Happy is as Happy does. This post is a simple reminder to follow your passions and do what makes you happy.
Happy is as happy does. Some of my friends love to bake. A few of them have not had any professional training in baking. They have been taught by family, learned along the way, or researched their ass off to do the things they enjoy with baking. Other friends enjoy hobbies like rebuilding bicycles, carpentry, gardening, stained glass, and even collecting leaves. Happy thoughts and happy actions bring positive moods. Positive moods and happy vibes make us a hoot to be around.
My happy place is rebuilding boats. It’s the feel, the smell, the tiny baby steps of a project that puts a smile on my face. Years ago, I read a book titled This Old Boat. It explained in detail how boat parts worked back in the old days. I still have that book. It’s beaten up, water-stained, and smells funny—kind of like me after a good day working in the bilge. Hobbies are the best therapy. It gives our hands and minds something to do. Yes, it digs into our financial pockets, but it is worth it. One of my friends has been building a barn out on an old piece of property. The barn doesn’t have a purpose in the traditional sense. It won’t hold an old tractor. No hay will ever see the inside of these old repurposed wooden planks. Not even a mule will walk through the doors. But it makes him happy to fiddle with it on the weekends. He packs a sack lunch and a cooler of iced down cheap beer, drives to the barn, and hammers nails on the weekends. It’s his happy place.
Where is your happy place? What are your hobbies? Do you have an activity that you call therapy?
I keep my politics private. A big mystery among my friends is which side of the aisle do I lean. My Republican friends tell me jokes about the left. My Democrat friends joke about the right. It’s as if I am the human form of Switzerland. In reality, it’s more like I am a private island.
Do you know what I have found on every island around the world that I’ve visited? Trash:
Some of my favorite people are trashy. But that doesn’t mean they throw plastic out and about. Last year I posted a blog article about waterway trash pickup meetups. A lot has changed since then.
These days, when I’m in town, I co-host a Saturday beach clean-up in Miami. It is on Key Biscayne at the Bill Baggs State Park, to be exact. Every weekend we go out with our buckets and long-handle grabbers. Every weekend we return with full buckets of plastics.
One misconception that I’ve learned is about plastic straws. Rarely do I find those on the beach. The politics of the matter will steer the topic to the left or the right. “It’s because more people are using paper straws.” “It’s because the turtles are eating them before they make it to the beach.” See, even that can be polarized. The real question is, do you really need a straw at all? It’s more of a want than a necessity. I will argue that there are reasonable conditions for straws. I’m referring to the ADA. (You just googled ADA, didn’t you? Good, you probably should. That’s why I placed it there.)
The thing I find the most on the beach are bottle caps. Yep, those little things that go on top of the water and soda bottles. This is another good reason to drink beer on the beach or a boat. Skip the plastic and reach for the glass option.
In December 2020, a theatre troupe commanded my attention while they were on stage at the oldest house in Miami, Florida.
In December 2020, a theatre troupe commanded my attention while they were on stage at the oldest house in Miami, Florida. This Equal Play Production called Quickies was written and produced by my friend and crew member, Tracey Jane. Tracey captured her memories of a summer sail with a pencil on paper. From there, the real magic started. Quickies is a concept of four short plays with the same four actors. In reality, the idea is brilliant, and it works. The plays were named Save the Pets, Build a BOB, The Morning Menage, and Saving Sapphire. Sapphire, as in Aquatramps floating abode, was the centerpiece of my excitement. This performance was about the resilience of the crew during a week-long summer sail in 2020. Just like a lot of things in 2020, the trip did not go at all as planned. The words personified the ups and downs, like the crowns and troughs of waves. For this humbled Captain, it was a relief that the actors showed humor and warmth on stage. Opposite the stage sat the audience, where other crew members of that trip watched and even laughed at the inside jokes we all share. I overheard a stranger in the audience say, ” the writer has spent time on a boat!” Some things are difficult to describe about the follies of sailing unless you’ve spent time on deck.
After the show, I met up with the crew at a local outside Pub. We drank, stretched our memories, and realized that we share a bond of those days out on the water. Agua es Vida – Water is Life
The sun peeked through the portholes and started waking the crew. We wolfed down breakfast before finishing the final preps. The moment was upon us to bugout of Ft Pierce and sail back to Miami.
In early December, we untied the dock lines then pointed the bow toward warmer weather. The course from Ft Pierce to Miami kept us within sight of land for the multiple-day voyage. Omar and Derek joined me for a mini-adventure. We packed the catamaran with food and supplies for the nonstop trip. A few parts that were already broken had us on our toes even before we started. Plus, a weather front changed at the last minute for a return to port. After we were finally making-way, we reflected on the earlier decision we had made as a collective to stay put. That little extra time gave us room for a sail repair and relaxation after the beating we received from the weather the night before.
Game Time- Derek received points for reaching top speed. Omar received points for being Omar. I received points for baking the lasagna.
Miami welcomed us with a beautiful skyline and colorful sunset. With the anchor firmly set, we crashed. We slept hard and apologized to our boat neighbors for the deep sleep snoring coming from all three cabins. So generous of sleep I barely even noticed the rain shower pass in the middle of the night. The sun cracked the dawn like an egg. With smiles and a pang of hunger, we headed to town to find breakfast in the city that Sapphire calls her home port. Welcome to Miami- Bienvenido a Miami Rise and Shine.
The choice is thick or thin. Families have been at stalemate for centuries with knife and fork in hand.
The thing to know about pizza is that there is no middle ground for thick or thin. As you read this, you already know your favorite style. Unless God forbid, you are a carb counting, card-carrying, cauliflower crust loving Karen! If that’s you, go ahead and stop reading now.
For the rest of us, we want flavor. We like cheese, especially for Americans; we want every topping, including the kitchen sink on our pizza. I mean, can you really be a Fun-guy without mushrooms? For me, I’ve always favored thick crust, double mozzarella, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, and dare I say it… pineapple. Yep there it is. Perfection.
During a recent trip up North, I started daydreaming about pizza. I messaged friends who I know live or have lived in Chicago, asking for authentic deep-dish pizza location recommendations. They all messaged back with the name Lou Malnati’s. With an honorable mention, they named Giordanos as their second choice. From where I was in Michigan, I charted my course to the Windy City. It was three states and two hours away. With a full tank of gas and an address plugged into my GPS, I was on my way.
