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

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

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.

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?

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.