Elements of Life

First Mate Natalie is quarantining in Australia and writes this informative post on the origin of the Aquatramp name.

What’s in a name?
The story behind Aquatramp

I bet most of you were a little shocked by the name Aquatramp when you first heard it. Good.

Did it make you think of a ‘lady of the night’? A hobo warming his fingerless gloved hands by an oil drum fire? A hike through the woods? Whatever your initial thoughts conjured up, we hope the name stuck in your mind.

Skydiving over the Swiss Alps.

The word tramp has many different meanings across the world. In our case, we are referring to the vagabond life. Wandering the earth. Not having a home base. We aren’t tied down. We are free-spirited wanderers, rolling with the tides. Each day brings a new location. New people. New experiences.

Swimming with Whale Sharks in Australia.

We’re travelers. Not the Romany gypsy kind like Brad Pitt in Snatch. Yes, we may hate wearing shoes, but that fits nicely with living on a catamaran. We feel the most grounded when our bare feet are firmly planted on the deck of Sapphire somewhere out at sea.

We’re adventure seekers. Skydiving – we’ve done it. Cowboy camping – we wrote the book on it. Cliff jumping – just try and stop us. Swimming in the Devil’s Pool above Victoria Falls – not yet, but it’s on our list!

Walking on frozen lakes in Colorado.

We are passionate about the ocean. From tiny slimy sea cucumbers to big majestic blue whales, we love it all. We sometimes wish we had beautiful singing voices so we could trade them to Ursula and start a life under the sea!

We’re spontaneous. We’re those people that go onto airfare comparison websites like Skyscanner, search flights from our location to everywhere and book whatever comes up. (Costa Rica for $50? Yes, please!)

Flying Bush planes cross-country.

We’re daydreamers. Physically we’re here, but in our minds, we are off trekking through the Amazon jungle, diving into Mexican cenotes, kayaking alongside icebergs and polar bears in Canada.

We’re foodies. We believe the only thing better than tasting all the delights a region has to offer, is cooking and sharing family-style meals on the boat. Captain Gary bringing that southern hospitality with some home cookin’. Whereas First Mate Natalie will just smile and give you a Vegemite sandwich #shecomesfromthelanddownunder, and she enjoys seeing your reaction when you try Vegemite for the first time!

We are melomaniacs. Music is our jam. We’ve always got tunes pumping while we’re cruising. From Prince to King Kunta. Marley to Motley. Hell, we’ll even admit we like the odd Bieber song.

Backpacking through canyons.

We are Aquatramps.

The term Aquatramp actually came about a few years ago. In the nuclear world, your workday ends early on a Friday if you pass your tests. If not, you stay back and study. Gary was on the way back to his car, obviously having just aced yet another test when he struck up a conversation with a girl from another class. The two became friends, and during their catch-ups, Gary would tell a fascinated Melissa stories of his sailing adventures. Parking beside superyachts to steal their wifi. Showering with buckets of seawater. Sailing through massive storms. Melissa loved hearing about Gary’s tramp lifestyle. One day she came walking down the hallway with Gary’s hardhat tucked under her arm and a big mischievous smile on her face. She handed him his hardhat, which featured some additional decoration – a sticker she had made with a very fitting new nickname ‘Aquatramp.’

Fast forward a few years, and Aquatramp has grown into an active community where travelers connect with new people and share their experiences. A place to discuss music and food, share photos and jokes, give advice, and voice opinions on things they’re passionate about. Here we welcome everyone from all walks of life. Join us as we move across the globe in search of adventure, beautiful landscapes, laughs, music, and culinary experiences.

We are Aquatramps

Rise of the Phoenix

On a mooring ball in Cane Garden Bay

Sapphire’s Fiery Past

From being the life of the party as a Caribbean charter boat to surviving a fiery grave, our girl has had quite a colorful history. Here is a little insight into the past of our beautiful catamaran, Sapphire.