Chicago signage has a sense of nostalgia. Maybe it reminded me of the way Hollywood portrays the strong economic era before the 2nd World War. Strong, confident, and welcoming. The sign to Malnati’s is no different. It beckoned me from across the street as soon as I saw it.
I was that guy. I was the hungry guy who followed my nose through the front door. My timing was perfect. It was that sweet spot between lunch and dinner. Lucky me, they had a table at their rollup glass garage door. On a 1-10 level of food excitement, I was a 10. So excited that I ordered two pizzas. I wanted to experience all of it.
The uniqueness of Lou’s is the Butter Crust. It coats your fingers and prepares your tastebuds for the boldness of the pie. I chose “The Malnati.” The sausage had a little kick that made my nose run before I finished my first slice; thats a good thing. Along with the vine tomato sauce and extra cheese, it would be hard to beat. My second pizza choice was “The Lou,” named after the founder. In my opinion, this is an excellent complement to the first pie. The three kinds of cheese bridged the void from the plate to my mouth. Add the flavor of spinach, garlic, basil, onion, mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes!!! Yes, please. I washed everything down with an Italian beer and took in the moment. I was sitting in Chicago and happy in a food coma on deep-dish pizza.
The Food Pirates stole my journal. Time for a fresh start on our culinary journey.
Last month my travel journal fell into the hands of food pirates. Wait, you have never heard of them? Seriously, they are real. You may not realize it yet, but I bet you have been a victim of them at some point.
Think about it. Have you ever looked at your dinner plate and said, “there is no way I ate all that.” Or maybe your best friend had already ordered her third margarita when you didn’t see her pound the second one. And let’s not forget about the late nights you are standing in front of an open refrigerator, staring at the old cheese beside a half-empty White Claw. Yep, it’s all because of those sneaky Food Pirate bastards stealing things off our plates and tables, robbing us of the things we love most. Maybe a better term would be “Pie Rats”.
You may have seen glimpses of my travel journal on older Facebook posts. During my travels, I’d jot down notes of things I was seeing, hearing, smelling. Lots of times, I would even try to draw out the moments. They are great memories. I guess it was time to retire that book.
The best things in the world happen at a dinner table, and I believe every meal has a story. Here’s a toast to the next year full of recipes and new friends. Let’s start.
Who wants to sail to Miami for the Fourth of July? We will be sailing Sapphire Catamaran to South Florida for the holiday.
So far, these blogs have been about past trips. This one is different. This blog post is about our upcoming sail from Central Florida to Miami.
Crew and guests are encouraged to arrive on the boat midday June 28th, 2020. The Safety Brief and Float Plan Meeting will start at 6pm with refreshments served. The meeting is followed by dinner aboard at 8pm.
The catamaran will leave Titusville, Florida, early the morning of June 29th, 2020. The route will take the ICW South to the Cape Canaveral Locks, and then passing through to the Atlantic Ocean. The weather this time of year can be affected by local evening thunderstorms and extreme storms of tropical nature. With fair winds and nonstop traveling, the offshore sail to Miami should make port on July 2nd. Family-style Meals and safety equipment provided while underway. Watchkeeping, primary navigation, sail theory, and steering the catamaran will be some of the fun for this trip. Don’t forget this will be an excellent opportunity for great photos along the way.
In celebration, Aquatramp.com and Sapphire Catamaran will be hosting a 4th of July/ Full Moon Party in Coconut Grove (Miami), Florida.
If you are interested in joining us for this trip, you can email us at Captain@aquatramp.com for more details.
Right here, right now, we are creating memories. The choices we decide to make will determine if we look back on them as fond memories or lacking. I want to see each moment as an opportunity.
Moments. Right here, right now, we are creating memories. The choices we decide to make will determine if we look back on them as fond memories or lacking. I want to see each moment as an opportunity.
Maybe I met you last week while a mutual friend introduced me as that Captain guy. Perhaps we’ve been life long friends from childhood. Or just maybe we haven’t even met,… yet. Either way, I’m glad you are here.
Today marks a huge personal goal for me. It is the six-month anniversary of posting on the blog every Wednesday. Possibly the most extended commitment I’ve had since I was in the military.
This goal isn’t the finish line but a mile marker. It feels good to be accomplishing positive growth and sharing with my circle. Over the last few months, our weekend cookouts on the catamaran have filled me with memories and feelings that can only make me want to do more.
I’m keeping this week’s blog short and sweet in hopes that you will create a moment today, a decisive moment.
If you need inspiration can I recommend the book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman
Songs to Strip By, Part 2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Making new friends with guns. I woke rested and eager to get to the boat, but first thing first, breakfast!
Songs to Strip By, Part 2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Making new friends with guns.
I woke rested and eager to get to the boat, but first thing first, breakfast! The hotel provided a traditional Caribbean breakfast with lots of fruits and juices, and I was in heaven. Looking like a Hollywood American, I rushed into the lobby. With my aviator sunglasses covering my eyes and a piece of toast hanging out of my mouth, I darted for the main entrance to grab a taxi. Steps away from the door, I hear the concierge call out, “Capitan!”, “a message!”
Day Two, Track Four: 2018’s song, Nice For What by Drake
Waiting outside was my driver in what looked like a very well kept Louis Vuitton hat and a big smile from ear to ear. His task was to spend the day showing me the city of Santo Domingo until we were called to the marina. Our first stop was the Amber Museum, an educational location with lots of cool pieces of… amber. It was wild to see historic insects and critters frozen in this hard sap.
Day Two, Track Five: 1996’s song Pony by Ginuwine
The second stop was at the county’s capital building. It seemed my driver knew everyone in the city. We found a restaurant across the street and had lunch with a few of the guards. With a full belly of Locrio de Pollo and a few Presidente cerveza’s to wash it down, we headed onward. Then the next stop was something I would never have imagined and honestly didn’t know in the Dominican Republic.
The Faro a Colon, Christopher Columbus Lighthouse. It could be the famous or infamous explorers’ final resting place. A tomb with what I can describe as a seafarer’s chest sits encircled at the intersection of a massive cruciform. Inside the chest are the ashes that some say are ol’ Chris. Each October, the chest is opened for a few moments to reveal the contents.
