just after dark when we realized they were out. I was sent to the bow for the last 30 minutes with two headlamps in my hands, a red one to point to port and a green one to point to starboard. I was pretty sure that I could not, would not, stand at the bow for the next six hours doing the same thing this time around. Then we tried tying them to the cleats, but we knew that would probably only get us as far as the entrance to the Gulf Stream before they washed off. Do we chance it? Even then, we still wouldn’t be able to do any night sailing once we got to the Bahamas.

I hate to say this, but at 1:30 am, my bed was calling to me louder than the Bahamas. Why chance today what you can properly do tomorrow. So it was decided that after we woke up we’d make a run to West Marine or Boat Owner’s Warehouse and purchase and install a new one. This time a fully encased one that hopefully won’t let in salt water and corrode. It’s getting a little tiring replacing that thing every 4-6 months.

The funny thing to the whole situation though was Georgie’s reaction. Even though we’d called off the passage and were not even moving, the fact that the engine was running and she had her harness on was enough to get her into super-affectionate passage mode. Where, once we start traveling, she becomes your shadow. Follows you up and down the companionway and sits as high on your chest as possible when you’re resting. She didn’t get the memo that she was safe for the night. Poor thing was still all over us as we sat in the salon below, pouring over the West Marine catalog and the next day’s forecast. Pick me up. Don’t let me go. Love me, love me, love me. There’s Pavlov’s Theory on dogs, but I think we’ve just come up with Johnson’s Theory on cats. Make them think that they’re going on passage and they turn into a cuddly anxious mess. I think I might turn to this whenever I feel lonely and need some of her headbutt affection.

sunset on Lake Sylvia

I Lead an Unusual Life

Thursday April 3, 2014

dinghy on shore

A thought occurred to me the other day as I was showering in the head and subsequently scooping water from the base and dumping in the sink since our pump decided to poop out at the moment. This is normal. Normal for me to bend down in a space so tiny that there is no way to avoid my butt hitting the toilet on the way down and catching the handle on the way back up. When did this happen? I didn’t used to lead this kind of life. The kind of life where I took every convenience for granted, because I knew no other way.

The other thing I want to know is, when did this life become so normal? Where I don’t bat an eye at showering outdoors in front of dozens of people, or live a majority of my day in a space that is barely larger than my old bedroom? I guess if you’re put into any situation long enough, it becomes your new normal. But since all of this is apparently becoming so blasé to me, I’d like to take a moment and go through what an unusual life I actually do lead.

Here’s an example of a few things that we also did on land that have transferred to life on a boat, but aren’t quite the same.

 

Showering:

I wouldn’t even know what to do with myself if I was able to pull back a shower curtain, step in a tub, and instantly turn on hot water. It’s been so long since I’ve had that convenience that I’ve stopped even dreaming about it. Those moments where you shower not even necessarily because you want to be clean, but because it helps you unwind at the end of a long day or warm up after a sharp rain outside. Those days are so far gone.

Instead, showering has now become a necessity. Not something I ever want to do anymore, but something I have to do, lest the people in town begin to look at me with disgust and murmur under their breath, ‘Does this chick not own a bar of soap?’. Without being in the heat of the tropics anymore where any kind of water was a source to cool down while losing more liquids than I could drink in sweat alone, I loathed showering up until just a few days ago. And that’s because our only ‘shower’ was a hose in our cockpit that led to our water tank, no heater in between. So showering meant sitting under a spray of the ambient temperature of water that the boat is sitting in. You try taking a 72 degree shower and tell me how fun it is.

Oh, but that’s not all. This shower had to be taken outdoors, every time. With neighbors watching, and any inkling of a breeze sending a chill down your spine and shipping you quickly to the shelter of the cabin for a pair of fuzzy pants and a hot cup of coffee as soon as you were finished. Then it finally dawned on us a few days ago (light bulb going on) that we should get a solar shower. A five gallon bag that heats the water inside by lying it in the sun and letting it soak up and hold on to the warmth. Hang the warm bag in our tiny little head and, ta da!, a hot shower without the cold breeze hitting you in the face. It’s been a huge step up for us in this world.

 

 

Cooking:

I think I’ve touched on the subject before of when we first started this trip, cooking a meal in our galley would drive me absolutely insane. It was the one thing I hadn’t mentally prepared for during our transition from land to water, and it came as quite a shock to me how different it actually was from our kitchen at home. I’ve become much more used to it now where it doesn’t even phase me, but let me go through the steps of what it takes to make a meal here on Serendipity.

