Happy is as Happy does. This post is a simple reminder to follow your passions and do what makes you happy.
Happy is as happy does. Some of my friends love to bake. A few of them have not had any professional training in baking. They have been taught by family, learned along the way, or researched their ass off to do the things they enjoy with baking. Other friends enjoy hobbies like rebuilding bicycles, carpentry, gardening, stained glass, and even collecting leaves. Happy thoughts and happy actions bring positive moods. Positive moods and happy vibes make us a hoot to be around.
My happy place is rebuilding boats. It’s the feel, the smell, the tiny baby steps of a project that puts a smile on my face. Years ago, I read a book titled This Old Boat. It explained in detail how boat parts worked back in the old days. I still have that book. It’s beaten up, water-stained, and smells funny—kind of like me after a good day working in the bilge. Hobbies are the best therapy. It gives our hands and minds something to do. Yes, it digs into our financial pockets, but it is worth it. One of my friends has been building a barn out on an old piece of property. The barn doesn’t have a purpose in the traditional sense. It won’t hold an old tractor. No hay will ever see the inside of these old repurposed wooden planks. Not even a mule will walk through the doors. But it makes him happy to fiddle with it on the weekends. He packs a sack lunch and a cooler of iced down cheap beer, drives to the barn, and hammers nails on the weekends. It’s his happy place.
Where is your happy place? What are your hobbies? Do you have an activity that you call therapy?
I keep my politics private. A big mystery among my friends is which side of the aisle do I lean. My Republican friends tell me jokes about the left. My Democrat friends joke about the right. It’s as if I am the human form of Switzerland. In reality, it’s more like I am a private island.
Do you know what I have found on every island around the world that I’ve visited? Trash:
Some of my favorite people are trashy. But that doesn’t mean they throw plastic out and about. Last year I posted a blog article about waterway trash pickup meetups. A lot has changed since then.
These days, when I’m in town, I co-host a Saturday beach clean-up in Miami. It is on Key Biscayne at the Bill Baggs State Park, to be exact. Every weekend we go out with our buckets and long-handle grabbers. Every weekend we return with full buckets of plastics.
One misconception that I’ve learned is about plastic straws. Rarely do I find those on the beach. The politics of the matter will steer the topic to the left or the right. “It’s because more people are using paper straws.” “It’s because the turtles are eating them before they make it to the beach.” See, even that can be polarized. The real question is, do you really need a straw at all? It’s more of a want than a necessity. I will argue that there are reasonable conditions for straws. I’m referring to the ADA. (You just googled ADA, didn’t you? Good, you probably should. That’s why I placed it there.)
The thing I find the most on the beach are bottle caps. Yep, those little things that go on top of the water and soda bottles. This is another good reason to drink beer on the beach or a boat. Skip the plastic and reach for the glass option.
In December 2020, a theatre troupe commanded my attention while they were on stage at the oldest house in Miami, Florida.
In December 2020, a theatre troupe commanded my attention while they were on stage at the oldest house in Miami, Florida. This Equal Play Production called Quickies was written and produced by my friend and crew member, Tracey Jane. Tracey captured her memories of a summer sail with a pencil on paper. From there, the real magic started. Quickies is a concept of four short plays with the same four actors. In reality, the idea is brilliant, and it works. The plays were named Save the Pets, Build a BOB, The Morning Menage, and Saving Sapphire. Sapphire, as in Aquatramps floating abode, was the centerpiece of my excitement. This performance was about the resilience of the crew during a week-long summer sail in 2020. Just like a lot of things in 2020, the trip did not go at all as planned. The words personified the ups and downs, like the crowns and troughs of waves. For this humbled Captain, it was a relief that the actors showed humor and warmth on stage. Opposite the stage sat the audience, where other crew members of that trip watched and even laughed at the inside jokes we all share. I overheard a stranger in the audience say, ” the writer has spent time on a boat!” Some things are difficult to describe about the follies of sailing unless you’ve spent time on deck.
