Rise and Shine

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.

Derek and Omar at the helm as we exit the inlet in Ft Pierce, Florida

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.

Food Pirates

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.

Page 1, CHICAGO-

Found at Sea

One lost writer’s reflections on the water. From recent Aquatramp initiate, Central Florida playwright Tracey Jane.

“Most beginners oversteer.” Sapphire’s Captain Gary turns the wheel until the heading reads 132, and wind snaps the sail taut again. “You’ll get the feel for it.” His eyes scan gauges, sails and sky. I fixate on the digital number before me, but the sea shushes all around, dark in the clouded moonlight, lulling me to introspection.

Maybe I’ve oversteered my life, too. Especially in the beginning, when I had it all figured out: Get good grades in school, get a good job, get married, get a house, have kids, do all you’ve been told to do, believe only what you’ve been raised to believe. My heading was clear. And I was always firmly focused on the number in front of me — but never on where I was actually going.

The busyness of life becomes the business of living. That’s how it was for me anyway, until one day I looked up and realized I was exactly where I was “supposed to be.” Yet completely lost. I wasn’t following my own inner compass, or whatever else you might call it: each person’s unique heart, spirit, energy … The number dances: 126, 128, 119. I spin the giant rim sharply to the right.

“Small movements,” Gary calls from the saloon, where he’s writing the last hour’s log entry. He never looks up, having apparently felt the boat’s movement more clearly than I could see it. “Give her time to adjust.”

It’s been twenty-two months since my divorce, after twenty-two years married. Half my life and nearly all my adult life. While I can’t worry about the weather behind me, it still chases me, the good as much as the bad. The failure looms, even if shared, even though ultimately without blame. The grief of that loss, of love — and even more, of the dream that it will last forever — still crashes over me sometimes, like an abrupt big wave. 138, 143 … I pull back left, and Gary reappears.

“This is distracting you.” He grins and switches off the illuminated gauges. “See where the moon’s hitting the horizon?” I mumble assent, only then noticing that the clouds have moved, revealing a glowing gibbous moon. Nearly centered over our bow, it splays light across the water. “Stay on this side of it.” I nod, setting my outlook to the shimmering triangle. Gary lies down on a cushion atop the cockpit and closes his eyes.

Sapphire Catamaran making way South.

Like the other crewmembers he’s gathered for this venture, I’m here for a reason. Maybe he knows we’re each in deep need of something, even if it’s just this shared experience at sea …

Meg is the free-spirited gypsy who survived a rare aortic aneurysm in her early 20s. Another real-life badass is Omar. A veteran first responder haunted by the Pulse nightclub tragedy, he’s the gentle giant who’s turned his observant eye to professional photography.

David and Alice are the couple straight out of Eden. (Technically, she’s from Britain, but you get the idea.) Together, this tow-haired Adam and Eve have trekked the globe and faced the formidable, including a precarious collapsed lung and devastating family accident. Onward they choose to sail and are restoring their first boat, a classic monohull.

Gary also invited his longtime friend from their quintessential Southern hometown of Erwin, Tennessee. Easygoing Robbie and his flame-haired wife Nicole, our onboard firefighter and medic, are walking metaphors of everything to love about America: likable, tough, and even stronger united.

Then there’s our buoyant first mate. The brother of Gary’s best bud from Navy days, Dan is the likeable, knowledgeable wingman in every great sailing movie you’ve ever seen. You know, the ones where the adventure goes nothing like planned but changes everyone aboard as they rally together through adversity to the unexpected end. But I’m getting ahead of this story …

The Captain and Crew aboard Sapphire Catamaran, Summer 2020

Dan takes the helm for our overlapping watch. In between the continued lapping of nighttime waves, I comprehend half of all Dan says as he freely dispenses wisdom about wind. Like how you can’t sail right into it. And how it’s more often in front of you and not behind you, hence tacking, approaching the wind from alternating sides. So, in fact, the fastest way to get from point A to B is never a straight line. Nor was our route from Titusville to Miami, which was our intended July 4th destination.

“Asshole,” Dan calls the wind when it shifts again. “It keeps clocking around on us.” The navigational relationship between clock and compass, time and direction, has always been a fascination to me. Movement is measured in degrees, minutes and seconds of the earth’s sphere. Or a person’s lifetime.