  1. Think long and hard about the meal you want to eat. Then think about if you have all the ingredients. You don’t want to find out half way through that you don’t, because it’s a long trip back to the store. If there’s even one available.
  2. Most of our meals are usually cooked on the stove, which means pulling the necessary pans out of the oven since that’s the only space we have available to store them.  Heaven forbid you ever need both the stove and the oven, which leaves you searching for a space to keep all your extra pans for the next hour.
  3. Pull out all the ingredients you need to prepare your meal. They’re not quite as easy to reach once you’ve started cooking, so all things must be dug out of the intestines of the chill box, pulled out from under the settee (which takes the removal of at least three cushions), and any cooking utensils need to be excavated from being buried in a drawer in no particular order.
  4. Remembering where you put all of your non perishable ingredients. Those diced tomatoes you used to keep under the tv? They’ve now been moved next to the water tank since you’ve decided they’re less likely to rust there. The pasta that used to be kept easily stowed behind the settee back? You can’t really remember where you put it, but now it’s really important that you find it.
  5. Set everything out on your counter space, a.k.a., the top of the chill box. Begin cooking and realize that right when you need it, the ketchup or stir fry sauce or whatever missing ingredient is still sitting in the bottom of the chill box. Except, now all of your other ingredients are blocking your way into it. Which means taking them and moving them to the companionway steps since that’s the only other available space near you, putting everything else in the chill box on the steps as well while you try to find your way down to it, and then replacing everything back into the chill box. Which usually also accidentally means the ingredients that you need and had out in the first place, and now fishing them back out a second time.
  6. Finishing cooking your meal and transferring it to the plates which immediately need to be brought to the table so you can free up counter space to get the leftover ingredients back in the fridge and get your 2 liter of pop out. All the dishes are assigned to the sink where you hope that, while you’re eating your dinner and enjoying an episode of Modern Family, they somehow clean themselves because you just don’t have the energy to do them, by hand, after the elaborate mess you went through to cook the meal in the first place.

 

 

‘Our car’ a.ka. the dinghy: 

When you live on a boat, your car takes a little bit different of a shape than it had on land. Now instead of being fast or spacious, or even enclosed, it’s about 9 ft, inflatable, and completely exposed to all the elements. I’m not complaining really, there’s no job to get to, so no need to go out in the rain if you don’t want to. No schedules mean you go out when it’s convenient for you. But keeping an eye out for getting rained on isn’t the only thing you need to look out for.

First you have to determine how far you’re going, and if you have enough gas to get there. And now in our case, if our little 3.3 hp outboard is up for the journey. Here in Florida it hasn’t been hard getting from the lake to the marina, but once we’re in the Bahamas we won’t be zipping from one cay to the next like we did when we had our 9.9 hp. Even in George Town we’ll probably be anchoring much closer to town for a shorter dinghy ride.

Then you have to be very careful about what you bring, or even what you wear, because chances are you might still get wet. Ready to sit in a pair of wet cotton shorts all day because a rouge wave came over the side? I hope so. (And I still do, I can’t force myself into those quick drying fabrics. Fashion over comfort, isn’t that how the saying goes?) Then there’s the matter of keeping your belongings dry. Don’t even think of just sticking your camera or computer into a backpack and calling it good. They either need to go into waterproof cases or waterproof bags. And then maybe a second one just to be safe.

 

 

Putting away groceries:

Smaller trips to the market have become better because we’re usually only buying what will be used in the next few days and have just vacated spots in the cupboards or chill box that need to be filled again. Provisioning though? That’s a whole other story and one I cringe at the thought of, although I have to say, we did pretty well this last time around.

Imagine that you’re off to a place for the next six to eight weeks where you’re either not sure you’ll be able to find some of your favorites from back home (does anyone even know if they sell egg roll wraps in the Bahamas?), or the items that you do want come at an exorbanent price and you’d rather stock up on them back home. $8 for 8 oz of coffee? Thanks, but I think I’ll still with my 28 oz for $6.50 at Walmart.

