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Bucket List

What age is too young to begin a “Bucket List?” I discovered I was asking myself this question when contemplating how to begin this excerpt.

Once again, we welcome Captain Chris as a monthly guest writer. His attention to detail recaps a trip to Canada with his wife, Holly, to fulfill one of their “Bucket List” items.

What age is too young to begin a “Bucket List?” I discovered I was asking myself this question when contemplating how to begin this excerpt; and as I thought it through, I realized that I unknowingly began to formulate my Bucket List items about my Senior year of High School.  Being raised a country boy on somewhat of a farm in middle North Carolina , theatre and elements of the Arts were not something that I was accustomed to; then in 2004 I watched a video online of Alegria by Cirque du Soleil!  Instantly I was enamored with this performance and I began to figure ways that I could be able to see it in person.  About this same time the show Varakai came to Charlotte, NC and I was fortunate enough to take my Mom to see it; to this day we still often reminisce about how that was by far the best performance either of us had ever seen and I am so very thankful I got to experience that masterpiece with her!  This only made me want to see Alegria more!

Fast forward to 2019 and after watching Cirque’s website on and off for years it was brought to my attention that Alegria was going to be in Toronto Canada!!!  Adventure awaiting knocked at my thoughts as to the fact that neither my Wife nor I had ever been to Canada, Cirque du Soleil was performing in Canada, there is a Castle (Casa Loma) with a world renowned Steak House, and I was currently working in Pennsylvania with only a 5 hour drive to Toronto!   The planning began!  The more I researched Toronto the more I realized it seemed to be a mini-NYC with a booming China Town, a sense of Little Italy, and several other really interesting cultural districts and places of interest; and since we were going in November the chance for Holly to get to experience “a real snow” for the first time was even looming on our horizon! 

Our first evening in this beautiful city led us to the base of the CN Tower where Holly, after reading a little about the Tower, exclaimed “wouldn’t it be something to eat up there at the 360!” luckily those dinner reservations had already been made and we enjoyed making a couple new friends at the table next to us –everyone we met in Toronto were unbelievably nice to us– had a great meal, and even were able to see the “Big Top” tents that were set up by the water where the Cirque show we were attending the next day would be.  If you’re in Toronto and want to see the best bird’s eye view, have a meal at the 360

The next day was one of the most exciting thus far in my life, I had been waiting years to see Alegria and this was going to be Holly’s first Cirque show!  Pictures were taken and then we made our way into the Big Top tent where we were not disappointed.  Vibrant costumes, amazing voices resounding the tunes of Alegria, a Fire Knife Dance that took us away to a Polynesian Island while we sat feeling the heat from the flames on stage brandishing our faces, a perfectly synchronized Trapeze Ac! that encompassed at least 6 performers flying high over our heads doing literally unbelievable stunts!  This show left us awestruck and looking forward to the next show that we will be able to see!  Currently in the schedule is the Michael Jackson One show in Las Vegas, but who knows when we will get there? If you have seen this show, or any other show in Vegas that we shouldn’t miss, I would love to hear about it in the comments section below, I am always open to any insights! 

Honestly, I didn’t think that Toronto would be able to envelope our emotions any more than she already had but I was mistaken and discovered this promptly upon our arrival at the gate of Casa Loma.  I tipped our Uber driver and even though it was cold and snowing –Holly got her “real snow” as it snowed all day from the time we woke until after we went back to sleep this day, and was snowing the next morning as we walked to the China-Town markets for lunch—the two of us had to stop for a moment at the entrance and just gaze in awe.  Casa Loma to me is like the Biltmore Estate is to us from NC, but instead of a mansion, it is the only complete genuine castle in North America.  One can only imagine what the grounds look like when Spring calls out all the blooms, but here in November the snow blanketed everything for an entirely different style of beauty.  I simply can not express the glamour of this castle in words, as the saying goes “a picture is worth a thousand words” …the following should speak for itself and it’s not a spoiler, everyone who appreciates architectural details and classic engineering should visit this castle if they get the opportunity.  Every detail has been maintained, and unlike most tourist locations in the USA, there are no barricades and gates at Casa Loma. One is free to roam and actually enjoy the sights without feeling as if you are in a cattle shute presentation only for your money.  There is even an antique car display and an unbelievable steak house, Blue Bloods, with perfectly aged cuts of meat from around the world, a Baked Alaska Flambe served tableside that is legit, and the details go all the way down to a castle replica on their chocolates; Blue Bloods can’t be missed!  This is a hidden gem destination that is not that far of a drive just across the border.  Take a trip to Niagara Falls and then add a couple wineries into your agenda –there are probably 50 or more between the US/CA border and Toronto– on the way to Toronto for a few day stay, I do not think you will be disappointed!

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.

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

Life, It’s all about choices.

Hola Chica

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.

Columbus’s ashes

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.

Presidente Cerveza

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.

Music to Strip by

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.

Rosslyn

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.

Admission for one

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.

Always watching.

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?

Dead Reckoning

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.

My office, Sapphire Catamaran

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.

My Sexton that I’ve carried for almost 20 years. A Davis MK20.