Day Two, Track Six: 2019’s song La Romana by Bad Bunny feat. El Alfa
As the sun was setting, I was under the impression that the boat would once again not be arriving, if there was even a boat at all.
Intermission… enjoy the track Unforgettable from French Montana featuring Swae Lee.
The sun dipped behind the mountains, and Leo, the driver, had an outdoor sports bar in mind for a few cold beers off the clock. Thunder rumbled in the distance as we walked up and grabbed a picnic table outside. This storm plays a vital role later in the night. The smell of food grilling nearby teases my appetite. Halfway through the first beer is when the rain hit, and we ran for the Escalade! “I know where we’ll go,” Leo said as we pulled out of the parking lot.
Track Ocho: 2017’s Swalla by Jason Derulo feat. Nicki Minaj
To be continued… next, the Brazilian woman who stole my heart but not my wallet in the brothel.
There I was, minding my own company when I found myself in the middle of an electrical storm in the Dominican Republic, sitting in a brothel.
There I was, minding my own company when I found myself in the middle of an electrical storm in the Dominican Republic, sitting in a brothel. Not by choice, but that’s where business was taking place. Let me explain the events that lead me here, and the lady over my right shoulder playing Angry Birds on her mobile phone.
DAY 1– Track one: 1989’s Wicked Game by Chris Isaak
Twice in my Captain’s career, I have been asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. One was for a boat out of Hilton Head, South Carolina. The other was for a yacht and owner that I never saw.
A yacht representative contacted me to discuss a short term contract as a fill-in Captain. My duties would be to babysit a new pleasure yacht and the crew for a long weekend in the Caribbean. We agreed on terms, and I was scheduled to fly out of Miami and into Santo Domingo in two weeks.
Track Two: 1978’s Roxanne by The Police
The day of the flight felt stressfree, and I was lucky enough to find an attractive Russian ballerina in the seat beside me for the flight. We chatted, and I tried to impress her with the few Russian words that I have picked up on trips to Moscow years pasted. During deboarding the plane and going through customs, she walked with me and chatted until we grabbed our bags, said our goodbyes, and went looking for our rides. My driver could not hide even if he tried. He was the tallest guy in the waiting area and had a printed sign which said, ” CAPTAIN G.”
Track Three: 1990’s Cherry Pie by Warrant
Once in the vehicle, which was a new blacked-out Escalade, he notified me that there was a change in the plan due to the Yacht not being in port yet, and arrangments had been made for me at a hotel downtown. At the hotel, he shared with me that the owner said to enjoy my night, and we would see how tomorrow morning goes. As he was handing me my duffel bag, I noticed he was packing a pistol. I have been around enough to know that I was still on the good side of his hand cannon. Hands were shaken, and into the hotel, I went.
Next week I will explain how, on Day 2, Amber jewelry and Columbus’s ashes were within my reach.
Not far outside of Edinburgh, Scottland is the historic Rosslyn Chapel. This beautiful chapel was built in the 1400s and had craftsmen and artisans working long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
In 2016 I visited Scottland for the first time and had Rosslyn Chapel as one of the must-see locations on my list. The Tom Hanks movie, The Da Vinci Code, brought a wave of interest to the area. However, the reason I wanted to visit the location was different. My fraternity has long-standing ties to this remarkable building. So long in fact that they were there helping to build it.
After the general tour, I had the honor of receiving a private tour around the grounds and through the chapel. It is tough to put into words the feeling that day as I walked around and saw the marks of my brothers. Men who I do not know but share a bond.
The day was perfect. The crowd was lite. And I tried to breathe in all that I possibly could. To imagine skilled persons using their hands to craft those beautiful components without the tools that we use today blows my mind. No computers were used, no calculators, no Monster energy drinks, no Amazon Prime delivering parts, not even drones to take selfies!
Anytime I get the chance to visit a historic location of architecture I’ll take it. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. Do you have any locations that mesmerized you?
Logistics is my absolute favorite thing to do ever! Well, okay, it’s my second favorite thing to do.
Logistics is my absolute favorite thing to do ever! Well, okay, it’s my second favorite thing to do. Actually, in reality, it probably falls somewhere around number five, but definitely in the top ten.
For me planning a trip or voyage is as much fun as the trip itself. There is always a starting point. Just like cooking, sailing has a recipe for success. It all starts with the roux.
In life, how do you know where you are going if you don’t know where you are? Navigators use what is called “Dead Reckoning.” It’s a practical theory based not on where you are but where you were.
Where was the last proven place you were, the place that felt like home in your heart? Now factor in the wind direction, water current, and time. Most importantly is your velocity. Have you been speeding away from that fix, or adrift? Now you kind of know where you are, and you better be sure because your life may depend on it. A few degrees off in your heading, and you might miss your island.
In cooking, I rarely measure. It’s a luxury that can always be remedied. Other than measuring, I use taste to navigate. My palate today is not my palate of twenty years ago. Each new flavor, each new spice, changes my appetite, it changes me.
In this voyage of life, I’ve chosen to live my life on the water. It feels like home. The ocean has been my teacher, my confidant, a vixen, and at times a bully that I needed to knock me back down when I got too cocky. I know where I am. I know who I am. Simply put, I’m just me.
My directions in life are simple. Lose the ballast stones slowing the vessel down. Adjust the sails to take what the universe throws. But, without a doubt, always use more butter.
Are you ready for one of those tree-hugging, granola-eating, sandal-wearing, sage-burning challenges? No, me either, but…
Are you up for a challenge? One of those tree-hugging, granola-eating, sandal-wearing challenges? No, me either, but I think I need to.
Recently on a volunteer waterway clean-up in Florida, I was surprised and still in a little bit of shell-shock to the amount of trash we picked up. Mostly single-serving packaging related to food and drink. Within 10 minutes, I picked up 10 gallons of waste. How can I convert solid refuse into gallons? Easy, because we were toting around 5-gallon buckets. Plastic throwaways going into plastic buckets, transferred into plastic bags, being placed into vehicles using petroleum products for propulsion and lubrication, being driven to a landfill. That is a heavy thought.
Let me pause right here for a disclaimer. I eat, I own a truck, I am a consumer. I add to landfills. As a kid, I remember sodas in glass bottles and paper grocery bags. Things were easy to sort into categories. Paper, Plastic, and Glass. The glass bottles were taken back each week for a return deposit. The paper and plastic went into a burn barrel in the backyard, one of the luxuries of living in the rural country. At times it was even fun when a surprise Aquanet or Whiterain hairspray can shot out of the barrel like a rocket.