The only question left is, where do you put everything once you’ve bought it? Suddenly any open space in the boat becomes fair game for storage. Cans upon cans are stacked on top of each other under the settee in that little space next to the water tank. Bags of cereal are ziplocked and placed in the bilge. Liters of UHT milk are placed in the belly of the boat at the entrance to the after cabin, and those extras we don’t need as much such as the replacement pounds of flour and sugar? Well, they get placed in the aft cabin under the storage boards that require us to first remove every item from the aft cabin that we own. And since we consider it our garage…that’s a lot of stuff. You don’t want to be anywhere near me when I realized I’ve just used my last cup of flour and need to tear apart the boat in the blazing tropic heat to dig out it’s successor.

 

 

Sleeping in a v-berth:

I still dream about our bed back in our old house. I do. I was completely in love with that thing. It was king size with a pillow top mattress, and I could sink into it while simultaniously sprawling out and not even coming close to kicking Matt. Now we sleep in an area that’s 70 inches wide at the head and 17 at the foot. We’ve basically become contortionist when it comes to sleeping. If you want to bring your leg up to the side, which is about the only way I can sleep, it needs to be tucked in so close to my body that my knee is basically resting under my chin. My butt is all the way up against the wall which means that any time I turn my butt and or hip, it gets caught on the shelf that sticks out 8 inches above me. One of the first things Matt did away with when we bought the boat was the shelf on his side because leaving it there meant he had to sleep flat on his back all night without the option to rotate.

Trying to make the bed is another pain in the butt, and I won’t lie, there have been times I’ve been fine to sleep without a fitted sheet because the hassle of getting it on is more trouble than it’s worth. Which is usually at 11 pm when I realized the sheets never went on after being washed that day and I’m way too tired to do it at that point. But on the times it does happen it’s a fight against physics to tuck the extra inches of fabric under an area that I’m currently putting all my weight on, which usually leaves me defeated, tufts of extra fabric peeking out of the edges and working their way to the center of the bed come morning. I know there’s ways to secure them around the strange angles better, or even sew them into the shape of your bed, but I’ve never gotten around to that.  I’m sure it will happen when we’re about six months away from getting rid of the boat.

 

So there you have it.  All the ‘normal’ things in my life that I no longer even bat an eye at.  I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like when I have to be housebroken again, how much of my current life will transition over.  Sleeping on a couch because the bed feels just a little too big or buying a dorm size fridge because I could never imagine trying to fill out a regular one.  We’ll see how it all plays out.  Hopefully, years down the road.

The Wishing Paper

Tuesday April 1, 2014

Vacilando

Now that we no longer have anything keeping us in Florida besides waiting on the next weather window, it was time to orchestrate one last get together with our Fort Lauderdale friends. Since Melody and Chris have a nice little set up where their boat is located, complete with a grill, a pool, and great views, they invited to have us all over tonight to grill up some burgers and dogs and begin the process of our sad good-byes.

It was bittersweet even as we arrived, the excitement of seeing my friends mixed with the last time that we would see them.  And happening upon the awesome set up that Chris and Melody truly do have, my thoughts kind of edges toward ‘Do we really have to go to the Bahamas?  Can’t we just stay here and hang out with our friends?’.  I can see why so many people get down here and stay much longer than they intended.  If you get in to the right areas, Ft. Lauderdale is a pretty awesome place.

The grill was fired up just after we got there, and laughing a little, we found out that we’d brought the same exact potato salad and Gordon and Jessica did to share.  The fridge was starting to look like the deli aisle at Publix, but if that item is as good as they claim it is, I’m sure it will be cleared out by the rest of the night.  I also played a game of rotating drinks with Chris where I promised him one of my huge 24 oz cans of Foster for one of his Yuenglings.  I blame the Skelton Crew for getting me hooked on those, but honestly, I think the addiction started in Annapolis.

The burgers that Chris grilled up ended up being to die for, and I’m not just saying that because I was completely starved after spending all afternoon running around town trying to get a cab that would take us to the vet to get Georgie’s rabies titer test for the EU, and then walking half way back to the boat because they would speed by as soon as they saw we had a cat in our arms.  Nope, even if I wan’t on the verge of being malnourished, these still would have been some of the best burgers ever.  Mix that with steak, awesome cheese, even better friends, and a breathtaking sunset….sigh.  I wish this night could last forever.

