Sailing Conductors - Hannes & Ben

Haaaave You Met the Germans?

Sunday March 15, 2015

Sailing Conductors - Hannes & Ben

Hannes & Ben – The Sailing Conductors

“Have you met the Germans?  Such great guys, interesting story…”.  “Oh, there’s a couple of young German guys here, have you met them yet?”.  “You guys have to meet the Germans”.  This somehow seemed to be the most common phrase we’ve heard around the marina our first few days.  Apparently these two German guys seemed to be all the rage here and after a few days of sitting around we did eventually get a chance to meet them.

On Monday Serendipity was hauled and blocked, and while we were busy chatting up this nice fellow Paul at the patio while the boat was in transit we later found they moved us to a spot in the DIY yard that was conveniently right behind the bathrooms and right next to these legendary Germans.  In time we made our way over to the new spot and we could see they were elbow deep in grease while working on an engine that was sitting on the ground next to their boat, so we only exchanged a brief hello before I started bugging Matt to find a ladder for me so I could get up and into the ‘Dip.  I had to make a run into town for essentials, and by run I mean walk since we have no mode of transportation at the moment and it was already falling into the late afternoon.  If we’ve gathered one piece of advice here so far it’s that you don’t want to be wandering the streets of Indiantown after dark.

The next morning as we were just getting used to our routine of being on the hard again, having to get off the boat and climb down a ladder every time you need to use the bathroom, we saw the guys getting off their boat and into a car.  Exchanging pleasantries again they mentioned they were using a rental for the day to go hunt for a vehicle to purchase.  When we responded that it was on our list of things to do as well they invited us to join them but we declined since Matt wanted more time to research cars in the area and also wanted to dive into some jobs on Serendipity for the day.  That was the last we saw of the Germans until Friday night.

Having spoken with our new friend Paul a few more times, one on a much needed ride to Stuart to get ourselves to a decent hardware and grocery store, he gave us a slight background on the guys and told us they were looking for an RV to drive around the US with for a road trip, when he suggested they look into getting a school bus instead because of the convenience of having it easily fixed anywhere you go.  They took his advice and were in Tampa finding one the right size and price for themselves and also getting it insured.  So Friday night when I was sitting at the patio area with my computer and a glass of wine, I jumped to take a look at the school bus as it pulled into the parking lot.

Finally getting a proper introduction to our new neighbors in the work yard I found out the guys’ names were Ben and Hannes, and when I mentioned that we should all hang out soon to get to know each other since we seem to be the only young people in the yard and we kept hearing they had an interesting story to tell, Ben invited us to come to the patio the next night for a few drinks and we could all exchange stories.  I thought mine and Matt’s double Atlantic crossing last year was going to put us in the ‘very interesting’ category for storytelling, but I was so wrong.  These guys did in fact take the cake when it came to interesting.

Sailing Conductors school bus

Hannes & Matt grilling

patio of Indiantown Marina

Here’s how it all began:  Ben and Hannes had originally met in Berlin at SAE Institute for sound engineering but had gone their separate ways after finishing and didn’t see each other for a few years.  Ben then moved to Australia for more schooling and when he finished in 2011 he thought to himself, “Why fly back to Germany?…why not do something different and sail back there”.  But not only was it just about the sail, it was also going to be about making music along the way.  Getting back in touch with Hannes, he agreed to the plan and flew out to meet Ben and the Sailing Conductors were born.

“For the last four years, friends and music producers Captain Ben and Smutje Hannes have been sailing their 30 foot nutshell boat Marianne from Sydney to Berlin.  Their goal is to traverse the boarders between music and musicians to redefine the concept of ‘world music’ – on 5 continents, 35 countries, and with over 100 musicians.”

So what they do, and is the coolest concept ever, is go from country to country recording artists playing original work.  Sometimes they’ll have one person start from scratch…but the best part is that they will also introduce that original piece to another artist in another country and have them add their own flare to it.  So an acoustic guitar piece from South Africa will be blended with vocals from Brazil, and an orchestra in Indonesia.  Ben, playing the cello, and Hannes, playing bass, will occasionally add to the pieces as well.  What comes from it all it totally original and completely amazing pieces music that are truly a form of art.

They’ve put out one album already, AAA, and I was able to get my hands on a copy today.  I’m already head over heals for the second song on the track, ‘All That I’m Leaving Here’.  You can take a listen to it on their site here, as well as all the other songs on the album (scroll to the bottom of the page).  This won’t be the only album they put out though and they’re still busy recording artists for a new one.  It turns out their ‘RV’ trip across the US in their new school bus is to hit some major cities and find new artists to record.

Well, after that story, our double Atlantic crossing was put to shame compared to all that they’ve accomplished and all they still plan to.  But since we now knew of their musical talents there was no way we could let them escape the rest of the night without playing some tunes for us.  First it was just me running to get my guitar off Serendipity along with about 50 pages of songs I had wanted to learn to play but never learned.  Then Ben ran back to Marianne to grab his nylon string guitar and we ended up switching since the nylon strings were much easier on my fingers and from there I was given a good hour or two lesson.

I’m really not sure how long it was because somehow we ended up staying out until 5:30 am.  Once the beer was gone I brought out the gin from St. Martin and once the guitar lesson was over I began leafing through songs to force the guys to play for my delight.  Grabbing some of their own song books we rocked out the patio and probably upset just a few boaters at the dock as we probably did scream at the top of our lungs to ‘What’s Up’ by the 4 Non Blondes.

It was hard to tear ourselves away from the patio as daylight was sneaking up on us and I suspect would could have very easily stayed to see the sun rise.  So it turns out everyone at the marina was right.  The Germans are great guys with a very interesting story.  I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of them as our time in the yard progresses, and not just because our boats are sitting right next to each other.

Hannes at the patio

Captain Ben on the guitar

Jessica, Hannes & Ben

Hannes & Ben playing guitar


Scarf turned into a headwrap….I sucked at it.



Super Bock vs Wuld

World Beer Tour: Portuguese vs Canairan

Saturday February 7, 2015

Super Bock vs Wuld

Guess who popped back into our lives and snagged themselves the best mooring ball in Christmas Cove?  Kim and Jereme from Laho!  Extremely excited for our paths to cross once more and when they invited us over to enjoy a beer around sunset there was no way I could say no.  Not only for the chance to hang out with them again, but also for the chance to prove that I am able to behave myself.  No mixed drinks for me tonight.