Caribbean Dinners in the cockpit while sailing around Tortola, British Virgin Islands

Our story starts with humble beginnings in the small coastal town of La Rochelle, France, where the catamaran, originally named Shawna Raye, was built in 2006. After sailing through the Mediterranean, she braved an Atlantic crossing to take up residence as a Caribbean charter boat. Her days were spent amongst guests scuba diving, dolphin watching, and partying into the early hours of the morning. After a few years, she hung up her dancing shoes and retired to the coast of Florida (in other words – she was put up for sale).

She had been on the market for a while with no interest from eligible suitors, when a fire started onboard, spreading rapidly and burning right through to her very core.

This was the view during the inspection as Captain Gary was deciding if he wanted to take on the rebuild project.

Perhaps it was a coincidence that she was up for sale when the fire broke out…
Or perhaps she was set on fire for the insurance money.

The fire had engulfed the entire inside. With a positive attitude, Gary nicknamed the hanging raw fiberglass “Cotton candy.”

Maybe the owner had been burnt by his lover then torched the boat he had named after her as a symbol of their love going up in flames.

Or maybe she was set upon by pirates only to go down in a blaze of glory.

We’re not entirely sure.

The feral cats and crackheads had easy access and lived on the catamaran for a year before the purchase.

What we do know is that after the fire, she was bought by an eccentric guy from Michigan and his two pet lemurs. Lemur guy had big plans (we suspect he wanted to turn her into a floating zoo – although this is an entirely unsubstantiated claim), but nothing ever eventuated. While the trio was vacationing in Key West, one of the lemurs leaped off his shoulder and bit an unsuspecting passerby. With the legal bills piling up, it was time for him to give up on his plans and move to Albuquerque… lemurless and boatless.

Shawna Raye went back on the market, and that’s when she set our hearts on fire – burns and all – we were smitten by this beautifully broken lady.

It seemed lemur guy hadn’t done much with her, besides remove the incinerated mattresses. She was still in a bad way. Captain Gary began clearing out all the crap. Literally crap. Like he actually had to pump out the clogged up toilets. There was even a family of feral cats that had set up camp in the galley, seemingly guarding the carcass of a sacrificial cat.

Day by day, piece by piece, the burnt components were removed, sanded down, and replaced. Shout out to our good mates Robbie, Steve, and Tim, for all their hard work! Accompanied by a soundtrack of taunts and ridicule from locals at the marina, we worked tirelessly for 18 months until she was restored. She took a fresh coat of paint. And a new name. Sapphire.

Did you know that the most beautiful sapphires come from being heat-treated at high temperatures? Well, our Sapphire is no different. She stood up to some pretty extreme heat. She’s not a perfect cut. She’s a little rough around the edges. But to us, she is beautiful.

Looking to the rebuilt Saloon from the Galley

Sapphire now sparkles wherever she goes. She’s a little like glitter. You know how glitter instantly adds a little brightness to the moment. And then days later, you’re still finding pieces of it scattered throughout your entire life? Like, how did I end up with a piece of glitter in my eyebrow six days after I used it to paint my toenails?! Well, we like to think that after taking a journey with Sapphire, you keep a little of her sparkle within you.

Standing on the Gangway dock ramp looking in the rebuilt Cockpit.

With a new lease on life and challenging the Riviera Marina stereotype of being a place where boats and dreams go to die, Sapphire left the marina and successfully completed her maiden voyage, sailing around the coast of Florida in June last year. Our tribute to Poseidon requesting counsel and protection was obviously heard because we were blessed with safe travel, beautiful seas, and special memories with new friends. You can read more about her maiden voyage here https://aquatramp.com/rivieras-rooftops-and-rockets/

The four Private Cabin layout. Plus bunk beds in the V-berths.

And now, no port can hold her down. She is a free-spirited wanderer, rolling with the tides. She has big things planned for her future. We hope you will follow her journey and maybe even join us somewhere along the way!