Question 1. Have you seen the waste management symbol? It is a triangle made from three arrows turning toward the next corner to continue the cycle. Even on Sapphire, we have a blue trashcan designated as the recycle bin.
Question 2. Have you heard that it costs more money to make a US penny than the penny is worth? The same goes for recycling. It requires funds to collect, deliver, deconstruct, remanufacture, and redeliver. Also, not all plastics are recyclable. Codes are at the bottom of most containers; water bottles, laundry soap, etc. It’s a number inside of the recycle symbol. I looked for resources to decode the numbers. It wasn’t easy, but I finally found the information in a Farmers Almanac.
Question 3. Are you ready to read about the #AquatrampChallenge, and see if you are interested in taking the initiative?
It’s simple, and the challenge only requires you to jot down the throwaway plastics you use each day. Yep for 30 days; write down the plastic products that you use and throw away to help better understand usage and, in turn, better consumer choices in the future. In fact, recycling should be our forth choice behind respecting, reusing, and repurposing. Tell your friends, get active on social media, but most importantly, make well-informed choices.
After the 30 day challenge, I will post my Top 10 plastic uses. Will you join us?
I survived a week with three amazing women from Philly. These friends have been traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe. They are independent, bold, loud, and remarkable.
I survived! I survived a week with three amazing women from Philly. These friends have been traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe. They are independent, bold, loud, and remarkable.
Originally Coco and Hanna had only booked to stay one night on the catamaran while in Florida during a bachelorette trip. One night led to three nights. Three nights led to inviting April. All in all, the girls stayed over a week. Not once did I feel that they had worn out their welcome. Quickly I realized how much I enjoyed having them aboard. We ate like Kings and Queens for every breakfast and dinner.
The three girls were so very different on the individual level, but so much alike. Whatever magic they had worked. Not once did I hear them argue or pick a fight. Their differences in music, books, and fashion seemed to be scripted from a blockbuster movie. I enduringly started calling them The Powerpuff Girls.
They like to think of themselves as cold-hearted, ruthless, no-chill… but I caught glimpses otherwise. I saw hearts bigger than I can ever hope to have myself. They were about having experiences and making the most out of life. Within that week, I learned so much about sharing. They didn’t have a mean bone in their body, and like the Grinch’s heart grew, so did mine. From the cookout to the rocket launch, from Reggae Sunday to our beach day, I never want to forget those special moments. Wherever you go, you will have a friend in me. I’ve invited them back to the boat later this year for some Caribbean sailing. And just as I hoped, they have already started a list of what will be needed in the boat’s galley to continue our daily routine of starting with a great breakfast.
Thank you Philly, and thank you Coco, Hanna, and April, for being you.
The names and locations are changed to protect the guilty.
On some accounts, in certain circles, a few folks may say I come from a long line of runners. Moonshine, cars, weed, guns, tobacco, I may have even heard a story of fine cutlery swapping hands without paying taxes. It’s a culture that crosses borders, not just lines on a map, but also civil status. Rich and needy people around the world make money from just moving goods from one place to another.
The names and locations in this story are changed to protect the guilty. It was spring, and I was about to sail through the Caribbean. The boat was waiting for me in Miami. All that was needed was for my work contract in the Carolina’s to finish. A few friends of mine were keen to find out what this sailing lifestyle was all about. One had just escaped his 3rd or 5th marriage engagement. The other was happy in a longterm relationship. I didn’t think I needed the help, but I thought the company on the trip would be nice. The invitation to go sailing for a few weeks was given to both of them. Cassanova immediately said yes. The other friend, well, he needed to convince his girlfriend.
During the next few days, we jumped into the planning stage. Options were thrown around to find the most logical way for the guys to get to Miami and meet me at the boat. A friend who dabbles in high-end golf resorts overheard us. “Hey, you know that beer is $50 per case in the Bahamas, right?” “If I brought a few cases over to your boat, would you drop them off as you pass by Nassau?” I thought about it and said yes.
My idea of a few cases is around three. The guys arrived at the sloop with sixteen cases of various Cerveza. I was immediately thinking of how we were going to accommodate the volume. The best option was simply to turn the boxes on their sides and walk across them inside the boat. Problem solved!
We consumed the next few days preparing the boat for the trip, food, water, fuel, fishing gear. Yacht and crew ready, we dropped the mooring ball and made our heading for Bimini in the Bahamas. It was a quick overnight sail where we found ourselves tied up to a dock by late morning. With little sleep, we still made it a point to explore all of what Bimini had to offer. Starting at the marina bar, then to the marina bar next door, followed by the Big Game Club, most notable for where Hemingway made memorable moments. We soon found out why our friend wanted us to bring cheap beer. Everywhere we went, the beer was going for 7 USD per bottle. OUCH! At some point during the night’s festivities, we noticed one of the cases of beer on the boat had popped open. Being a pro safety captain, I ruled that the safest option would be for us to stop buying beer and drink the loose cans rolling around on the floor. You see where this is leading, right?
After three more weeks of floating around the Bahamas, goofing off and exploring, we made our way to the Atlantis Resort in Nassau. Our friend arrived with his band of merry men to help carry the 16… 15… I mean, 4 cases of beer that were left unopened. The only reason there were four cases still on the boat was that those four were Budweiser. I mean, we do have standards on how low we would go even with free beer!
To this day, I remember him saying, “you are the worst smuggler ever!” He was right, and I never pulled a stunt like that again. I guess this is one time that the acorn did fall far from the tree.
This project is giving me purpose. I didn’t realize how sharing could mean so much to so many.
This is the second year of opening the catamaran up for fellow travelers to visit and stay. Sapphire Catamaran has welcomed people from 9 countries and counting. Each guest has brought a little piece of warmth and life to this floating abode. When the concept of sharing my space to strangers took a foothold in my mind, I honestly had mixed feelings about the “what if’s.” Eventually, the pros outweighed the cons, and I pulled the trigger.
The first step was to create an account on CouchSurfing. That one little bitty click on the word, SAVE, changed everything. It wasn’t long before I was receiving messages from strangers looking for a host. Bouncing calendar dates and geographic locations via the CS app, emails, and Whatsapp was part of the fun.