Nope, instead I planned on taking Kim and Jereme through a World Beer Tour.  Or maybe not so much a world tour as a European Atlantic Island tour.  Matt and I haven’t actually purchased any beer since we’ve been here in the Caribbean, partly because Matt isn’t much of a drinking and partly because we bought ourselves a liter of gin in Sint Maarten that is still going strong.  So what I’m left with are a few of the beers we stocked up on in the Canary Islands and also a pack of mini bottles from the Azores that I found stuffed in the bottom of a bag in our aft cabin.

One brand is a very popular Portuguese beer, Super Bock.  It’s pale lager that has vast popularity among the Portuguese and many other countries. Apparently it even has a cult status with Manchester United English Football supporters.  I was able to purchase it in ‘mini’, something I love and have not seen outside of Portugal, but the beers are bottled in little 200 ml, or approximately 7oz bottles.  Great for when you need something cold and refreshing with that lager taste but either want to watch your calories or not take in too much alcohol in one sitting.  (Yes, there are times this does happen)

Jessica & Kim w. Super Bock

It’s contender for the night is a beer we picked up in the Canary Islands, solely for it’s 0,35€ per can cost originally. It’s another light pilsen that I have found packs a lot of flavor and even enjoy it more than many of the other beers we found in the Hiper Dino supermarkets.  Many of the online reviews I were able to find describe it as lightly malty with notes of fruit and a hint of bitterness in the finish.  I’d have to agree with these comments.

Jessica & Kim w. Wuld

It was a tough competition in the beginning, opening the Super Bock first, just because we were all in the mood for a cold beer and how could it not taste delicious?  Plus everyone was in love with the tiny bottle and it’s easy pull off cap.  And although the beer was quite good, my favorite out of all the Portuguese varieties, I think it was mostly the bottle that everyone was in love with.

So push come to shove, cooler full of Super Bock and Wuld, I think all of us would be ready to reach for a Wuld first.  It was just a little more flavorful and filling.  Not that any of these were similar to the watered down light beers we’re used to drinking though. Sorry Super Bock, you played a great game.  And I still look forward to drinking you the next time I’m in Portugal.

Oliver & Matt

Matt, Jess & Oliver

Photo courtesy of Lahowind

sunset over Christmas Cove

Jessica on SUP

A SUPer Day with my Girls

Wednesday February 4, 2015

Jessica on SUP

We have finally made it to Christmas Cove.  Sigh of relief.  Trumpets sounding.  Halo shinning down.  I have been waiting to get here ever since Thanksgiving when groups of my friends began swarming here and posting about their fantastic times.  New Years parties…testing life rafts…shooting off expire flares.  I wanted, needed, to join in on the fun.

Added bonus for me, I already had two friends awaiting me when I arrived.  Felicia of s/v Kasablanca, who if you remember I hailed on the radio the other day after a random passing while on our way to Charlotte Amalie, and Jody of Where the Coconuts Grow.  Jody and I have been online blogging buddies for a few years now and since her man Peter is busy getting his captain’s license at the moment, they’ve stationed themselves in this bay where he can dinghy over to St. Thomas every day for his classes.  With a much bigger outboard than our Mercury 3.3 of course.

So knowing that they would definitely be in the area when Matt and I passed through, Jody and  made plans to meet up and even planned out lobster diving trips via satellite phone conversations during my Atlantic crossing. As soon as we got ourselves anchored the other day  (we chose to opt out of the free mooring balls and stay at the back of the pack), Jody whizzed over to say hi and we made plans to do a proper girls night tonight with a few other young cruising ladies in the anchorage.

Before we could get to that point though I called on Jody earlier today to help me with a little project, being my photographer for the day.  You’ll see what I’m talking about in my next post.  But after that was finished I asked if I could take one of her Tower SUPS for a spin, and being that she has two, we invited Felicia to take a spin with me.  Since it was basically two SUP newbies out and about, Felicia’s fist time ever!, we kept Jody as our photographer to capture the fun.

Jessica paddleboarding in Christmas Cove

Felicia & Jessica



Jessica & Felicia

For awhile the two of us did our best just to stay on the boards, which meant paddling while on our knees.  The winds were only about 10-15 knots but it was still enough to keep us working hard and putting up a sweat.  Plus there was a current trying to drag us out in the channel that was only making us work harder.  At one point both of us just gave up and spent a good five minutes drifting closer to St. Thomas, knowing eventually Jody would swing by with the dingy and tow us back in.

Safely back in the cove and with our ‘ride’ sitting right next to us we decided it was high time to get wet, which meant we could try some crazy antics on the boards since we knew it would mean falling off into the cool and refreshing water.  The very first step was just standing up on the boards which was cause enough for celebration in itself.  From there I tried a few yoga poses including a downward facing dog and a tree pose.  Something I couldn’t fully commit to because every time I’d begin to wobble I’d put my foot back on the board instead of letting myself hold the position for a split second before I went splashing down.

Once we had made a few trips into the water though it was really time to show off.  Felicia was pretty sure she could do a headstand on her board and I thought I’d give it a go as well.  Even though I knew it would end quite poorly for me.  As I expected, Felicia did a great job of getting her legs all the way up in the air and holding the position for just a second before gravity grabbed her and sent her into the salty water.  As for myself, I was barely able to begin putting my legs in the air before I’d begin crashing down.  It was all good fun though and definitely got a lot of laughs out of us girls.

Jessica & Felicia SUPing

standing up on SUP

downward dog on SUP

tree pose - xmas cove

Getting back to Serendipity late in the afternoon I had just enough time to relax a little and once again hastily make and eat a dinner before it was time to go back out again.  Leaving Matt alone on the ‘Dip to watch Dr. No, I happily scurried away with some cheap Don Simon Sangria in my bag, ready to spend a few hours with my girls.  The last one to arrive, I was greeted by Genevieve who had just arrived in Christmas Cove (yay!), Felicia, and a few new faces.  Chrissy of s/v Altera, and Toutou of s/v Four Coconuts.  Which the latter was full of smiles and already filling a glass of wine for me as I was still taking my seat in the cockpit.  Looks like things were already in full swing!

We ate, we drank, we were merry.  We gossiped and complained about boat chores and just did what girls do when they get together.  It’s nice to know that some things never change from land to sea.  Although I have to admit, girls nights on the water usually come with a much better view.