After the show, I met up with the crew at a local outside Pub. We drank, stretched our memories, and realized that we share a bond of those days out on the water. Agua es Vida – Water is Life
The sun peeked through the portholes and started waking the crew. We wolfed down breakfast before finishing the final preps. The moment was upon us to bugout of Ft Pierce and sail back to Miami.
In early December, we untied the dock lines then pointed the bow toward warmer weather. The course from Ft Pierce to Miami kept us within sight of land for the multiple-day voyage. Omar and Derek joined me for a mini-adventure. We packed the catamaran with food and supplies for the nonstop trip. A few parts that were already broken had us on our toes even before we started. Plus, a weather front changed at the last minute for a return to port. After we were finally making-way, we reflected on the earlier decision we had made as a collective to stay put. That little extra time gave us room for a sail repair and relaxation after the beating we received from the weather the night before.
Game Time- Derek received points for reaching top speed. Omar received points for being Omar. I received points for baking the lasagna.
Miami welcomed us with a beautiful skyline and colorful sunset. With the anchor firmly set, we crashed. We slept hard and apologized to our boat neighbors for the deep sleep snoring coming from all three cabins. So generous of sleep I barely even noticed the rain shower pass in the middle of the night. The sun cracked the dawn like an egg. With smiles and a pang of hunger, we headed to town to find breakfast in the city that Sapphire calls her home port. Welcome to Miami- Bienvenido a Miami Rise and Shine.
The Food Pirates stole my journal. Time for a fresh start on our culinary journey.
Last month my travel journal fell into the hands of food pirates. Wait, you have never heard of them? Seriously, they are real. You may not realize it yet, but I bet you have been a victim of them at some point.
Think about it. Have you ever looked at your dinner plate and said, “there is no way I ate all that.” Or maybe your best friend had already ordered her third margarita when you didn’t see her pound the second one. And let’s not forget about the late nights you are standing in front of an open refrigerator, staring at the old cheese beside a half-empty White Claw. Yep, it’s all because of those sneaky Food Pirate bastards stealing things off our plates and tables, robbing us of the things we love most. Maybe a better term would be “Pie Rats”.
You may have seen glimpses of my travel journal on older Facebook posts. During my travels, I’d jot down notes of things I was seeing, hearing, smelling. Lots of times, I would even try to draw out the moments. They are great memories. I guess it was time to retire that book.
The best things in the world happen at a dinner table, and I believe every meal has a story. Here’s a toast to the next year full of recipes and new friends. Let’s start.
Who wants to sail to Miami for the Fourth of July? We will be sailing Sapphire Catamaran to South Florida for the holiday.
So far, these blogs have been about past trips. This one is different. This blog post is about our upcoming sail from Central Florida to Miami.
Crew and guests are encouraged to arrive on the boat midday June 28th, 2020. The Safety Brief and Float Plan Meeting will start at 6pm with refreshments served. The meeting is followed by dinner aboard at 8pm.
The catamaran will leave Titusville, Florida, early the morning of June 29th, 2020. The route will take the ICW South to the Cape Canaveral Locks, and then passing through to the Atlantic Ocean. The weather this time of year can be affected by local evening thunderstorms and extreme storms of tropical nature. With fair winds and nonstop traveling, the offshore sail to Miami should make port on July 2nd. Family-style Meals and safety equipment provided while underway. Watchkeeping, primary navigation, sail theory, and steering the catamaran will be some of the fun for this trip. Don’t forget this will be an excellent opportunity for great photos along the way.
In celebration, Aquatramp.com and Sapphire Catamaran will be hosting a 4th of July/ Full Moon Party in Coconut Grove (Miami), Florida.
If you are interested in joining us for this trip, you can email us at Captain@aquatramp.com for more details.
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.
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.
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!
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!)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I survived a week with three amazing women from Philly. These friends have been traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe. They are independent, bold, loud, and remarkable.
I survived! I survived a week with three amazing women from Philly. These friends have been traveling to the far-flung corners of the globe. They are independent, bold, loud, and remarkable.
