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 choice is thick or thin. Families have been at stalemate for centuries with knife and fork in hand.
The thing to know about pizza is that there is no middle ground for thick or thin. As you read this, you already know your favorite style. Unless God forbid, you are a carb counting, card-carrying, cauliflower crust loving Karen! If that’s you, go ahead and stop reading now.
For the rest of us, we want flavor. We like cheese, especially for Americans; we want every topping, including the kitchen sink on our pizza. I mean, can you really be a Fun-guy without mushrooms? For me, I’ve always favored thick crust, double mozzarella, Canadian bacon, mushrooms, and dare I say it… pineapple. Yep there it is. Perfection.
During a recent trip up North, I started daydreaming about pizza. I messaged friends who I know live or have lived in Chicago, asking for authentic deep-dish pizza location recommendations. They all messaged back with the name Lou Malnati’s. With an honorable mention, they named Giordanos as their second choice. From where I was in Michigan, I charted my course to the Windy City. It was three states and two hours away. With a full tank of gas and an address plugged into my GPS, I was on my way.
Chicago signage has a sense of nostalgia. Maybe it reminded me of the way Hollywood portrays the strong economic era before the 2nd World War. Strong, confident, and welcoming. The sign to Malnati’s is no different. It beckoned me from across the street as soon as I saw it.
I was that guy. I was the hungry guy who followed my nose through the front door. My timing was perfect. It was that sweet spot between lunch and dinner. Lucky me, they had a table at their rollup glass garage door. On a 1-10 level of food excitement, I was a 10. So excited that I ordered two pizzas. I wanted to experience all of it.
The uniqueness of Lou’s is the Butter Crust. It coats your fingers and prepares your tastebuds for the boldness of the pie. I chose “The Malnati.” The sausage had a little kick that made my nose run before I finished my first slice; thats a good thing. Along with the vine tomato sauce and extra cheese, it would be hard to beat. My second pizza choice was “The Lou,” named after the founder. In my opinion, this is an excellent complement to the first pie. The three kinds of cheese bridged the void from the plate to my mouth. Add the flavor of spinach, garlic, basil, onion, mushrooms, and sliced tomatoes!!! Yes, please. I washed everything down with an Italian beer and took in the moment. I was sitting in Chicago and happy in a food coma on deep-dish pizza.
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.
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.
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 …
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.
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.
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 ofAlegria 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!
Songs to Strip By, Part 2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Making new friends with guns. I woke rested and eager to get to the boat, but first thing first, breakfast!
Songs to Strip By, Part 2, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Making new friends with guns.
I woke rested and eager to get to the boat, but first thing first, breakfast! The hotel provided a traditional Caribbean breakfast with lots of fruits and juices, and I was in heaven. Looking like a Hollywood American, I rushed into the lobby. With my aviator sunglasses covering my eyes and a piece of toast hanging out of my mouth, I darted for the main entrance to grab a taxi. Steps away from the door, I hear the concierge call out, “Capitan!”, “a message!”
Day Two, Track Four: 2018’s song, Nice For What by Drake
Waiting outside was my driver in what looked like a very well kept Louis Vuitton hat and a big smile from ear to ear. His task was to spend the day showing me the city of Santo Domingo until we were called to the marina. Our first stop was the Amber Museum, an educational location with lots of cool pieces of… amber. It was wild to see historic insects and critters frozen in this hard sap.
Day Two, Track Five: 1996’s song Pony by Ginuwine
The second stop was at the county’s capital building. It seemed my driver knew everyone in the city. We found a restaurant across the street and had lunch with a few of the guards. With a full belly of Locrio de Pollo and a few Presidente cerveza’s to wash it down, we headed onward. Then the next stop was something I would never have imagined and honestly didn’t know in the Dominican Republic.
The Faro a Colon, Christopher Columbus Lighthouse. It could be the famous or infamous explorers’ final resting place. A tomb with what I can describe as a seafarer’s chest sits encircled at the intersection of a massive cruciform. Inside the chest are the ashes that some say are ol’ Chris. Each October, the chest is opened for a few moments to reveal the contents.
Day Two, Track Six: 2019’s song La Romana by Bad Bunny feat. El Alfa
As the sun was setting, I was under the impression that the boat would once again not be arriving, if there was even a boat at all.
Intermission… enjoy the track Unforgettable from French Montana featuring Swae Lee.
The sun dipped behind the mountains, and Leo, the driver, had an outdoor sports bar in mind for a few cold beers off the clock. Thunder rumbled in the distance as we walked up and grabbed a picnic table outside. This storm plays a vital role later in the night. The smell of food grilling nearby teases my appetite. Halfway through the first beer is when the rain hit, and we ran for the Escalade! “I know where we’ll go,” Leo said as we pulled out of the parking lot.
Track Ocho: 2017’s Swalla by Jason Derulo feat. Nicki Minaj
To be continued… next, the Brazilian woman who stole my heart but not my wallet in the brothel.
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.
Not far outside of Edinburgh, Scottland is the historic Rosslyn Chapel. This beautiful chapel was built in the 1400s and had craftsmen and artisans working long before Columbus sailed the ocean blue.
In 2016 I visited Scottland for the first time and had Rosslyn Chapel as one of the must-see locations on my list. The Tom Hanks movie, The Da Vinci Code, brought a wave of interest to the area. However, the reason I wanted to visit the location was different. My fraternity has long-standing ties to this remarkable building. So long in fact that they were there helping to build it.
After the general tour, I had the honor of receiving a private tour around the grounds and through the chapel. It is tough to put into words the feeling that day as I walked around and saw the marks of my brothers. Men who I do not know but share a bond.