Chrissy & Toutou

Jody & Jessica


Genevieve & Jody

Jessica & Felicia

wine on Mary Christine

Genevieve & Jessica

An Up & Down Day, Ended on a Good Note

Friday January 30, 2015

Genevieve & Jessica

This morning was a bit of an adventure.  Full of ups and downs.  Come to think of it, the whole day was like that really.

When we decided today that we finally needed to get our anchor up from Big Trunk Bay and move ourselves over to Tortola we had to go through the hassle of upping our stern anchor which had been pointing us into the wakes and swells (I forgot that this was the method we were using, not a bridle).  Matt had taken the dinghy over to pull it up but wanted to dive on it first.  Having left his snorkeling mask on the boat I thought I’d just toss it over to him since he was only about 50 feet away.

Yeah….kind of forgot I can’t throw an object of sustainable weight on a good day, let alone an 8 oz snorkel mask.  It didn’t even make it half way to him before it started sinking down into the water.  Well at this point in the morning I hadn’t even put my contacts in yet, so while I was being yelled at to retrieve it I scrambled to get from my pj’s into even part of a swimsuit and into the water while half blind.  Let’s just say that Matt’s mask was not recovered.

On my swim back from the search to the boat I ran into my first ever jellyfish with a bite to it.  I’ve swum through hunreds of those itty bitty things that are basically half the size of your palm.  I didn’t see whatever I ran into, but I know that it was painful.  Nothing I got tangled in, thankfully, but enough that it felt like I got caught in a swim by stinging from a few bees.  Once back at the boat I was able to get the rest of my suit together and took Matt out with the dinghy so I could motor next to him while he used my goggles to search for his on the seabed.

We could tell there was a bit of a current and that they had been most likely swept away further than we were willing to search.  Oh well, we’ll be back in Florida soon enough where we can buy him a new set and in the Bahamas and Caribbean again in a year to get some use out of them.  Motoring back to the boat we heard a call for help and suddenly realized that Matt’s snorkeling mask was not the only thing being swept away by the current.

There was a French flagged boat anchored behind us and in broken English we heard one man on board yelling to us that his friend went swimming and couldn’t make it back to the boat, could we please go get him.  We turned ourselves around to go behind the boat and found a man floating on his back about 150 feet behind the boat.  Luckily he was being smart and not tiring himself out by trying to fight his way back.  Coming slowly up to him we could see this poor man that was getting carried away had lost one of his arms, making what would have been a swim back even more difficult.

The dinghy from the boat he belonged to had just left with a few of the crew members, most likely to go to the Baths, and had we not been there, there’s no telling how or if he would have been able to get back.  Using his one arm to grab onto the lines of the dinghy we hauled the rest of him on and brought him back to his catamaran.  Just as we were dropping him off and his friend was helping him back on board we saw the other dinghy headed back.  We just smiled and waved as we headed back to Serendipity to get the anchor up and get moving.  Our good deed for the day had been done and we wanted to go before having to refuse a bottle of wine or any other kind of gifts, something we have found the French are famous for giving even for the smallest of favors.

With the sails up we were once again traveling in perfect conditions.  I seriously love the Virgin Islands.  15 knots of wind pushing us at 4 knots over calm waters to our next destination only 10 miles away.  If only all our sails could be like this.  Our intended stop for the night was Sea Cow Bay.  This is because in the bay right next door was Nanny Cay Marina, and sitting in that marina was my friend Brittany of Windtraveler.  Although I had been chatting online with her ever since her and her husband Scott left Chicago to go cruising in 2010, I already had the chance to meet up and hang out with her in the Exumas when we passed through there two years ago.  A ladies night on the beach that was quite fun and memorable.

We’ve still been keeping in touch and when we found out we were both going to be in the BVI’s at the same time we knew we needed to get together again.  Find a nice spot on the beach once more to drink a little (or a lot of) Sangria while she got some well deserved time off from watching her three adorable little girls, and I once more had a chance to get in some QT with a long long friend.  It sounded ideal.  Only, making it a reality was not quite as easy as I’d hoped.  Getting to the neighboring Sea Cow Bay, things weren’t looking very good for us.

Although our charts showed this as an anchorage, all we found when we pulled in was an extremely small space that has squeezed two sets of docks in, and what was supposed to be the anchorage was littered with moorings marked with milk jugs.  Which in my mind does not go synonymous with strong holding.  Something I’d normally be willing to forego this for one night, but the winds were beginning to pick up and these moorings were surrounded by land on one side, docks on another, and a reef on the other.  The only good place for us to drag if we did was into the channel and unfortunately we weren’t going to take that chance.  As much as it saddened me, I was going to have to give up my date with Brittany.

Road Harbor, Tortola

Road Harbor, Tortola

Moving just a few miles further up the coast we pulled in to Road Harbor and found that was lacking for spots to anchor as well.  With the sun getting lower in the sky though, we weren’t willing to find yet a new spot.  Pulling up to a mooring at the mouth of the bay we tied ourselves off and jumped online to an open signal we found.  Imagine my surprise when I saw a post from my other friend Genevieve that she was also in Road Harbor that night!

I first met Genevieve the same night in the Exumas when I hung out with Brittany, and we’ve been close online friends ever since.  She was also someone I desperately wanted to see while we were in the Virgin Islands, only I thought they were still in St. John at the moment.  Quickly typing in some messages while hoping I’d get a speedy reply, I asked if she was available to get together that night and if I could dinghy out to see her at the marina she was staying in.  Luckily I did get a quick reply and she said she’d be more than happy for me to come hang out.

Going through a lightning pace to make and then eat dinner, I was getting in the dinghy just as the last bit of dusk was turning the sky black.  It was an interesting motor to the interior of the bay, running into some in-water construction that I had to find my way around, but soon enough I was at Moorings Marina and wandering the docks while looking for Necesse.  It wasn’t too hard to find since it was one of the only two non-Moorings charter boats there, and before I knew it Eben was tying off my dink while I was jumping on the dock to give Genevieve a big hug.

Coming out to greet me as well were her two super cute daughters, Arias and Ellia.  I had come prepared with gifts for them and if they had been excited to see me at first, they were even more excited to tear into the coloring books and temporary tattoos I had brought.  Genevieve was given some milk chocolate that I had brought from the Canaries, and Eben, well…..sorry, I didn’t have anything manly for you except a Star Wars coloring book.