On June the 1st, the first real traveler arrived on the catamaran. She was this big smile in front of an Australian accent. By now, we all know how that turned out. Natalie has become a permanent fixture in regards to growing Aquatramp.com.
She hasn’t been the only person to bring encouragement. Lots of people are in awe that there are communities around the world that live on boats. One of the funniest questions I get is, “but where do you really live?” Questions aren’t the only thing friends bring to the boat; they bring food recipes! We have had culinary moments of enlightenment when people from around the world taste a food for the first time right here. On a side note, that gave me the idea to paint the galley countertops with chalkboard paint. Now, when a dish is served from the counter, we can write the proper and slang name of what the food is called in their native tongue.
We are all looking for something, myself included. Maybe I’m seeking a big family that I never had. A benefit that I have noticed is the sense of peace. A few people have found the comfort of spending time sitting up on the bow with the fresh air and stars overhead to resolve questions from their own life journey. I can respect that personal time to the fullest. The best compliments I’ve received are from the messages I get from guests who made life-changing decisions while here.
Traveling has changed me as a person over the years. I was 17 years old when I joined the US Navy. The opportunities I had to visit countries like Iceland, Spain, Italy, Puerto Rico, will continue to be worth their weight in gold. Now I’m learning the other side of travel and of being a host. I’m hoping friends will look back in 20 years from now and remember the catamaran and the Captain who said the word “because” in a funny accent.
The choice was made, and I’m glad I did for many reasons. This year is looking like it will be even busier for welcoming travelers. I can’t change the world, but I can change the way I look at it.
My original feelings for Northern Ireland changed the moment I stepped off the train.
Like most travelers, I suppose my ideas of Belfast were from the movies and television. I really didn’t know what to expect as my train crossed the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland. This article isn’t about politics, religion, or other troubles that may be woven through the soil from history, but of the great people and food, I found while on my short trip.
What I did know before my arrival in Belfast was that I had made reservations at the most bombed hotel in the world! Yeah, you read that correctly. The Europa Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is said to be the most bombed hotel in the world, and I had a room facing the street. As I walked through the front door, the elegance of the grand room surprised me. I’m not sure what’s in the water there, but every single person in that city was attractive. However, I do know what was in the water there many years ago.
The RMS Titanic was built here for the famous White Star Line Company. We all know how this luxurious British passenger ship allegedly met her doom in the North Atlantic, Iceberg 1 – Titanic 0. Still partly hungover from my stay in Dublin, I asked the knockout who checked me in where I could find dinner and a pub afterward. She directed me to the Flame restaurant. There I murdered a three-course meal like it was my last supper.
At that time of year, the sun sets late in the evening and gave me plenty of time to walk to a Pub named Kelly’s Cellars. A person never knows when they are going to make friends. Before my first pint arrived, I was asked to join strangers at their table. Aisling and her husband told me stories of their beautiful city and what it was like growing up in Northern Ireland. One pint led to another, and more friends were made and joined the table. I couldn’t have planned a better night. We kept the bartenders busy at Kelly’s that night, up until they closed and ran us out.
The next day brought rain and a slightly uneasy feeling seeing military-style vehicles in the city gathering. The locals said not to worry and to stay away from places I shouldn’t go. Wait… what? I opted for a Black Cab tour of the city. It seems safe, right? The hotel arranged the tour. As the registered Famous Black Cab arrived, the hotel doorman wished me a good day. In the cab, the driver took me around the city, showing me points of historical interest. He seemed neutral and didn’t tell story’s favoring one side or the other. I noticed a huge pile of fresh wood built into what would be a public bonfire. Asking the driver, he told the reason, and I quickly understood why the military-style enforcements were gathering. None of my business I told myself. All in all, it was a great trip. I didn’t see Senad O’conner or the sets for Game of Thrones, not even Liam Neeson. But it was still a place that I will cherish memories from.
The next flight landed on the island of Raiatea, where we were able to stock up on groceries before catching the ferry boat. While waiting on the ferry, we had time to rest and fill our appetite with freshly baked bread at a local bakery. Just the smell of the warm croissants alone made my mouth water.
Looking like pack mules, we trudged to the government dock for the scheduled boat that would take us across the water to the island of Tahaa. Here we spent the next two days napping in our travel hammocks at the edge of a private wooden dock. The view from there was more than I expected. One day after lunch, I sat lost in my thoughts, staring down at the reef only a few inches below the water. I watched a clownfish swim back and forth, in and out of the anemone. They share a special relationship with helping each other live their best life. As little Nemo was dancing with the current, I was caught off guard when the reef adjusted it’self beside of him. However, it wasn’t a reef at all. It was a small octopus who had been there camouflaged the whole time. Before long, it was time to let my aquatic friends go back to their secret life of hide and seek.
The same ferry picked us up for the return trip to Raiatea. This time we spoilt ourselves to a small resort bungalow for several nights. It was heaven having air conditioning and lounging around a swimming pool. From the west coast of Raiatea, you can see Mt Otemann. A 2,385′ (727 meter) dormant volcano on the island of Bora Bora in the distance.
On to the island of Huahine. There we were met at the airport by our host. She first drove us to markets where we stocked up on supplies such as vegetables, fresh fish, and beverages. Next, we loaded everything into a small skiff that would deliver us to a private motu where we would be left alone as the only two people on an island for the next four days.
It was pure bliss. If you ever need to unplug and get away to decompress, I highly recommend doing it in the South Pacific on a little private island without any electricity or phones. We cooked on an open fire, skinny-dipped, and star gazed during the nights, all protected by a reef that encircled the island. On the outside of the reef, there be sea monsters! On the inside of the reef was peaceful and safe… or so I thought. On our last day, we decided on one last swim in the lagoon. With our snorkel and mask, we explored the shallows. As time was running out, we turned to the beach and floated, taking our time and squeezing every last minute. As I was about to stand up, I looked over and saw a Black Tip shark on patrol. I had no idea how long he had been swimming with us, but it seemed that I was more curious about him than he was of me.
Back to Tahiti for our final night in French Polynesia. Papeete seemed like a megacity after being out on the smaller islands for the last two weeks. Cars were zipping around us, buildings were taller than two stories, and the smells were more industrial. We found a bar near the hotel with live music playing outside. That beer mug was the coldest thing in the city. I enjoyed it and daydreamed of one day sailing back to the very spot I was sitting.