Originally Coco and Hanna had only booked to stay one night on the catamaran while in Florida during a bachelorette trip. One night led to three nights. Three nights led to inviting April. All in all, the girls stayed over a week. Not once did I feel that they had worn out their welcome. Quickly I realized how much I enjoyed having them aboard. We ate like Kings and Queens for every breakfast and dinner.
The three girls were so very different on the individual level, but so much alike. Whatever magic they had worked. Not once did I hear them argue or pick a fight. Their differences in music, books, and fashion seemed to be scripted from a blockbuster movie. I enduringly started calling them The Powerpuff Girls.
They like to think of themselves as cold-hearted, ruthless, no-chill… but I caught glimpses otherwise. I saw hearts bigger than I can ever hope to have myself. They were about having experiences and making the most out of life. Within that week, I learned so much about sharing. They didn’t have a mean bone in their body, and like the Grinch’s heart grew, so did mine. From the cookout to the rocket launch, from Reggae Sunday to our beach day, I never want to forget those special moments. Wherever you go, you will have a friend in me. I’ve invited them back to the boat later this year for some Caribbean sailing. And just as I hoped, they have already started a list of what will be needed in the boat’s galley to continue our daily routine of starting with a great breakfast.
Thank you Philly, and thank you Coco, Hanna, and April, for being you.
The names and locations are changed to protect the guilty.
On some accounts, in certain circles, a few folks may say I come from a long line of runners. Moonshine, cars, weed, guns, tobacco, I may have even heard a story of fine cutlery swapping hands without paying taxes. It’s a culture that crosses borders, not just lines on a map, but also civil status. Rich and needy people around the world make money from just moving goods from one place to another.
The names and locations in this story are changed to protect the guilty. It was spring, and I was about to sail through the Caribbean. The boat was waiting for me in Miami. All that was needed was for my work contract in the Carolina’s to finish. A few friends of mine were keen to find out what this sailing lifestyle was all about. One had just escaped his 3rd or 5th marriage engagement. The other was happy in a longterm relationship. I didn’t think I needed the help, but I thought the company on the trip would be nice. The invitation to go sailing for a few weeks was given to both of them. Cassanova immediately said yes. The other friend, well, he needed to convince his girlfriend.
During the next few days, we jumped into the planning stage. Options were thrown around to find the most logical way for the guys to get to Miami and meet me at the boat. A friend who dabbles in high-end golf resorts overheard us. “Hey, you know that beer is $50 per case in the Bahamas, right?” “If I brought a few cases over to your boat, would you drop them off as you pass by Nassau?” I thought about it and said yes.
My idea of a few cases is around three. The guys arrived at the sloop with sixteen cases of various Cerveza. I was immediately thinking of how we were going to accommodate the volume. The best option was simply to turn the boxes on their sides and walk across them inside the boat. Problem solved!
We consumed the next few days preparing the boat for the trip, food, water, fuel, fishing gear. Yacht and crew ready, we dropped the mooring ball and made our heading for Bimini in the Bahamas. It was a quick overnight sail where we found ourselves tied up to a dock by late morning. With little sleep, we still made it a point to explore all of what Bimini had to offer. Starting at the marina bar, then to the marina bar next door, followed by the Big Game Club, most notable for where Hemingway made memorable moments. We soon found out why our friend wanted us to bring cheap beer. Everywhere we went, the beer was going for 7 USD per bottle. OUCH! At some point during the night’s festivities, we noticed one of the cases of beer on the boat had popped open. Being a pro safety captain, I ruled that the safest option would be for us to stop buying beer and drink the loose cans rolling around on the floor. You see where this is leading, right?
After three more weeks of floating around the Bahamas, goofing off and exploring, we made our way to the Atlantis Resort in Nassau. Our friend arrived with his band of merry men to help carry the 16… 15… I mean, 4 cases of beer that were left unopened. The only reason there were four cases still on the boat was that those four were Budweiser. I mean, we do have standards on how low we would go even with free beer!
To this day, I remember him saying, “you are the worst smuggler ever!” He was right, and I never pulled a stunt like that again. I guess this is one time that the acorn did fall far from the tree.