For the first 20 or 30 minutes the five of us sat in the cockpit where the adults enjoyed some wine and the girls (now joined by their boat friend) were trying out the tattoos.  Ellia looked a little sad when she came out to show hers and at first I thought Genevieve said it was because she was worried it would rub off too soon.  So trying to make her feel better I said, “Oh don’t worry.  I put one on before and it stayed on for a month!  I was pretty sure it was going to be permanent!”  When her eyes widened even more I found out she had originally been worried that her temporary tattoo was in fact never going to come off.  I probably scared the little thing half to death with my ‘assurance’.

Just after that though, all the girls went next door to s/v Mirador and it was just us adults left to hang out and drink wine.  Although I had never forgotten, I was instantly reminded what a cool couple Genevieve and Eben are.  The conversation never had a lull in it and there was plenty to catch up on since the last and one time we had seen each other.  They have a very interesting Rickshaw Run coming up in India in a few weeks, but there was also lots of talk of the Virgin Islands and things to do there.  I had been devouring Genevieve’s latest posts about the area and had plenty of questions for her.  I quickly leafed through their guidebook of the area since we did not have one, and Eben was even nice enough to write down a list of the ‘must-see’ places with our limited time here.

As that conversation was winding down we were joined by the adults of neighboring Mirador, Joaquin and Maria.  A bottle of Moscato was opened and the hours continued to fly by.  There was one casualty of the night when I kept pestering Eben to take out his tripod to get a group photo of us and there was a distinctive plop noise when the connector piece when in the water, of which I take full blame for since it wouldn’t have been brought out in the dark in the first place if it wasn’t for me.  Do you still need a replacement guys?, I promise I’ll have one sent to you.

Other than that the night was nothing short of perfect.  I stayed out way past my curfew (What?  It’s past 23:30? I have to go!!) yet was already counting down days until we might be able to hang out again, hoping we’d cross paths again before my long trip home to Florida.  For a day full of ups and downs this was definitely a high high, and the perfect way to end the night.

Ellia with tattoo

Arias with tattoo

Eben & Genevieve

Eben & Jessica


group shot



Sailor’s Bar & Almost Good-byes

Friday December 12, 2014


The time has come already.  At least, we thought it had.  For our group to say good-bye that is.  Kit and Alex were all set to ship off tomorrow, having spent the past two days rushing around Las Palmas.   Filling water tanks and diesel, stuffing every nook and cranny with food, and almost sinking the boat with all the extra weight added necessary for an ocean crossing.

We hadn’t seen either of them in days, Kit not since our slacklining exercise on Wednesday morning, as we’re finding that ocean voyages come with a pretty hefty prep list.  Even just checking out of the country is a 45 minute walk each way to the port police and back.  We did find though that their passports were not even glanced at which is good news for us since no one in this country ever wanted to check us into it in the first place.

The plan had been for our Gran Canaria boat buddies to depart tomorrow….until the weather forecast kept making it’s daily changes, as it does.  Matt and I had been spying 20-25 knot winds (which means 25-30 in actual real world wind) and 2-3 meter waves, which is just a little heavier than we wanted to depart in and why we were not ready to race out ourselves.  As the forecast progressed to 25-30 knots of wind and waves bordering on 3-4 meters, our buddies decided that this was just a little heavier than they would like to travel in as well.

A night out at Sailor’s Bar had already been planned so we could get our last good-byes in, and when plans changes we decided to change it from a bon voyage party to ‘Yay, you’re stuck with us for a little longer!’ party.  Trying to find an open table at this establishment at 8pm on a Friday night is no easy feat, but after sliding into a ‘reserved’ table and getting mixed answers on if it was indeed reserved or not, and then finally stealing a table from someone who found it necessary to take up 4 seats to Skype, we sat down and downed a couple of cañas.

Our boats may not be headed across any oceans just yet, but personally, that’s just fine with me.  I have no problem spending a few more days in this cute and colorful down, drinking draft beers with new yet close friends.

beers at Sailor's Bar

Alex & Jessica

Jessica & Kit

Trying to ‘make love’ to the camera as well as Kit….and failing horribly….

Jessica & Kit

…So I settled for a plain old smile instead.

brittany hat 2brittany hat

Kitiara in Wanderland


group photo, Sailor's Bar

Kit & Matt

Beer Buckets with Kitiara in Wanderland

Friday December 5, 2014

bottles of tinto verano

I’m going to let you in on a little secret.  I’ve been a little lonely here in Europe ever since we arrived.  Ok, like very lonely.  It’s basically just been the two of us now for the past six months. We just don’t see the outgoing cruisers we did in the Caribbean, and forget any young people to hang out with.  We’ve seen a few more in the Canaries than Portugal, usually with a French flag flying, but being a little shy as well as knowing there would be a language barrier we never do more than wave as we pass by and half the time get a wave back.

Now that we’re in Gran Canaria there definitely are more people gathered in one spot and sometimes we can even get a wave from a passing boat or a dinghy…and even though there are a few bars in the marina’s grounds that are always full of sailors throwing back a few beers and having a good time, again, I’m still always too shy to go up and make first introductions.

So when I found out that an online blogging friend Kit and her boyfriend Alex were going to be making it over to Gran Canria, it was like someone threw me a lifeline.  Finally someone to hang out with that I’d already been chatting online with for a few months and I knew wanted to hang out with me as well.  At least, I hope that was the case.  I might have been just a little obsessed with Kit’s arrival, constantly looking out the port to see if I could make out their little Camper Nicholson among the boats arriving in the harbor.

My friend Jackie was joking online with me that I should call Kit up on the VHF as soon as I saw them coming in and say ‘Thank god you made it, my eyes were getting sore from staring through binocculars all day’.  Matt, getting the full brunt of my obsessive measures, went even further and joked that I should meet her at the dock with a homemade banner that featured the two of us Photoshoped in together with BFFs written next to it.

I did miss Kit’s arrival last night, even though I was tempted to leave my VHF on just to listen for when they called into the marina, but even my stalking has it’s limits and I tried to busy myself with blogging instead.  As I was enjoying my coffee this morning though, I did see their boat Berwick Maid pass us by, and a petite blonde at the bow.  My new BFF had arrived!