Sapphire Catamaran currently docked in Florida.

The Resolution To Travel

Walking the frozen lakes in Stockholm, Sweden

The Resolution To Travel
New year, new destinations, new experiences, a new outlook on life

When I lived in London a few years ago, a friend and I decided to visit Edinburgh to enjoy their New Year’s Eve festival, Hogmanay. We had so much fun watching the bagpipers and torch procession, the fireworks display over the castle on the hill, and taking part in the Loony Dook – yes we were some of those crazy people that went for a dip in the freezing waters of the Firth of Fouth in fancy dress!

Edinburgh Fireworks

Starting the year in another country sparked an idea. The whole reason I had moved to London was to travel. Maybe my new years’ resolution could be to visit one country a month for the entire year.

And so began my obsession. I started daydreaming about which countries I could explore. Schemed ways I could save money by walking everywhere and eating really basic student foods. I got creative with my ideas of convincing my boss to let me take leave.

This was one resolution I was going to see through. And I did. I went to a new country every single month for an entire year.

La Tomatina

I went to festivals and events across Europe – I paid respects to the Australian and New Zealand troops by attending the dawn service in Gallipoli on Anzac Day. I took part in La Tomatina throwing rotten tomatoes at locals in Spain. I hung out with German friends at Oktoberfest in Munich to celebrate a drink I don’t even like. I rode a camel through the Egyptian desert with a backdrop of pyramids. I jumped off a felucca to swim in the Nile (gross!) and island-hopped through the Greek Islands on a sailboat (bliss). I partied on a pirate ship in Croatia. I danced to English rock songs with a group of Aussie’s at an Irish pub in Sweden to celebrate St Patrick’s Day (random!). I drank absinthe in Prague and ate hash brownies in Amsterdam (sorry mum). I posed with princesses in Disneyland Paris, explored real fairytale castles in Germany, and dared enter Dracula’s castle in Romania. I sang the soundtrack to the Sound of Music at the top of my lungs in the hills of Salzburg (badly). I listened to a Scandinavian woman sing a karaoke version of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ to me because it’s the only song she knew in English (also quite bad). I walked on a frozen lake in Sweden and wandered the quaint streets of f*cking Bruges. I went husky sledding in Finland and crossed the arctic circle to meet Santa. I sipped real champagne in Champagne and slept in an ice hotel in Romania!

The Pyramids
Sailing the coast of Croatia.
Husky sledding in Finland.

All this in just one year, while still working full time in London (shout out to strategically chosen annual leave days and a few sick days here and there). On a strict budget, of course, but I did it. I made my resolution a reality and had the absolute best time doing it. I had seen and experienced so many incredible things. It sparked something within me – it was almost as though I had been wandering around in a dream, and then travel woke me up. Of course, this had me hooked. The bug had bitten and the only antidote: keep travelling. So I made the same resolution the following year and slowly made my way through Europe. City by city.

Spain.
Greece.
Romania.

If you’re looking for a resolution that is a little different from the standard get fit, quit smoking, save money resolutions – travel travel travel! I can’t recommend it enough. Book that plane ticket. Go on that cruise. Be at that festival. Make it happen.

Paris Disneyland

And my resolution for 2020…
I’m striving for that clearer 20/20 vision, really defining who I am and what I want.

And right now, what I want is to be on a sailboat, meeting awesome people, seeing beautiful places, and making new friends.

Speaking of new things, we have a shiny new website up and running. Stick around, take a look, and let us know what you think!

Christmas Down Under

A few years ago, I spent Christmas in NYC. The entire city covered in beautiful decorations, crowds buzzing with excitable anticipation, the smells of home-cooked meals filling the air. And as much fun as it was running around town like I was Kevin McCallister, it just wasn’t the same as the Australian summertime Christmas I’m used to. We have some pretty unique traditions down here that may seem a little odd to those of you in the northern hemisphere!