My original feelings for Northern Ireland changed the moment I stepped off the train.
Like most travelers, I suppose my ideas of Belfast were from the movies and television. I really didn’t know what to expect as my train crossed the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland. This article isn’t about politics, religion, or other troubles that may be woven through the soil from history, but of the great people and food, I found while on my short trip.
What I did know before my arrival in Belfast was that I had made reservations at the most bombed hotel in the world! Yeah, you read that correctly. The Europa Hotel in Belfast, Northern Ireland, is said to be the most bombed hotel in the world, and I had a room facing the street. As I walked through the front door, the elegance of the grand room surprised me. I’m not sure what’s in the water there, but every single person in that city was attractive. However, I do know what was in the water there many years ago.
The RMS Titanic was built here for the famous White Star Line Company. We all know how this luxurious British passenger ship allegedly met her doom in the North Atlantic, Iceberg 1 – Titanic 0. Still partly hungover from my stay in Dublin, I asked the knockout who checked me in where I could find dinner and a pub afterward. She directed me to the Flame restaurant. There I murdered a three-course meal like it was my last supper.
At that time of year, the sun sets late in the evening and gave me plenty of time to walk to a Pub named Kelly’s Cellars. A person never knows when they are going to make friends. Before my first pint arrived, I was asked to join strangers at their table. Aisling and her husband told me stories of their beautiful city and what it was like growing up in Northern Ireland. One pint led to another, and more friends were made and joined the table. I couldn’t have planned a better night. We kept the bartenders busy at Kelly’s that night, up until they closed and ran us out.
The next day brought rain and a slightly uneasy feeling seeing military-style vehicles in the city gathering. The locals said not to worry and to stay away from places I shouldn’t go. Wait… what? I opted for a Black Cab tour of the city. It seems safe, right? The hotel arranged the tour. As the registered Famous Black Cab arrived, the hotel doorman wished me a good day. In the cab, the driver took me around the city, showing me points of historical interest. He seemed neutral and didn’t tell story’s favoring one side or the other. I noticed a huge pile of fresh wood built into what would be a public bonfire. Asking the driver, he told the reason, and I quickly understood why the military-style enforcements were gathering. None of my business I told myself. All in all, it was a great trip. I didn’t see Senad O’conner or the sets for Game of Thrones, not even Liam Neeson. But it was still a place that I will cherish memories from.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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!
A look at the last 24 months of this Catamaran project, and self reflection.
This catamaran project has taken 24 months so far to date and has been chicken soup for my soul. Not the watered-down generic type, but the proper homemade style with hearty bits. Technically I had been homeless for over a year by my own design since I had sold my last sailboat in St Augustine, Florida. I was sleeping in everything from fancy hotels, my truck, friends’ spare rooms, and even under a bridge once to see what it was like. I knew my next boat would be a catamaran, and I searched until the right one came along, and it did. I was on the beach in Bora Bora when I received the email stating that my offer was accepted.
Rebuilding a damaged vessel is, in a sense, building a relationship with yourself. There are options. Do you take the cheap and easy route on this project to finish fast? Or do you realize that you must pay now or pay later? The 20-year-old me would have not known where to start and abandoned the idea quickly to chase the nearest skirt. The 30-year-old me would have taken on the project to prove that he could. And then there’s the 44-year-old me who has learned from his previous three sailboat rebuilds and slowed down to attempt to do it correctly. As they say, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
The Websters dictionary says love is: warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion.
Can we choose what hobbies we love? If we can, are we good at selecting the right ones for ourselves? Do we decide on things that come from natural talent and easy? Or something we are interested in but have to try really hard with the learning curve? Recently on a trip to Washington DC, I had dinner with a longtime Chef friend of mine. We chatted about why the deviled eggs on the appetizer menu only came in odd numbers. Where is the other half of the last egg?