A little bit after that Matt and I thought we’d try for an afternoon at the beach since the sun had actually been out all morning and we wanted an afternoon there admist all the rain we’d been getting through the week.  Taking the dinghy in to the marina we passed Berwick Maid at the reception dock and took a chance that someone might be aboard.  Knocking on the hull we were promptly greeted by Kit, or Emma Stone’s doppleganger.  The resemblance is astonishing.

Kit was very friendly and I immediately fell in love with her cute British accent.  She told us that Alex had been busy trying to check them in for the past hour, and while she waited for him to come back, invited us onboard to chat.  The sun had suddenly disappeared again and the wind was building so it looked like our day at the beach might have to be aborted anyway.  For the next 45 minutes we shamelessly took up space on her boat as the three of us got to know each other better and swapped stories of our travels thus far.  Knowing that she would eventually want to get back to resting after their trip over from Tenerife though, we left, but not after inviting them out with us that night for whatever music festival we found out was going on at the Santa Ana Plaza.

We we got back together a few hours later we grabbed a quick beer at one of the marina’s watering holes before making the 20 or so minute walk to the Old Town.  Having been there once now ourselves we fell into immediate tour guide mode, pointing out all the interesting things we’d found the previous day.  Such as the most stylish clothing shops, the most interesting looking bars, and of course the McDonald’s.

The cool evening air was refreshing, and along our walk we made the normal cultural difference jokes as Kit and I talked about how a door in Europe may be labeled as WC, but you never ask where the water closet is if you’re trying to find one. You just as for the toilet.  Or maybe the shitter.  Apparently ‘loo’ isn’t very common which depressed me just a little bit.  We were still on this topic as we wandered into the plaza and found it was not quite what any of us were expecting.

Because the person I originally asked about the event spoke very little English, all I knew was that there would be music at 8:00.  We thought there might be bands or chiors performing live on stage, either would have been fine, but this was just a few speakers playing terrible Spanish hip-hop music.  Tents were set up throughout the plaza as vendors peddled their goods, much like what we saw at Horta’s Sea Week.  It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t exactly the scene we were looking for either.  Grabbing a Heineken from one of the vendors we took a spot by the church just to see if things got any more interesting the longer we stayed there.

pedestrian walkway, Las Palmas

Plaza Santa Ana, Las Palmas

Plaza Santa Ana at Christmas

Kit & Matt drinking Heineken

It turned out the answer was no.  Luckily for us I had taken note of a bar earlier that had cheap buckets of beer.  Who would say no to that on a Friday night? No one in our group.  Apparently not a lot of other people either.  After we tracked down this specific bar we had to wait for a table to open up and even then we had to squeeze the four of us into a spot meant for two until another opened and we could pull it alongside.

Through the next few hours we enjoyed three buckets of beer and some great company.  Even though Kit and Alex have only started cruising a few months ago, we all have that impending Atlantic crossing coming up so there was never a shortage of things for us to talk about.

Alex & Jessica

Kit & Matt

 And who would have guessed that on our walk back we would have passed a movie poster featuring Emma Stone.  There was no way we couldn’t force Kit to stand next to her doppleganger and get a photo.  What do you think?  I wouldn’t be surprised if we see her fend off unknowing fans during her stay here.

Kit aka Emma Stone

Michelle and Adam at gin bar

Cruise Like a Norwegian

Wednesday October 8, 2014

Santa Maria Gin Bar

Every night in every city around the world it happens.  People pour into local watering holes to well…drink.  It’s our mission to traverse the globe getting to know these different people and their drinking customs, bellying up to the bar, and with any luck, making some new friends. Wait a minute, that sounds kind of familiar. Ah yes, that’s right. I stole it from Three Sheets (Around the world one drink at a time), but I think it aptly describes our night in Funchal tonight. Except, instead of getting to know the locals and their drinking customs, we observed them with two Aussies and three Norwegians.

We met Michelle and Adam, the two Aussies, two days ago when all of us happened to be headed to the marina’s showers at the same time. Or the loo, or whatever it might be referred to as by them, not even realizing they were just hot off a passage themselves. Isn’t that so fun to say though?, ‘I met them on my way to the loo’. Since how were we supposed to know at the time that this young couple were cruisers and not just backpackers looking for a lukewarm shower? You don’t see many young people out in these mid-Atlantic islands, it just doesn’t happen.

Except for the 30-something American guy I struck up a conversation with in Horta while going up to the marina bar for a bag of ice. He probably thought I was getting ready to throw some kind of mixer on our boat that evening, completely unaware it’s real use was to dump over my head with a bucket of water. Come to think of it, he looked kind of fun. I should have gotten his boat card or an email address…something that would have kept us in contact and let us do something social during our weeks in Faial. Instead of sitting on the boat by ourselves. Every night.

But getting back to the people we hung out with tonight, Henrik, Kristian, and Marius, of S/Y Doris, make up the Norwegian part of the group are three of the cutest young guys you’ve ever seen. These friends, that we met through Michelle and Adam, are on their way from Bergen to Sydney in just one year. These three boys have piled themselves into a 32 ft boat, and if you ask them why they’re out doing this they’ll tell you Because it will be the adventure of our lives – who could say no to something like that!

The seven of us started our night at one of the quaint little bistros that line the concrete walls surrounding the marina, and with a nice tall beer cheaply priced at 1,30€, the next few hours few by as we all talked about our travels and shut the place down at the early hour of 23:00. (Yes, military time. That’s something you have to get used to over here). Not ready to end the night, and after speaking with Michelle about some of the local drinks and customs, we definitely were not ready to call it quits before trying some Poncha. A local drink from Madeira made with a distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juice, honey, sugar, lemon rind, and added flavors. Sounded tasty to me, and since I never got my birthday Caipirinha, I was not going to leave this island without getting a Poncha in me.

Dragging our group to the old town next, since I’ve fallen so extremely in love with it over the past few days, we expected the clubs to be going strong and overflowing with other tourists like ourselves. How wrong we were though. Wandering it’s most restaurant and bar ridden road we only came across only one establishment that was still open, the Santa Marina Gin Bar. Sounds like the perfect place to grab a Poncha, right? After the group of us grabbed another round of beers and made our way to the posh outdoor terrace, Michelle and I decided it was time to skedaddle off on our own to try this drink.