Gordon, Jessica, Matt

Melody & Jessica G

Chris on the grill

Matt getting food

A surprise later that evening that we weren’t expecting, or maybe Melody knew it was coming, was that Chris had procured a bottle of champagne to celebrate that after two and a half years, Melody had gotten her braces off. Not even bothering to try and find glasses for everyone at the table, we took turns hoisting it in the air and sipping it straight from the bottle as a victory for metal free teeth everywhere.

Melody drinking champagne

Jessica J drinking champagne

Jessica G drinking champagne

Before anyone could leave for the night, Jessica announced that she had a treat for us and that she needed five volunteers to gather at the bar for an activity. Was this going to be anything like the time I volunteered for the game of musical chairs back in Guatemala where I was forced to take a shot of rum for each round that I stayed in? Cause I’m not sure if I want to play that again right now. Or…maybe I do? Either way I didn’t have to worry about shots of alcohol being forced on me, and should have taken the hint when ten year old Gia lined up next to me at the bar.

This was something much more family friendly, and actually very sweet and cute and something that could only have been thought up by Jessica. The five of us were given a sheet of very thin tissue paper placed on a card depicting a cherry blossom tree, and made me think for a moment that we might be participating in an origami folding contest. Squashing that impression, we were each then handed a pencil and told to write down a wish on the piece of paper. No one else would see the wish, and you were supposed to make it something you deeply desired. After each wish had been printed, we were instructed to crumble up the sheet of paper while fixating on that wish. Once that was done we smoothed the sheet back out.

Now it was time for the interesting and fun part. Once your wish was smoothed back out, you shaped the paper into a cylinder and stood it upright on your cherry blossom cut out. Then a flame was taken to the piece of paper, and if at the end your piece floated into the air, it meant your wish would come true. A few of us took to holding the bottom parts of the cylinder as the flame crept down, just to keep it from blowing away in the wind, but a good percentage of us watched our wished sail into the night sky, sure that luck would be on our side. For a few other unfortunate people, their wish flopped down and burned to a crisp on top of their cherry blossom. As for Matt, his piece lifted off the ground at the last second and floated right into Jessica’s eye. We’re still trying to figure out what that means for him.

Then, it was time to start our good-byes.  In the shortish-longish time that we’ve been here in Fort Lauderdale, this group has wound their way into the fabric that is our lives, and we are so thankful that we had the chance to get to know them, even if it was only momentarily. Bonds like these can’t be broken very easily and I have no doubt that no matter where we all end up in life, we’ll always be able to count on each other for anything from laughs to support, and most likely, boat advice.

Boat friends are always a hard thing to let go, but as we’ve learned, saying goodbye for now doesn’t necessarily mean forever.  Just like I had no doubt that we would make to to Ft. Lauderdale to see them in the first place, I have no doubt that our paths will cross once more somewhere in this world.

Melody w/ the guys

wishing paper

Miami Beach & Calle Ocho

Monday March 31, 2014

Dinner Club

That place that was on the top of Matt’s list of where he never wanted to visit? Yup, we’re back there. Again. Except today had a lot more in store for us than just a stroll down the boardwalk or some good old fashioned people watching. Our day started early and went all night long.

Just as ready as we were getting ready to leave the DeLaro household this morning, those cute little ankle biters that guard the door tore out of the house and led to an early morning Chasing of the Dogs. Luki must be some kind of animal whisperer and he was able to scoop up one of the unsuspecting fluff balls and used it to lure the other one back home, as if it were running with a sausage dangling in front of it’s nose. Once they were secured back in the house we piled all six of us into the family golf cart to bumble down to Alfredo’s sister’s house for breakfast.  Even though my late night of mixing beer, wine, and RumChada had me barely able to get down a muffin in the morning (apparently even just a little bit of each will do that to you), it was great getting to know Alfredo’s sister and brother in law a little better, and we even had the chance to meet his dad who was full of questions for Matt and Luki about what it was like to sail around the world.  More of those questions were aimed toward Luki since I don’t think we’ve covered near as much ground as they have, but we were still able to throw in a few Caribbean crossings here and there.  