At the end of my shared hour with Dan, I go to the logbook, thinking of how I might verbally capture the conditions I had witnessed him contend with. I scribble some jumble about the wind clocking around a lot. Then I look at the line above and see Captain Gary’s perfect summary: CONFUSED SEAS.

The entry could just as well describe my post-divorce mindset. Or all the “unprecedented events” that have marked 2020. But like “these uncertain times,” the mysterious ocean has a way of revealing us, of distilling our brokenness to the surface.

The sea tests us. This pandemic and its destructive wake are testing us. But maybe in the end, these trials that force us to change course will prove to be the unwanted events that also help us change ourselves.

I climb to my cabin bed and close my eyes, exhausted, feeling the waves. They rise and fall in equal measure. Some pass soft and gentle, others sharp and jarring, but with an endless balance that in itself is reassuring.

Tracey Jane

Sail to Miami

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.

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

The Aquatramp Life

Introducing Coco and her first blogpost. Her professional manner of framing the fabric of the Aquatramp lifestyle leads us to believe she will be a regular onboard Sapphire Catamaran.

The Blog post entitles “My Week With Three Women” … I’m one of those women. My name is Coco, and much like Captain Gary, I love to share laughs, stories, and hospitality. Let me tell you how three women from Philly found themselves living on a catamaran for over a week and planning their first sailing trip. My and Hanna’s Week began on February 26th on the West Coast of Florida in Tampa for a bachelorette party. Getting smoke bombed by the police to get off the streets after a night out on the town and boating to an island with a random pet pig where the bride-to-be fell off a jet ski and scraped up AND broke her left hand (yes, the one with the ring) wasn’t enough of a Florida experience for us. Hanna and I stayed beyond the bachelorette weekend looking for more adventure. Adventure we found disguised with the names Gary, Sapphire, and Aquatramp. I originally found Gary through the Couchsurfing App. Our flight was for a few days after that and we also wanted to visit my grandparents so we asked to stay one night (the night of a shuttle launch)! The launch was canceled and rescheduled for the following week so we thought it best to also reschedule our flights and convince our third Stooge to join us. April, the third Stooge, was just finishing her 3-month working in Yellowstone National Park Experience and was eager to get home and see her family and bunny. Insert Coco and Hanna calling and relentlessly pressuring April to join us in the sun. Having spent 3 months in cold Yellowstone, she happily caved and joined us. Thus, began a week living on a boat with three women and a Gary. 

The Three Amigas

Food is an important part of the Aquatramp lifestyle. Considering I have a background in cooking breakfast (my parents had a diner… yes I am Greek), every morning I cooked breakfast. Every evening we all cooked dinner together like a family and it was magical. Gary organized a cookout the evening of the rescheduled shuttle launch and many other boaters came. 

Friends from around the world

We did quite a lot in this week and a half. Gary showed us Playalinda at the Canaveral National Seashore where the shuttles launch. He took us to St Augustine and showed us around town and we went to a Reagea Sunday party. We watched a shuttle launch. We had a cook out. My friends and I are a drinking/dancing group, so we did that too! When we weren’t off the boat, we were on the boat and wishing we didn’t have to get off the boat and onto a plane.

Boat Daze

We met people from all different walks of life who really make you reflect and learn: a women in her 70’s who lives in a hippie camp, a lovely French couple and their dog with many stories, a man from Jamaica who did not understand personal boundaries (this was not on the boat), a nomadic couple who have overcome challenges and still offer nothing but gratitude and love, a man with a beautiful wife and children and a new baby pig (not the same pig from Tampa), and of course Gary. Gary, is the epidemy of southern hospitality. One of his goals is for the Sapphire to become a place where people can let go of the stresses of life, meditate in any way-shape-form they’d like, and leave with a therapeutic experience as a happier person. I can say I have done just that, and I thank Gary greatly. Whether our future trips pan out or not, I have met a lifetime friend and hope and encourage you all to step aboard the Sapphire and experience the Aquatramp lifestyle. 

Feeding the Crew

You know Gary, if you don’t you should change that. Thanks for reading and getting to know the three girls who nearly implemented squatters’ rights. I am Coco (the short blond), a General Manager of a waterpark, Hanna (the tall Ginger) is a bartender, and April (with the glasses) is a flight attendant. We are grateful to have jobs that allow us to have adventures like this and never plan to stop exploring.

How high can we fly?
A baby pig that made a surprise visit
Breakfast on Sapphire Catamaran

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.

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.

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.