Walking up to the bartender we asked the gentleman if they offered it. He told us that no, they did not, but there was a place open in the downtown area that was still open and did carry it. Since we were already saddled up to the bar we asked how much a gin & tonic would cost. We did happen to be in a gin bar, and when in Rome… “8€” replied the bartender. “Oh”. We sighed nonchalantly, not about to drop that much money on one drink but also trying to come off as upscale as the bar we were in. “Did a guy just walk out of here with 7 beers?” “Yes”. “Well, we’re all set then, thanks anyway!”, and ran away, hoping he didn’t see us counting the meager change in our coin purses.

crew of S/Y Doris

Santa Maria Gin Bar, Funchal

Santa Maria Gin Bar, Funchal, Madeira

Hannah and Adam at gin bar

Back out on the patio where the cheap beers were flowing, we sat around and talked for a bit about Australia and all the things that can kill you there. Michelle and Adam, living their lives here, and the Norwegian boys, on their way here, were all very interested in this topic. Yes, drop bears did come up a few times. Before we knew it we had closed down the gin bar as well but still had not had a single taste of Poncha. Getting directions from the bartender on this mythical place where we could actually find it, we wandered the dark roads of Funchal until we wound up directly across the street from the marina where we had begun. Another round of beers were ordered and this cute old man that we think runs the place kept bringing us out little plates of popcorn and seemed to be very charmed every time we would take a moment out of our conversation to thank him for this.

Eventually Michelle wandered off inside and when she came back she was holding two passion fruit Ponchas for us girls to drink. Just as the description promises, it was very sugary and sweet. I was really going to take my time and enjoy this drink along with cigars, such as those drew estate cigars, for example. That was, until Henrik spied us and I handed over my glass for him to have a taste. The next think I know my whole glass of syrupy goodness was down his throat. After I’d only had one sip. I started at him slack-jawed and stuttered “But…but..that was my drink! You drank my drink!”. Completely stone faced Michelle looked on at him and replied, “That was her drink. You need to go buy her another one.” The poor guy had no idea that I was only offering a taste and not the whole thing. But, being the good guy that he is, he disappeared into the bar and came out with a tray of seven Ponchas in his hand. And Michelle, being the sweet girl that she is, placed her already existing one between us to share.

After this point, all was right with the world again. I had my Poncha, I had popcorn, and I had friends. And can I just say that after not having gone out for a social night with other people since back in Miami, it felt really really good.

Taberna in Funchal Madeira

Marius, Kristian, and Adam

me & Michelle




smoking a cigarette

 I stole some of the guys items as photo props.

me & Marius

me & Ana Bianca

Celebrating Birthdays with our Miami Family

Sunday June 1, 2014

kids with bubble gun

So there was no avoiding taking the bus today. Not that we really mind, it’s not like we have a bustling schedule where we need to be anywhere as-fast-as-possible, but we’re always singled out for the crazy people to talk to. There must be some sort of kindness in our face that the rest of public transportees in Miami lack. These people have chosen wisely though, because we are always too polite to abruptly end the conversation and let them go off on whatever tangent they’ve pulled out for the day. Don’t worry though, the two hour ride between riding, transfers and walking to get ourselves to Key Biscayne was totally worth it. Today was Vance’s birthday, and we wanted to make sure we were there to celebrate.

Walking in the door right at two o’clock when it started and finding only Ivonne, Vance, and Vance’s daughter Jenny getting everything set up, they laughed and told us no one mentioned ‘Cuban time’ to us. By arriving on time we had arrived too early. Which was fine because it gave us a chance to help set up and take a small load off their hands. Before we knew it, all the other guests began to show up and we were situated at a table with Ana Bianca and Alfredo, stuffing our faces full of veggies and dip and washing them back with cold Yuenglings. We let them know of our new plan to wait for a good 4-5 day window of south winds and finally get out of dodge. It turns out they’re planning on taking I-65 down to the Virgin Islands instead of the thorny path, and a buddy boat alliance was formed since we both needed to make the same 500 miles east out of Miami. (We later found out though that they can go through the NW Channel of the Bahamas while we want to be above it, so the buddy boat plan didn’t work out)

When the air conditioning indoors became too much for Ana Bianca and I to bear since we’re not used to living our lives with it anymore, we moved outside to one of the shaded tables where we watched Jenny prep the grill and layer it with what looked like the most mouthwatering cuts of chicken I’d ever seen. Luckily I was able to snag the recipe of the marinade from her and will be trying it out on Serendipity sometime soon. Things got even better that when the chicken had finished cooking I didn’t even need to remove myself from the pool to get a few pieces, it was handed right over to me. Trust me, it did not disappoint. Jenny, you are my new grill master. (Sorry Justin, I’ve supposedly heard that you’re also a grill master, but I honestly didn’t see you do much of anything in that area today. The title remains with Jenny).

pool at Toti's

Jenny at grill

Ana Bianca at pool

Alfredo & Gracie

Shortly after, we made our way back inside.  There’s just no pleasing us girls, and soon we were craving our air conditioning again.  Plus all the delicious snacks that lay inside.  Going for seconds of shrimp cocktail and bacon jam (no, not together), I almost filled myself up to the point that when the cake came out and we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ to Vance, I was tempted to pass on the carrot cake being placed in front of me.  A good rallying took me to accept it, and good thing I did because it was so delicious.  And after that I even had to snatch one of the last chocolate chip cookies before they ran out.  This party was full of food overload, but god do I miss those days where I just get to stuff my face.  They don’t happen too often on the boat, usually because that would mean sweating in a hot galley to prepare anything.  Yes, even the cold items.

birthday cake

me & Ana Bianca

kids blowing bubbles

While all the children, a whole gang of them under the age of 5, took their afternoon naps, us adults entertained ourselves out on the patio with glasses of Mt. Gay rum in our hands.  When the kids woke back up later in the evening though, the party got it’s second wind.  No longer content to only entertain among themselves, a collaboration between the children and adults began where some of the adults (mostly me) began acting like children and participating in their games.  There were races around the room on top of boogie boards, dancing to Disney’s ‘Frozen’ soundtrack, and Vance even joined in the childish games with me by whizzing the kids around the room in his motorized chair.  Of course no one could keep us kids away from playing with one of the family member’s labradoodle, Millie, and when we settled down just a little while later we were treated to one of the young boy’s a capella versions of a Disney song while standing on a table who proceeded to dive/crowd surf his way on to Matt’s lap directly after. Because of the current and and ongoing global situation, spending birthdays on these locations might still not be allowed. That’s why most would opt to celebrate on their own houses and backyards instead. As for the kids, their parents chose the best children’s outdoor playhouses which can be placed on their backyards so the kids can still have some fun and get their mind off the ongoing negativity.