During the meal, we noted that Captains and Chefs have a similar character. Both careers have people’s happiness and safety in our hands. Also, both professions can have a dark side that rears it’self in high-stress situations. We like to think we are the smartest person on the ship or in the kitchen. We keep the tricks we’ve learned close to our vest, and we thrive on seeing the looks of enjoyment. Over the summer, I had a Hell’s Kitchen moment in what I perceived as a stressful maneuver. The look of disappointment from the crew, and the immediate feeling in my heart will haunt me.
I travel, therefore I am. I also like to eat, learn, build, and dance when I think no one is looking. However, this blog is about the journey. The journey of rebuilding an abandoned burnt-out catamaran and where this vessel takes me and the connections made with the people along the way. On the two year mark of this project, I ask myself:
Have I been building a better boat? Or have I been building a better Gary?
The 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…….
The plane landed in Ireland. It was the first time flying with Aer Lingus, and I was impressed with the efficiency. This plane was the fastest thing that I had been on in quite some time. If you can imagine moving non-stop for two weeks, but only advancing less than 10 miles per hour, that’s what it like to cross an ocean via sailing yacht.
At the Dublin Customs and Immigration checkpoint, I spotted a short line with an attractive female officer behind the Plexiglass. I figured that I would give a smile, shoot her the brown steel while handing her my passport, and I would be on my merry way. Wrong! My passport is kept in the same pocket as I carry my Captian’s License. They are both the same shape and size, just different colors. Her keen eye saw the backside of my Merchant Mariners Credentials and quickly asked if I had an additional nationality. Not to deny her question, I informed her that I had just delivered a yacht to Europe and that I was on holiday. Her second question was more stern than her first, ” so you are working in Europe?” I realized the gravity with which answer I could give. “No,” I said, and as if queued by a director, a massive gaggle of passengers from another plane started lining up behind me. She stamped my passport and smiled while saying that I should visit Temple Bar that night, then added that she might see me there.
The taxi driver dropped me outside of the Spencer Hotel, which would be my quarters for the next two nights. It is a modern hotel overlooking the Samuel Beckett Bridge, the Harp shaped bridge on the River Liffey. The Hotel had everything a person should need, attentive concierge, restaurant, and vending machines with beer! Wasting little time, I dropped my bags off in the room and hurried downstairs.
First on my list was to visit the Guinness Storehouse Factory. On-Location, you can see the how’s and why’s of making the world-famous brand. The tour takes you up floor by floor as you see a massive indoor waterfall, listen to live music and get a little bit of Irish history. The best part for me was walking into the Gravity Bar at the very top of the building. It marked the end of the tour where you can order a pint of “the black stuff” and enjoy it while taking in an impressive 360-degree view of Dublin.
The second stop on my list was Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub. The distinguished list of patrons who have dined at this establishment is in regard, royalty to say the least. I feasted on the Corned Beef and Cabbage. The waiter suggested that I visit a local pub nearby if I wanted to see more Irish history. Walking in, I realize they must send all the tourists there.
I can not remember the name of the pub, but the two friends I made that night were well worth the trip. These two Canadian girls were on holiday also. We teamed up, and after a few shots of Jameson Whiskey, named our gang “The North American Hooligans.” From that pub, we took a taxi to Temple Bar Street, all the way curious if the driver was drunk.
Temple Bar is more than a place; it is an atmosphere. The party continued. Erin Go Bragh!
Two days in Dublin went by in a snap. On the third morning, I was at the train station partially subdued from a hangover as I watch a Bachelorette Party head my way. Next stop, Belfast, Northern Ireland, and the world’s most bombed Hotel!
It gives me pleasure to introduce the first guest writer for the AquaBlog. I have known Michelle and her husband, Tim, for awhile. This article is of her first sail on Sapphire from Coconut Grove, Florida, to Cape Canerival. -Captain
Over the summer, I had the wonderfully unique experience of sailing on the Sapphire Catamaran/living the Aquatramp life for three days that went by way too fast. I hopped on board, and after a few hellos, I had instant friends. For three days, the five of us did fun things together (watching a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center! enjoying a sunset cocktail!). And we also did mundane things together (boat repairs! cleaning up after dinner!). All done with shared warmth and mutual gratitude during all of it. It was simply amazing.