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.

Challenge Accepted

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.

On a different day, a different location. More microplastics in the making.

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?

My pen and notebook

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?

My Week with Three Women

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.

At a warehouse afterparty in St Augustine, Florida.


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.

April and June, on hold using the “Red Phone”


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.

You can’t always see their wings, but their wings are always there.


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.

Doing what they do best, smiling, laughing, and dancing.

Thank you Philly, and thank you Coco, Hanna, and April, for being you.

Life’s Full of Surprises

In this guest writer article, Captain Chris describes the most influential day in his and Holly’s relationship. For two people who love nature, travel, and adventure, I can’t think of a better location than Cumberland Island.

June 25, 2015, is a day that will remain treasured in many respects to Us for the rest of our lives; it is the day that Holly first set foot on a sailboat and this one action has forever changed the course of our lives!  The day started with an adventure, we left the theme parks of Orlando and braved a ferocious storm to get to our destination in Fernandina Beach, FL in preparation to join our fellow explorers on the Ferry ride to Cumberland Island, GA.   If you have never been to Cumberland Island, I HIGHLY recommend the trip as it is one that has stuck in our minds for years since and for good reasons:  wild horses frolicking, armadillos at random crossing your path, the Carnegie Ruins from a mansion built years ago that was decimated by fire and left for onlookers to enjoy the history that is still “in-the-making.”

Carnegie Ruins

  Research is key here as the ferry ride is the only way on and off of this pristine island; you want to ensure you have everything when you leave the dock as there is nowhere to purchase items once on the boat.   All of this is detailed on their website as well as the fact that only a limited number of people are allowed on the island daily, but once again, it is very much worth the effort necessary to get to this true gem!  Holly and I spent the day meandering around the island enjoying the Ruins and horses, the amazing beach laden with Horseshoe Crabs, and the plethora of wildlife before making our way back to the mainland of Fernandina Beach.  

The wild horses of Cumberland Island.

One of the grandest highlights in life I have discovered in my few years is the element of surprise when it is sure to create excitement and enjoyment; there was one such surprise in store for Holly the evening that followed our trip to Cumberland Island, her first time being on a sailboat.  After a dash to the grocery store to grab a bottle of wine to go with the steak dinner that I had previously arranged to be aboard with our Host, Captain Ralph, Holly reluctantly made her way down the dock to the anticipated “surprise.”  We boarded the Now and Zen and cast off her lines as we made way out of the marina and into the bay.  The sounds of the salt-water chop ever so gently slapping the sides of the hull, being slightly splashed up onto our feet while sitting on the trampolines really set the scene for what was to be a grand 4-hour sail.  Porpoises led the 42ft Manta out of the cove and into the more open water of the bay and as the sails were raised and the engine shut off, we sailed past Cumberland Island and watched the wild horses, this time from a distance, play along the marsh line.  To put it boldly, we were literally in a sense of “Heaven” and sitting there I asked Holly one of the most important questions to be asked in our lives:  “would you someday sail around the world with me on something like this?!”  Without hesitation, the sun to our backs the reply was as eloquent as any sound I’ve ever heard: “if you marry me, I will go with you on any adventure, Anywhere.”  With that statement the wheels in my brain were turning, elation set in and the promise of the adventures to come were already surging in my mind.  Sitting there leaning on the bulkhead the vision of where life was going to take us suddenly was within grasp in my mind and the plans were put into motion to make these goals and dreams a reality!  

Sitting on Now and Then dreaming of what’s to come.

Captain Ralph suddenly exclaimed that the winds were right for us to make a turn and allow the sails to take us down the beach.  With little effort he expertly manipulated the lines to a smooth transition, once again we were sailing with only the wind driving our direction.  Now a couple of hours into our journey Holly and I were informed that dinner was served to which our Captain had put together an exquisite presentation in the cockpit with a filet steak dinner served with wine and even had it adorned with roses for Holly’s entertainment.  Now and Zen was once again turned toward the inlet and we sat back to take it all in: the beautiful day with all its accompaniments on Cumberland Island, all of the amazing wildlife we had been blessed to witness interacting in its natural habitat, the fact that we were enjoying an amazing meal on an absolutely gorgeous catamaran with a great Captain.  When it couldn’t get any better, Captain Ralph comes out of the cabin with an array of desserts for us to enjoy with the sunset!  As Holly took her first bite I leaned over and asked her if she really meant what she said about going with me anywhere, sailing around the world, and by any other means…. if I married her?  She quickly confirmed her prior words without hesitation which were enough attestation for me to reach into my pocket and pull out that little black box I had been holding onto for the past 2 weeks on our vacation awaiting the absolute perfect time in our lives and ask her: “Holly, will you marry me?!”  To which she exclaimed “When did you ask my dad!?….YES!”   I guess we were all in line for a surprise on this day! 

Captain Chris and Holly, Engaged




Smugglers Blues

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.

These are called Sunset Drink and Drift.

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!

A seaplane landing at the marina.

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?

Looking for the first palm tree in the Bahamas.

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!

I’m smiling because my friends are getting chased by an angry rooster outside.

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.