Two weeks is not enough time in Hawaii. I needed more time to explore the land, culture, and surf. What I did find in that short amount of time was a moment, or maybe even a glimpse of love.
We met up in Los Angeles after being apart for a month. The timing was perfect, and we celebrated my birthday in Hollywood. Twenty-four hours later, we were on an airplane flying to Honolulu, Hawaii.
Looking down over the island and seeing Waikiki from the aeroplane window was a sight. Diamond Head stood out the most as it dominated the skyline. Shortly after landing and clearing the airport, we discovered what everyone had told us about the prices on the island. Wow, I thought as a priced an Uber to get to the hotel. But still, I felt as if a was winning. I mean there I was, in Hawaii with my French girlfriend to enjoy all that life had to offer for the next two weeks, and the icing on the cake was that the Marriott on the beach in Waikiki was happy to take points for the entire stay. Winning!
We eagerly checked into our room, changed, and ran down to the beach. In all of my travels, I had never felt sand like the type of sand on that beach. I could run my hands through it, but it wouldn’t stick to me. It was the first of many things in Hawaii to baffle me.
Steps were collected over and over those first few days. We got hip to the local bus system and explored even further outside of our circle. For two days, I rented a motorcycle. We explored the North Shore, The Polynesian Cultural Center, went to a luau, and the Dole Plantation. Mountains and waterfalls were hiked, just when I thought the landscape couldn’t get any more dramatic, it would, over and over again.
One night on our date night, we picked the restaurant, Orchid. I can not speak highly enough of our experience. Mostly I believe it was due to our waiter being perfect with everything he did. It looked to me as if it was more than just a job to him. His subtle ways were like an artist. That wasn’t the only food experience of the trip. Everywhere we ate seemed terrific. From Food Trucks to fancy restaurants, I had no criticism to give.
Maybe everything was perfect on island, or perhaps I was too busy catching feelings. I’ve been blinded by science, but never blinded from love in the same way. We laughed, held hands, and stole kisses often. It was unscripted and raw.
Time has passed, and love faded, but I will always cherish the moments with her in Hawaii. We went on a few other international trips around the world before we went our separate ways, but I will always look back and smile. Maybe the spirits in the volcanos warmed my heart ever so slightly. The hottest of fires burn out the quickest.
A look at the last 24 months of this Catamaran project, and self reflection.
This catamaran project has taken 24 months so far to date and has been chicken soup for my soul. Not the watered-down generic type, but the proper homemade style with hearty bits. Technically I had been homeless for over a year by my own design since I had sold my last sailboat in St Augustine, Florida. I was sleeping in everything from fancy hotels, my truck, friends’ spare rooms, and even under a bridge once to see what it was like. I knew my next boat would be a catamaran, and I searched until the right one came along, and it did. I was on the beach in Bora Bora when I received the email stating that my offer was accepted.
Rebuilding a damaged vessel is, in a sense, building a relationship with yourself. There are options. Do you take the cheap and easy route on this project to finish fast? Or do you realize that you must pay now or pay later? The 20-year-old me would have not known where to start and abandoned the idea quickly to chase the nearest skirt. The 30-year-old me would have taken on the project to prove that he could. And then there’s the 44-year-old me who has learned from his previous three sailboat rebuilds and slowed down to attempt to do it correctly. As they say, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
The Websters dictionary says love is: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion.
Can we choose what hobbies we love? If we can, are we good at selecting the right ones for ourselves? Do we decide on things that come from natural talent and easy? Or something we are interested in but have to try really hard with the learning curve? Recently on a trip to Washington DC, I had dinner with a longtime Chef friend of mine. We chatted about why the deviled eggs on the appetizer menu only came in odd numbers. Where is the other half of the last egg?
During the meal, we noted that Captains and Chefs have a similar character. Both careers have people’s happiness and safety in our hands. Also, both professions can have a dark side that rears it’self in high-stress situations. We like to think we are the smartest person on the ship or in the kitchen. We keep the tricks we’ve learned close to our vest, and we thrive on seeing the looks of enjoyment. Over the summer, I had a Hell’s Kitchen moment in what I perceived as a stressful maneuver. The look of disappointment from the crew, and the immediate feeling in my heart will haunt me.
I travel, therefore I am. I also like to eat, learn, build, and dance when I think no one is looking. However, this blog is about the journey. The journey of rebuilding an abandoned burnt-out catamaran and where this vessel takes me and the connections made with the people along the way. On the two year mark of this project, I ask myself:
Have I been building a better boat? Or have I been building a better Gary?
The loud thump came from the space I had just occupied on the island trail. Before I knew what was happening I heard an army of Coconut crabs running across the tropical floor to feast on the coconut pulled to earth by gravity.
Tahiti, Bora Bora
My travel buddy landed in Tahiti 45 minutes before I did. We would be staying in French Polynesia for just over two weeks and visiting five different islands.
As I walked from the flight line into the Faa’a International Airport in Papeete, Tahiti, I heard music from a band playing local music. I watched dancers swaying in what I, as an American, thought of as hula dancing. The line to customs and immigration curved back and forth through the night time tropic humidity. It seemed forever, and my anticipation to see my partner was making me excited. Here I was, in French Polynesia, I could not believe I had been able to arrive in one of my dream locations. My travel partner at the time was my then French girlfriend, with her first language being French, it made for more accessible communication with the locals. We had pre-planned our destinations and bought our local island-hop flights from Air Tahiti in advance. On day two, we flew to Bora Bora.
Bora freaking Bora!!! The pearl of the Pacific. I was warned to skip this island because travelers told me it was too touristy. But on the contrary, it was terrific. The season was between “tourist seasons.”
The Mai Tai Hotel was what I expected. The property was right out of a travel magazine; two restaurants, two bars, bungalows on stilts out on the water, and rooms on the mountain with a view. The temperature was perfect, and it felt like we had the dream destination to ourselves. We ate, snorkeled, drank Mai Tai’s, and played topless on the beach. Note to self, always pack dark sunglasses to reduce the chance of blatantly getting caught looking at other naked beachgoers. One night we made the opportunity to make reservations at the Bora Bora Yacht Club for dinner. We were seated at an outside table on the dock, and our timing was perfect. The sun was slowly setting as we had a few pre-dinner drinks and admired the catamarans on anchor.