Santa in shorts

For starters, it’s too bloody hot, so Santa ditches the britches for shorts and sandals. Pretty flip floppin’ festive!

It’s quite rare to see a group of carol singers wandering the neighbourhoods. Instead, our bush fire brigade pimp their fire trucks with tinsel and lights, one of the crew dresses up as Santa, and they drive around the streets handing out candy canes.

You know those awkward family portraits people get every year with mall Santa? How much better are they when you take them down on the beach! Although it would seem that no matter what country you’re in, there’s always one screaming kid in the photo!

We adapt the lyrics of traditional carols to suit our climate. We’re pretty proud of our version of 12 Days of Christmas with the ‘six sharks a-surfing.’

There aren’t any reindeer in the Southern Hemisphere, so it’s kangaroos pulling our sleighs. Rod the Roo has us covered.

And the night before Christmas, forget leaving out milk and cookies. The kangaroos are happy with grass, and Santa is left an ice-cold beer. Cheers mate!

With no snow around, we opt to build a Sandman!

No holly or mistletoe here, our decorations are made using beautiful native Australian flowers.

Ugly sweaters? Pffft, you’ll be lucky if we even wear shirts!

Prawn

When the weather is so beautiful outside, the last thing you want is to be trapped in the kitchen cooking a hot meal. Instead, we do an early morning prawn run (a dash to the market to buy some fresh prawns) and cook them up on the bbq to have with fresh salads. Go on; I know you’re already desecrating my accent with your ‘throw another shrimp on the barbie’ impression.

Yum!

Who wants pudding when it’s the season for beautiful fresh fruit. A pavlova covered in colourful fruit goes down a real treat. The great debate about whether this is an Aussie or a Kiwi invention is real. We add a little kiwi fruit to ours just in case.

After a big Christmas lunch, what do you usually do? Take a nap by the fire? Not us. We’re up having a game of cricket on the beach or in the backyard. Wheelie bin wickets for the win!

Backyard Cricket

Then it’s time to cool down – a swim, a water fight, running through the sprinkler in your underwear or sliding down the Crocodile Mile (our version of a slip and slide)

Ahhhh… There’s nothing quite like an Aussie Christmas.

Have you ever celebrated Christmas in a warm country? Maybe next year you can join us for Christmas on the boat. We’ll be basking in the Caribbean sunshine somewhere, celebrating with a fusion of international Christmas traditions. Vegemite cocktails, anyone?

Santa surfing

*** Editors Note: Americans should know that Aussies use the word Prawn instead of shrimp. Hollywood tricked us in believing the popular phrase “throw another shrimp on the barbie.” I myself, have been schooled by Nat, with a waving finger and the stink eye. ***

Rivieras, Rooftops, and Rockets

The Sapphire’s maiden voyage around the coast of Florida

When you are offered the opportunity to be part of a small crew sailing around the east coast of the US, is the answer ever going to be anything but aye aye captain?

Having gone through some personal struggles earlier in the year, I decided the best place to be for some ocean therapy was on a boat. And man am I glad I took the opportunity. Sailing with Captain Gary was an absolutely incredible experience that truly exceeded my expectations. And even has me redefining my life goals.

The initial plan was to leave Florida and head for the Bahamas, but due to several factors (time, money, weather, visas, breakups, and rockets), the plan shifted to stay Stateside. But what a blast it turned out to be. Literally, a supersonic blast!

After a week spent at the marina helping to finalize the boat for her maiden voyage, a group of four of us – the captain, myself, and two people from France (who had never even been on a boat!) – set sail. Yep, on arrival at the marina, I found out that the boat I was joining, the Sapphire, was not the fully staffed luxury charter boat I anticipated but instead was gearing up for her maiden voyage and the four of us were to be the crew. The captain purchased her wholly burnt out from what I can only imagine was an insurance claim related to fire. He completely stripped out the entire boat and rebuilt it. Seeing photos of what the boat looked like when it was first purchased and how far it has come, I felt so incredibly fortunate to have been part of this journey. Part of the captains’ dream. We set sail 18 months to the day after the purchase – 12th June 2019. With a quick toast to Poseidon, we ventured into the big blue.