On the way back the keys to the golf card were handed to me, and it didn’t even take 5 minutes for me to almost kill all of us while running a red light at a major intersection.  The braking was just a little bit different than I was used to, and trying to pump on them would have put me right at a stop in the middle of the intersection.  I did manage to keep us alive long enough to get to the marina where Kajaya is anchored, and then pass back the keys to someone who knew what they were doing while we toured the rest of Key Biscayne.  All I can say is this place has some money.  If I thought the McMansions on Lake Sylvia were big, I was blown away by what was going up here.  We toured all the ritzy neighborhoods and even saw the house where Scarface was filmed.

running of the dogs

group at marina

scarface house

Back at the house it was a quick energy burst with a fill up of pop (they had Coke, and Pepsi) before splitting into two actual cars to hit up Miami beach.  I’m sure the golf cart would have made it just fine, but only if I was at the helm.  It’s obvious I’m the only one who knows how to handle that thing.

We parked right in front of Ana Bianca & Alfredo’s old apartment which was just a few blocks from the beach.  Even though I live on a boat, I’m always on the water, and always near a beach, I envied the fact that they used to stroll down the street with a coffee in hand to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic, or with a cooler full of beers in the afternoon, ready to take in the scene.  Surf and turf.  That’s the way to do it.

The six of us searched about the same number of bike stands before we finally came across one that had enough for all of us to ride.  With 30 minutes purchased, we hopped on those bad boys and pedaled the boardwalk of Miami Beach, an area that I’m now becoming quite familiar with.  I’m tell you, there’s just something about this place that keeps drawing me back.

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bicycling in south beach

 

We found time in the afternoon to do a little strolling of the streets as well.  Apparently there’s a big shopping district that Matt and I missed the first time around and I had no problem this time running in and out of H&M and Forever 21, trying to find new bikinis or outfits at deeply discounted prices.  Matt wasn’t in the shops with me, I had the credit card, and everything was fair game.  Surprisingly I walked out of every store empty handed which is a sign that Matt’s just rubbing off on me too much.  It was slightly satisfying to walk up to him though and proudly say “I bought nothing“.

When everyone had gotten their shopping in and we enjoyed a sweet afternoon treat of custard, we piled back into the cars for a tour of Little Havana, or Calle Ocho as it’s also known.  It’s an area of Miami that’s full of Cuban restaurants, shops, and markets.  They even have a McDonald’s there that serves rice and beans as a side because it’s so popularly requested.

On the grand tour we walked by a park full of old men playing dominoes, and an area of statues and monuments with tribute to Cuba.  Since we were missing our great Cuban friend Luis, the last and only missing member of the Dinner Club, we thought it would be nice to get a group photo of all of us that we could send to him back in Guatemala.  Asking the first random guy we saw walking down the street, we soon found this was not a wise choice.  Because this man was a Cuban.  That wanted to give us all a lesson on Cuba.  Six people who had all actually been to Cuba, and one that was of Cuba heritage.  We humored him for a little bit and sang along to the songs he was trying to teach us while he simultaneously made a grasshopper from palm fronds.  20 minutes and no photo later, we finally pulled another guy off the street to take our picture, allowing our ‘Cuban Tour Guide’ to be in it with us.

Having lost most of the afternoon now and still needing to get back to Key Biscayne for dinner at Alfredo’s sister’s, we took in just a little bit more of Little Havana, stopping at one of the restaurants for real Cuban coffee, super strong and super delicious, and ham and cheese croquetas.  Mmmm, just like I remembered them.  Since we were in the area we popped into a market to pick up some meat and veggies for dinner and then made our way back to the island for a costume change before dinner since the clouds had come in bringing a huge temperature drop with them.

Calle Ocho memorial

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Our night was rounded out with another family dinner, although not quite as big or with as many family members as the night before.  It was great though, sitting pool side of the complex where Alfredo’s sister Ivonne and husband Vance live where Luki got the brie (BBQ) ready, and Mimi (his mother) showed up with some freshly made peach daiquiris.  We sampled the mahi that Kajaya caught on their Gulf Stream passage from Isla Mujeres, and talked about the whens on where we’ll see each other next since we know that this can’t be it for our group.  I’m so happy that Matt and I decided to stay another night and can’t even imagine all that we would have missed had we gone home early.

It’s going to be a hard thing to leave tomorrow morning and go back to the boat where it will just be the two of us again for the foreseeable future as we move along to the Bahamas.  I am really, really going to miss these people as they truly have become family to us.  Long live the Guatemalan Dinner Club, you will always have a special place in our hearts.

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Matt & Jessica & Luki

Ana Bianca & Alfredo