My new friend Natalie from Australia has traveled the globe by herself and with friends and sometimes strangers. She seemed so sweet and innocent. Not a being a wild child hitchhiking in Alaska or sleeping on strangers’ couches during her adventures through Europe. She had just finished a story when I read a text out loud that it was free donut day, the world traveler’s face lit up “Free Donut Day is a thing?! I love America.”
My assigned task was to make a playlist for everyone to chill to in the afternoons….. since that is about the extent of my boating skills. For some reason, the theme song from Full House ended up on the radio (everywhere you look…. everywhere you look…), and my new friend, Pierre’s head popped up from over his book. In his beautiful accent, he asked, ‘is this from a TV show?’. We learned that they watched the same Full House in France that we all remembered from childhood in the states. We all shared a nostalgic few seconds. We all got such a kick out of having that silly show in common. Who knew?
Captain Gary has a laid-back generosity and is as open as the ocean itself. Nobody feels like a guest on the boat. When you’re there, you are the crew. Everybody belongs. You would contribute with stories, chores, cooking, playing a board game, a shared bar of soap if someone forgot theirs.
I’m looking forward to making many more playlists on many more adventures with the Aquatramp lifestyle onboard Sapphire, each one with totally different songs and memories than the last.
Seriously? A guy was sitting behind me on a bus to Lisbon, Portugal, and this pickup line was his final attempt to pick up a girl across the aisle.
But this isn’t where the story begins. Let us go back five weeks and 3600 nautical miles to Jacksonville, Florida, USA. We were loading stores onto a private yacht that would soon be making way across the Atlantic Ocean. The owner had asked a friend, who in return asked me to join in the trans-Atlantic crossing, four of us in all would be on the 47-foot sailboat during the voyage.
Every journey has its pulse. I have commented before that long-distance sailing is 90% boredom and 10% panic, but this trip was of note to be different.
The First Leg
Bermuda, Isle of Devils
After finally leaving the mainland and out of the sight of land, we had the perfect sail to Bermuda. Along the way, dolphins rode our bow waves, Gin and Tonics let us know before dinner was ready each evening, and the stars, the night sky while at sea, always impresses.
The first leg took five days. We planned to stop long enough to replenish the fresh galley necessities. However, the weather had us cautious due to a hurricane possibly crossing our path.
The storm came and went while we made friends at places like the Swizzle Inn listening to Bil Krauss’s talents, and enjoying Dark and Stormy’s at The White Horse. This was the last time we would see land for the next thirteen and a half days. Next stop, Azore Islands.
Cold drinks, Whalebones, and more Friends
Horta, Faial, is a port city on the western part of the Archipelago of the Azores, and a rite of passage of sailors making a West to East trans-Atlantic crossing. The first mission was to find a historic pub named Peter’s. The pub was serendipitous with burgees lining the walls and ceiling, live music wafting out the front door, and beer flowing to yachtmen from around the world. We smiled, laughed, made more friends, took turns buying rounds of drinks, but most importantly knew the accomplishment that we achieved.
Sadly it was time for a crew change with my close friend Dave flying back to the states for business. Dave is a sailors’ sailor; he is a racer. One who is always watching the wind and tweaking the sails to squeak out another fraction of a kt. I learn from Dave every time I sail with him.
“Uncle” Rick, Owner Tony, and I welcomed the new Brit on board for the final reach to Lagos, Portugal.
Mainland Europe, Dryland
We arrived in Lagos during daylight hours and tied up to a dock at a marina downtown. That night Portugal won the World Cup. Horns blasted through the city after the win. I joined in the festivities and helped the locals celebrate in a proper sailors manor. The next morning with a sizable hangover, I said my goodbyes to the crew and boarded a passenger bus heading to Lisbon. Sitting around me were travelers from different points of the compass. During the two hour trip, I listened to a guy behind me try over and over to start a flirty conversation with a girl across the aisle. During the last fifteen minutes, he asked her the question that still makes me smile, “What is your fondest memory of Spanish meatballs?’