Even though we were the first ones to arrive this morning, we were the last ones to shut the party down just shy after midnight.  Good thing Ana Bianca and Alfredo were willing to drive us back to the dinghy because I don’t even want to imagine the kind of bus people we might have encountered on the way back.  We’re starting to become a little sad that our departure date for the Med has been delayed, but as long as it has, we’re just so glad we now have a ‘second family’ in Miami to be able to spend our extra time with.

Matt with champagne

Ana Bianca, Milly & Jenny

Gracie and Millie

Matt holding the crowd surfer

Alfredo, Jessica, Ana Bianca, & Matt

Just Can’t Keep us Apart

Tuesday May 27, 2014

Crandall Park

It took us about two weeks of sitting here in Miami, but we were eventually able to pin our friends Ana Bianca and Alfredo down for an evening of hanging out. Both our groups have been pretty busy lately, and trying to find a day that we both didn’t have something going on (ok, maybe we’ve had a little more leisure time than them) did take awhile, but we finally planned on an night of hanging out in Key Biscayne with Alfredo’s sister Ivonne and brother-in-law Vance. Two more people that we’ve grown very fond of in our past visit to Key Biscayne, so we were very excited.

Spending my morning searching bus routes and times from Miami Beach over to the southerly island, as soon as I found out that Alfredo had to run into MB for something anyway, we jumped on the chance for a free and quick ride. Not that we couldn’t have taken the bus there, but….between transfers it would have been close to two hours. Plus this ride had air conditioning and someone much better to talk to than the passenger who wants to regale you with their release from prison. That just happened that day. (Two times this has happened to me!)

When we got to Ivonne and Vance’s place we found Ana Bianca waiting for us and ready to show off what all of their recent hard work had been going toward. If you’ve ever heard me joke on this website or our Facebook page about ‘Ana Bianca…saving the oceans!!’ (think of that in a Trey Parker/Matt Stone sing-song kind of way), it’s because she is! Between her experience as a photojournalist and his experience as a director of photography, these are making a documentary series of segments about our oceans in peril. Having already filmed a few of those segments while working their way up the coast of Central America from where we originally met them in Guatemala, this week was the big launch of their new website Element Zero, and they’ve been pouring all of their time and energy into it. We were given a quick tour of the new site where we spied the trailers we had already viewed on their Facebook page, as well as the awesome layout and beautiful photographs they’ve loaded.

They’re work for the day wasn’t quite over yet though, and since our bus wouldn’t have dropped us off there until 4, we’d just hopped a ride because it was available, we wanted to get out of their way for a few more hours so they could finish up their work. Having two bikes at our disposal though, man do we miss those, we were given recommendations of a few beaches and parks to explore and one tasty sandwich shop to grab lunch. Off we went into the bright Florida sunshine, ready to get some food before traveling the island. Hopping over to Oasis and brushing up on my Spanish, we had a mouth watering sandwich while chugging down an ice cold Coke before hitting the open road again.

Matt filling bike tires

Oasis, Key Biscayne, Florida

Word on the street, or out of Alfredo’s mouth, is that Crandon Park has the best beach in Key Biscayne, and since we obviously don’t see those enough, that’s the first place we headed to.  Honestly though, two weeks in the boat stuck in a large channel will leave you craving beaches again.  The parking lot was completely empty as we cycled in, a far departure from the crowds that must have been here the previous day celebrating the holiday weekend.  Waving back and forth on our bikes as we followed the asphalt drive we noticed a sign for a peacock sanctuary to our right and promised ourselves to check it out on our way back.  Suddenly a ruffle of feathers and a loud squawk off to my side let me know that these large birds were not confined only to their sanctuary.  Wanting to be as adult as I could, I refrained from chasing him down to see if he’d arrange his full plumage for me.  Or maybe it was because I thought the tables would turn and it would be him who would chase me down in the end.  So I settled for stepping off my bike and snapping a few photos while he idly eyed my can of Coke.  By the way he slowly advanced on me, I’m pretty sure he wanted me to share.

peacock, Crandon Park

As if seeing a peacock directly upon our arrival wasn’t enough, we locked the bikes up and walked into a scene that looked as if it was taken directly from the coasts of North Carolina with a few palm trees thrown in.  This place was stunning.  We walked out to the Atlantic and waded in the shallow pools of bath water before hiking further up the beach and peeked at a sandcastle contest that was going on between a large group of children.

When we decided it was finally time to make our way back we did still pop into the bird sanctuary which is a lush area of grass, trees, and ponds that’s just as alluring as the beach.  Plus the wildlife (to us) was just an added bonus on top of that.  Iguanas skittered across the path as we listened to more peacocks call and parade next to us on the lawn.  Our big goal was to spot an alligator in the ponds, of which the signs warned us there were, but was unproductive as there were none.  Or they were very very sneaky.  And I wouldn’t put it past us to miss any kind of wildlife that’s right in front of our face.  It may have happened like one or two (or fifty) times in our past. We actually couldn’t even identify half of the birds we did end up stumbling across there.  I mean, what is the thing that looks like a mix between a duck and a goose?*

Crandon Park, Key Biscayne

beach umbrellas at Crandon Park

Matt & Jessica selfie

low tide Crandon Park

lifeguard station Crandon Park

birds at Crandon Park

Once we were back at the apartment we enjoyed a refreshing beer and a little more website looky-loo before tearing ourselves away for a ride in the family’s golf cart, dubbed the Love Bug, for a ride up to the grocery store to stock up on items for dinner that night.  There were items to put on the grill, some chips to snack on, and best of all, a case of Red Stripe.  For cheaper than we bought it in Jamaica!  I’ll have to keep my eye on those sales more often.

Just like the last time we were here with Luki and Elmari, our group took over the area surrounding the pool although the afternoon clouds probably would have driven everyone else away anyway.  What can I say?, except we fell right back into our old dinner club routine and conversations picked up right where we had left them off two months ago.  Except this time instead of talks about our crossing to Europe we were slowly trying to be talked into following Ana Bianca and Alfredo on s/v Kajaya to Aruba and back up the Western Caribbean.  Extremely tempting based on the weather reports we’ve been seeing, and Alfredo’s testimony that today’s weather is typical for February or March, but not late May.  As I said, it was very tempting, but we’re still hoping to stick with our original plan of an Atlantic crossing.  Let me just go write those plans in the sand real quick, I think it’s low tide right now.