The next night we ate at the famous Bloody Mary’s. The choices of freshly caught fish are as big as the list of famous people who have enjoyed dinner there at some point. I did not leave disappointed. The time in Bora Bora set the mood for the rest of the adventure. After a few days, it was time to hop over to the next island on our list.
The flight to Maupiti seemed quick compared to the long trip from LA. Maupiti is the furthest island out in the French Society Islands. The daily flight to the island makes for a pleasant welcome. The landing strip located literally beside the ferry dock was where we were going to meet our boat.
Our quarters for the next few nights were at Le Kuriri, a small Eco-friendly property of four bungalows on the motu of Tiapa’a. Here we relaxed by taking walks on the beach and napping in hammocks. The owners and staff prepared the meals, which were served to guests in a common area, thatched-roof style. The owners joined us for dinner each night. Breakfast was even more casual and served in an elevated lookout with a view of the ocean to envy even the birds perched high in the trees. Everything about this motu was breathtaking, but one thing will always stand out.
One day after breakfast, the owner wanted to take us on a boat ride. We agreed and went to grab our gear. Once in the boat and motoring to a location between the motu and the main island, he stopped and told us of the Manta Rays that seasonally frequent this area. My girlfriend translated his conversation because his English was at the same level as my French. Sadly he said that it was the end of the season, and we probably would not see any manta’s. None the less we were eager to get in and see what was down there. Moments after we were in the water, I hear him making a commotion from the boat and pointing just ahead of us, grabbing a breath I submerged to see the most majestic creature that I’ve ever seen. If her wingspan were less then 12 feet, I’d be surprised. I’m not sure if the manta was a she, but I’m calling it “she” for simplicity. For those moments dancing with a partner who was obviously aware that I’m a lousy dancer was one of the Top 10 things, I’ve ever done. The manta gracefully allowed me those moments before disappearing into the vast Pacific Ocean to catch up with her friends. Those moments are why I travel.
In Part 2, I’ll write about the other islands I visited were the vanilla grow, the pearls develope, and a shark who got a little too friendly.
The plane landed in Ireland. It was the first time flying with Aer Lingus, and I was impressed with the efficiency. This plane was the fastest thing that I had been on in quite some time. If you can imagine moving non-stop for two weeks, but only advancing less than 10 miles per hour, that’s what it like to cross an ocean via sailing yacht.
At the Dublin Customs and Immigration checkpoint, I spotted a short line with an attractive female officer behind the Plexiglass. I figured that I would give a smile, shoot her the brown steel while handing her my passport, and I would be on my merry way. Wrong! My passport is kept in the same pocket as I carry my Captian’s License. They are both the same shape and size, just different colors. Her keen eye saw the backside of my Merchant Mariners Credentials and quickly asked if I had an additional nationality. Not to deny her question, I informed her that I had just delivered a yacht to Europe and that I was on holiday. Her second question was more stern than her first, ” so you are working in Europe?” I realized the gravity with which answer I could give. “No,” I said, and as if queued by a director, a massive gaggle of passengers from another plane started lining up behind me. She stamped my passport and smiled while saying that I should visit Temple Bar that night, then added that she might see me there.
The taxi driver dropped me outside of the Spencer Hotel, which would be my quarters for the next two nights. It is a modern hotel overlooking the Samuel Beckett Bridge, the Harp shaped bridge on the River Liffey. The Hotel had everything a person should need, attentive concierge, restaurant, and vending machines with beer! Wasting little time, I dropped my bags off in the room and hurried downstairs.
First on my list was to visit the Guinness Storehouse Factory. On-Location, you can see the how’s and why’s of making the world-famous brand. The tour takes you up floor by floor as you see a massive indoor waterfall, listen to live music and get a little bit of Irish history. The best part for me was walking into the Gravity Bar at the very top of the building. It marked the end of the tour where you can order a pint of “the black stuff” and enjoy it while taking in an impressive 360-degree view of Dublin.
The second stop on my list was Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub. The distinguished list of patrons who have dined at this establishment is in regard, royalty to say the least. I feasted on the Corned Beef and Cabbage. The waiter suggested that I visit a local pub nearby if I wanted to see more Irish history. Walking in, I realize they must send all the tourists there.
I can not remember the name of the pub, but the two friends I made that night were well worth the trip. These two Canadian girls were on holiday also. We teamed up, and after a few shots of Jameson Whiskey, named our gang “The North American Hooligans.” From that pub, we took a taxi to Temple Bar Street, all the way curious if the driver was drunk.
Temple Bar is more than a place; it is an atmosphere. The party continued. Erin Go Bragh!
Two days in Dublin went by in a snap. On the third morning, I was at the train station partially subdued from a hangover as I watch a Bachelorette Party head my way. Next stop, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the world’s most bombed Hotel!
The bus sighed as the transmission geared into neutral and the brakes set. Fellow travelers waited their turn before standing, grabbing overhead bags, and waddled to the door. Each one of us left the bus and immediately started stretching as we waited for the driver to unload the luggage.
I had been sailing on a relatively small sailing yacht for the last five weeks. The guys on the boat, for the most part, had become a functioning unit. To rest in the middle of the ocean, you must hand over your safety to a stranger. Trust builds. Respect earns respect.
Welcome to Lisbon. I was alone in a new country, and desperately in need of a haircut. A Tuk Tuk took me to my hotel, The Lisbon Heritage. Once I was in my chamber, I noticed the nothingness. The silence of the void of my crew was deafening. I needed a walk. Armed with sunglasses, a map of the city, and a few Portuguese words jotted down on a folded piece of notebook paper, I headed off to the main square. The city was active. My head was on a swivel looking at the architecture. Noticeably anyone could tell that a massive party involved the entire city and not been long past. Portugal had won the FIFA World Cup less than 24 hours prior. The country was hungover.
A few hours were spent combing the main square and waterfront before returning to the hotel to prepare for dinner. Lisbon is known the world over for the quality of fish served in restaurants. The decision on where to dine took time, and the reservations made. Sacramento do Chiado is a respectable restaurant that is now in what was once the palace stables in the 18th-century — hidden up a stone street and a block away from most eyes. When I say up a street, I mean up a street. The city is vertical, not far from the water.