We sailed from Tampa to Key West and on our first full overnight journey hit a massive electrical storm. The captain’s confidence and skills as we approached the storm put our minds at ease. He was so chilled. We watched as he started lathering up his hair with shampoo in anticipation of the rain. What a legend. He later revealed that was a tactic to keep us calm because he wasn’t sure how the boat would handle the storm. It worked on me, not so sure about the French, though! I took the helm for my two-hour watch when another storm hit. It was midnight. A white wall of rain was all I could see and as I approached, it pounded down on me since the helm was completely out in the open.

The waves and the wind were wild. My speed got up to 14 knots (the boat is ideally designed for 7 to 10 knots), a massive fork of lightning cracked the ocean only 50ft in front of our catamaran and lit up the night sky like the Fourth of July. It. Was. Insane!!! And the craziest thing – I had a goofy smile on my face the whole time. I couldn’t believe this was my life. It was like being in a movie. One that instantly draws you in, and you can’t wait to see what happens next. Snippets of the plot line from The Perfect Storm rushing through my head. How did that one end again?! Luckily, we made it through the Gulf of Mexico without sustaining too much damage, aside from a pane of glass missing from one of the hatches where the wind had literally sucked it right out. After being treated to a beautiful post-storm sunrise, we spent a few days in Key West exploring, regrouping, and showering with more than just a bucket of seawater.

From there we sailed through turquoise waters, alongside playful dolphins and sea turtles to Miami where we partied both on and off the boat for a couple of days. Side note: is there anything better than a cucumber mojito and a rooftop pool after days of sailing?

Progress has actually been a lot slower than I anticipated since the wind hasn’t really been in our favour but I haven’t minded. At one point the wind gave up completely and we bobbed around in the ocean for an hour or so – the perfect opportunity to dive off the boat and swim in the middle of the ocean with a dolphin or two. The slow journey allowed for some great thinking time and being completely 360° surrounded by my favourite thing in the world (the ocean) has been exactly what I needed. The more I reflect on the idea of sailing as a mode of transport, it definitely fits with the concept of life being all about the journey, rather than the destination.

While on the boat we experienced the most perfect sunset I’ve ever seen. A crystal clear view of the sun sinking down into the ocean. The hour beforehand, the golden hour, really was magical. No land or other boats in sight. The colours of the sea and sky perfectly blending to form what I envisage as my eutopia. Forever I will now be able to close my eyes and be transported back to the way I felt in those perfect moments.

The beautiful sunset was followed by an incredibly clear night sky. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many stars. Jupiter, the Milky Way, shooting stars and bioluminescence guided us through our night sail towards our next adventure of passing through lock systems, drawbridges and peaceful canals thriving with wildlife.

Laying out on the bow of the boat, gazing up at a sky full of stars, I was reflecting on how perfect the time on the ocean had been only for it to be topped by witnessing one of the coolest things I will ever see – the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket launch lighting up the night sky in Cape Canaveral. The sound of the sonic boom as the rocket broke the sound barrier. The sky ablaze. You can actually feel it in your chest. I have no words to describe it apart from saying that it was such a f**king cool experience that will stay with me forever!!!!!

Sailing on the Sapphire, gave me the opportunity to be surrounded by the ocean and wildlife, to explore my adventurous side, to witness things I’d only dreamed of and to make lasting connections with some amazing people. I already knew I had a deep love for the ocean, what I didn’t expect was how quickly the sailing lifestyle would capture my heart. I’ve found my happy place and am now making plans to become a full-time Aquatramp! Stay tuned…….