As usual, the night passed by way too quickly and before we knew it we were being chauffeured back to Serendipity.  We’re hoping this won’t be good-bye between the four of us, but I have a feeling it won’t.  And it’s not because we’re now planning on hightailing it south instead of east.  Nope, this family is always having get togethers, and the next one happens to be Sunday for Vance’s birthday.  Somehow I have a sneaky suspicion that we won’t be leaving on time and we’ll being seeing these faces once more.

Alfredo grilling

Ana Bianca's selfie

Alfredo, Jessica, Ana Bianca, & Matt

*Not the birds shown in the photo.  I never got a picture of the things I want to keep referring to as a mongoose.   Even though they are completely different things.



Jessica, Drena, & Kim

Friends & the Family Regatta

Tuesday April 22, 2014

Kidd's Cove, Georgetown, Bahamas

It’s time to put your hands up in the air like you just don’t care, even if Lorde is kind of over being told to do it, because we have made it to Georgetown! On Easter Sunday (looks like we did definitely miss out on celebrating that on Long Island), we fueled up in Nassau and made the run over to the Exumas. Starting out fairly early, we had our butts handed to us by about nine other sailors that passed us along the way. Who knows if they were motor-sailing or were just plain better sailors, but on our downwind course, we were the last to arrive. Which meant the spot we were hoping to tuck into in Allen’s Cay was full and we were forced to drop in front of the beaches at Highbourne. Not a big deal unless the winds were coming out of the west. Which they were. And probably why every boat before us hightailed it into Allen’s where there’s protection from the west. Oh, that and to see those cute but ferocious looking iguanas that roam the island. So we were left to spend the night pinned against a lee shore, bouncing and bobbing between all the mega yachts that surrounded us, dead still themselves, and had kind of a horrible night at anchor. We joked for a little bit that we should have dropped anchor directly behind one of them, letting the mamouth structure block us from the wind.

With winds shifting to the NW the next morning, we took our cue in the early afternoon with slack tide and made a run out of the cut there and to the Exuma Sound. The goal was to travel overnight and make to Georgetown at first light, getting in just in time for the start of the Family Island Regatta. The sail was very comfortable, especially after the night we’d just had while not even moving, and for the first time probably ever, I was happy to be on passage rather than at anchor. Trying out some new cords that Matt had bought for our chart plotter back in Florida, we turned it into our own little movie theater for a couple of hours, connecting it to our hard drive and watching episodes of Entourage while clocking our heads around every 10 minutes to make sure there was no other boat traffic. Coolest.Thing.Ever.

Even though we originally thought we’d have to slow ourselves down for the 85 mile journey so we wouldn’t be arriving in the dark, our speed slowed down sometime during the midnight hours and decided to stay there. Instead of an 8 am arrival to the Conch Cut, it didn’t happen until 11. One hour and paying meticulous attention to the entry waypoints later, we scouted all the anchorages with our binoculars and found our friends Kim and Scott on s/v Anthyllide in Kidd’s Cove and put our anchor down just a few hundred feet from them. These people are the whole reason we’re down here in Georgetown, and the reason we’re saving the rest of the Exumas until our way back up. Kim and Scott were literally the first young cruisers we met on our journey, way back in Cape May, NJ, just five weeks into our trip. They were the ones who introduced us to Brian and Stephanie on s/v Rode Trip, and together, our three boats made a little armada on and off down the Eastern Seaboard, picking up just one more batch of young cruisers on our way (shout out to Ryan and Tasha of s/v Hideaway!).

Once we had gotten stuck in St. Augustine though, Kim and Scott were holding a faster course than we were able to catch up with and we hadn’t seen them since. When we found out they’d be in the Bahamas at the same time as us, and in a location we could reasonably get ourselves to in the time allotted, there was no way we were going to turn down that opportunity. After cleaning up the ‘Dip and understandably passing out for a few hours, as we always do when settling in after an overnight passage, we watched their boat and at the first signs of life aboard, went on deck waving our arms and shouting out to them. It turns out they had actually spotted us and were leaving to come over and say hi. Welcoming them aboard with huge hugs, there were so many stories to dive into between our 16 months apart. We’d just been cruising babies the last time we’d all seen each other, not having experienced anything other than the ICW and a little bit of Atlantic passaging. This time we had stories up the wazoo, a lot of them involving places Kim and Scott had already been to. Who do you think informed Brian and Stephanie about the Rio Dulce who then informed us? Funny how things work out.

entering Elizabeth Harbor

sailboats in Elizabeth Harbor

Cracking open a box of our finest Chillable Sweet Red Wine, we sat in the cockpit and swapped stories until we realized it was way after dinner time and none of us barely had a bit to eat all day. That was ok though, because after dinner were the beginning of the festivities in town to celebrate the regatta. Each night beginning around 7 or 8, locals and cruisers will raid the streets of Georgetown where there are strings of booths set up offering Kaliks, conch salad, and conch fritters. How were we to turn that down? Best of all, it was also going to be a chance to meet up with new friends Drena and JR of s/v Journey. Drena and I knew of each other through the blogging community and would occasionally send messages back and forth to each other and Like different things on each other’s Facebook pages.

It ended up being a much more quiet night in town according to Kim and Scott who and been in the previous night.  We still had a great time though, drinking 3 for $5 cans of Ass Bush Crack and eating 6 for $1 conch bread fritters.  Drena and JR showed up just a little bit after we got there, and it was really fun meeting not only more young cruisers, but someone who’s been following our adventure.  Then Kim introduced us to her friend, Emil, a Bahamian from Long Island that is racing on a class-A boat, Rupert’s Legend.  What’s really funny though is when Emil first walked up he looked like any gringo cruiser that was probably from Texas or something, and then he opened his mouth and began talking in a Bahamian accent.  It was something that left you scratching your head for just a second, but then you have to keep up because you realize you’re terrible with accents and just missed half of the conversation.

It was a great welcome into Georgetown and we’re so happy to be in the company of friends again.  With races and festivities every day until the weekend, I have a feeling we’re going to be pretty pooped come Monday.  Fine with me though, I’m ready to hang out with friends and go have some fun.

ordering fritters

Jessica, Drena, & Kim


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