Once I was seated inside, the room seemed to breathe. Large red curtains draped the walls. An open-air staircase was the artery delivering the dishes from the “cozinha” to the tables, upstairs. Eating solo is not uncomfortable for me. Lots of time, the experience allows me to enjoy the presentation of the meal, the flavors, and the atmosphere.
The meal ordered in three courses arrived separately after I slowly enjoyed bread and wine.
The first plate was Goat Cheese lightly breaded, and Strawberry Jam.
The Main plate was Tuna with local wine.
Followed by Pears seared in vino.
Stop right there. At this point, I must say that this meal was absolutely worth the 10 minutes walk in the wrong direction before realizing I needed to turn around to retrace my steps.
With a full belly, I returned to the hotel and collapsed on what seemed to be the most generous bed(s) ever for the night. The next day I would grab a cab to the airport for another flight to a new country.
It was several months before Hurricane Irma hit the coastal town of Tortola, British Virgin Islands, and I was flying from New Orleans to inspect a catamaran for a possible purchase. At the time, I was in the market to acquire a late model catamaran in the 40′ to 50′ range. The BVI and the USVI are home to several large charter fleets. The yachts in the businesses are shined, maintained, and regularly used by folks on holiday and vacation. The two main reasons to charter a new boat are A) It’s cheaper than owning a new vessel, especially if you are only available to enjoy sailing a limited time each year. B) Folks who will be buying a new boat may want to test drive a similar model to compare before taking the plunge.
Lagoon and Leopard both make quality products. They are built in France and South Africa, respectfully. On this specific trip, I arranged to meet up with a broker from one of the famous charter groups on the island. He and I had been in communication via email over several weeks before the trip on a modist Lagoon 420. The broker was always punctual with answers to questions and sent extra photos when asked, even making travel and accommodation suggestions.
On a three day weekend with an Airbnb booked, flights arranged, and a backpack slung over my shoulder, I traveled to the islands. New Orleans to Ft Lauderdale, to San Juan, to Tortola. With each flight, the planes were smaller and smaller until the last aircraft had seats for six passengers. Early the next morning, I woke with an island roster outside my window, crowing to announce the Saturday sunrise. Like a kid on Christmas morning, I ran down the stairs, and in this case, halfway down the mountain. The marina was still asleep when I arrived but lucky for me a bakery was nearby. Loaded up with fresh pastries, I waited eagerly.
Two hours later, the broker and I had preformed our walk around on the boat. Peeking under floorboards and behind engine parts, we were ready to untie the dock lines and go for a sail.
The sail and inspection did not disappoint. It was a beautiful day, the boat handled as expected, and the broker was respectful. We returned to the dock and secured the small ship. The rest of the day, I wandered the town taking in the sights, sounds, and flavors. A famous establishment most sailors visit is Pusser’s. The name comes from the historic British Rum once rationed on HMS ships. Notably, the Painkiller should be on your drink bucket list.
That night as I pondered of the possible purchase, I danced and made friends in town, I was even introduced to and shook hands with the BVI’s Premier, The Honourable Orlando Smith. Everything seemed right, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on a feeling that was in my gut. It wasn’t the plantains that I had for dinner, it was something else.
A week later, back in the states, it was time to decide on buying the boat. Still, my gut was telling me to wait. I phoned the broker and passed on the deal. Remember I mentioned Hurricane Irma? Not many weeks after my decision to explore other boats elsewhere, the weather system took a violent turn slamming all of the northern islands and leaving destruction from the infamous Irma. Who knows what the fate of that vessel would have been if a different decision would have been made? Note to self, always trust that inner intuition.
Seriously? A guy was sitting behind me on a bus to Lisbon, Portugal, and this pickup line was his final attempt to pick up a girl across the aisle.
But this isn’t where the story begins. Let us go back five weeks and 3600 nautical miles to Jacksonville, Florida, USA. We were loading stores onto a private yacht that would soon be making way across the Atlantic Ocean. The owner had asked a friend, who in return asked me to join in the trans-Atlantic crossing, four of us in all would be on the 47-foot sailboat during the voyage.
Every journey has its pulse. I have commented before that long-distance sailing is 90% boredom and 10% panic, but this trip was of note to be different.
The First Leg
Bermuda, Isle of Devils
After finally leaving the mainland and out of the sight of land, we had the perfect sail to Bermuda. Along the way, dolphins rode our bow waves, Gin and Tonics let us know before dinner was ready each evening, and the stars, the night sky while at sea, always impresses.
The first leg took five days. We planned to stop long enough to replenish the fresh galley necessities. However, the weather had us cautious due to a hurricane possibly crossing our path.
The storm came and went while we made friends at places like the Swizzle Inn listening to Bil Krauss’s talents, and enjoying Dark and Stormy’s at The White Horse. This was the last time we would see land for the next thirteen and a half days. Next stop, Azore Islands.
Cold drinks, Whalebones, and more Friends
Horta, Faial, is a port city on the western part of the Archipelago of the Azores, and a rite of passage of sailors making a West to East trans-Atlantic crossing. The first mission was to find a historic pub named Peter’s. The pub was serendipitous with burgees lining the walls and ceiling, live music wafting out the front door, and beer flowing to yachtmen from around the world. We smiled, laughed, made more friends, took turns buying rounds of drinks, but most importantly knew the accomplishment that we achieved.
Sadly it was time for a crew change with my close friend Dave flying back to the states for business. Dave is a sailors’ sailor; he is a racer. One who is always watching the wind and tweaking the sails to squeak out another fraction of a kt. I learn from Dave every time I sail with him.
“Uncle” Rick, Owner Tony, and I welcomed the new Brit on board for the final reach to Lagos, Portugal.
Mainland Europe, Dryland
We arrived in Lagos during daylight hours and tied up to a dock at a marina downtown. That night Portugal won the World Cup. Horns blasted through the city after the win. I joined in the festivities and helped the locals celebrate in a proper sailors manor. The next morning with a sizable hangover, I said my goodbyes to the crew and boarded a passenger bus heading to Lisbon. Sitting around me were travelers from different points of the compass. During the two hour trip, I listened to a guy behind me try over and over to start a flirty conversation with a girl across the aisle. During the last fifteen minutes, he asked her the question that still makes me smile, “What is your fondest memory of Spanish meatballs?’