The day was perfect. The crowd was lite. And I tried to breathe in all that I possibly could. To imagine skilled persons using their hands to craft those beautiful components without the tools that we use today blows my mind. No computers were used, no calculators, no Monster energy drinks, no Amazon Prime delivering parts, not even drones to take selfies!
Anytime I get the chance to visit a historic location of architecture I’ll take it. It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing. Do you have any locations that mesmerized you?
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.
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.
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.
In this guest writer article, Captain Chris describes the most influential day in his and Holly’s relationship. For two people who love nature, travel, and adventure, I can’t think of a better location than Cumberland Island.
June 25, 2015, is a day that will remain treasured in many respects to Us for the rest of our lives; it is the day that Holly first set foot on a sailboat and this one action has forever changed the course of our lives! The day started with an adventure, we left the theme parks of Orlando and braved a ferocious storm to get to our destination in Fernandina Beach, FL in preparation to join our fellow explorers on the Ferry ride to Cumberland Island, GA. If you have never been to Cumberland Island, I HIGHLY recommend the trip as it is one that has stuck in our minds for years since and for good reasons: wild horses frolicking, armadillos at random crossing your path, the Carnegie Ruins from a mansion built years ago that was decimated by fire and left for onlookers to enjoy the history that is still “in-the-making.”
Research is key here as the ferry ride is the only way on and off of this pristine island; you want to ensure you have everything when you leave the dock as there is nowhere to purchase items once on the boat. All of this is detailed on their website as well as the fact that only a limited number of people are allowed on the island daily, but once again, it is very much worth the effort necessary to get to this true gem! Holly and I spent the day meandering around the island enjoying the Ruins and horses, the amazing beach laden with Horseshoe Crabs, and the plethora of wildlife before making our way back to the mainland of Fernandina Beach.
One of the grandest highlights in life I have discovered in my few years is the element of surprise when it is sure to create excitement and enjoyment; there was one such surprise in store for Holly the evening that followed our trip to Cumberland Island, her first time being on a sailboat. After a dash to the grocery store to grab a bottle of wine to go with the steak dinner that I had previously arranged to be aboard with our Host, Captain Ralph, Holly reluctantly made her way down the dock to the anticipated “surprise.” We boarded the Now and Zen and cast off her lines as we made way out of the marina and into the bay. The sounds of the salt-water chop ever so gently slapping the sides of the hull, being slightly splashed up onto our feet while sitting on the trampolines really set the scene for what was to be a grand 4-hour sail. Porpoises led the 42ft Manta out of the cove and into the more open water of the bay and as the sails were raised and the engine shut off, we sailed past Cumberland Island and watched the wild horses, this time from a distance, play along the marsh line. To put it boldly, we were literally in a sense of “Heaven” and sitting there I asked Holly one of the most important questions to be asked in our lives: “would you someday sail around the world with me on something like this?!” Without hesitation, the sun to our backs the reply was as eloquent as any sound I’ve ever heard: “if you marry me, I will go with you on any adventure, Anywhere.” With that statement the wheels in my brain were turning, elation set in and the promise of the adventures to come were already surging in my mind. Sitting there leaning on the bulkhead the vision of where life was going to take us suddenly was within grasp in my mind and the plans were put into motion to make these goals and dreams a reality!
Captain Ralph suddenly exclaimed that the winds were right for us to make a turn and allow the sails to take us down the beach. With little effort he expertly manipulated the lines to a smooth transition, once again we were sailing with only the wind driving our direction. Now a couple of hours into our journey Holly and I were informed that dinner was served to which our Captain had put together an exquisite presentation in the cockpit with a filet steak dinner served with wine and even had it adorned with roses for Holly’s entertainment. Now and Zen was once again turned toward the inlet and we sat back to take it all in: the beautiful day with all its accompaniments on Cumberland Island, all of the amazing wildlife we had been blessed to witness interacting in its natural habitat, the fact that we were enjoying an amazing meal on an absolutely gorgeous catamaran with a great Captain. When it couldn’t get any better, Captain Ralph comes out of the cabin with an array of desserts for us to enjoy with the sunset! As Holly took her first bite I leaned over and asked her if she really meant what she said about going with me anywhere, sailing around the world, and by any other means…. if I married her? She quickly confirmed her prior words without hesitation which were enough attestation for me to reach into my pocket and pull out that little black box I had been holding onto for the past 2 weeks on our vacation awaiting the absolute perfect time in our lives and ask her: “Holly, will you marry me?!” To which she exclaimed “When did you ask my dad!?….YES!” I guess we were all in line for a surprise on this day!
Guest writer Captain Chris writes about his honeymoon with best friend Holly to Costa Rica. The culinary experience and fishing adventure is a dream destination.
Costa Rica: You had Our hearts @ “Pura Vida”
We awoke with pure excitement after only getting a few hours of sleep from enjoying the magnificent Central American inspired dinner the night before! Juan Carlos, our personal Waiter, ensured we would have the most delightful time from making his custom guacamole that was only to embellish the encore of fresh perfectly blackened Tuna and Mahi served over some of the best rice I have ever experienced. And for dessert, a flambe style bananas foster served tableside, a true dining experience that has only been surpassed once in our travels… but that was at a castle that I will detail in a future post! With the illustration of such a meal leaves to question “what could be more exciting for the day ahead?” Holly and my first Billfishing adventure! An experience I have been waiting my whole life to enjoy and now that I was able to enjoy it with my newly married Best Friend, an epic day surly awaited us!
I. Juan Carlos Preparing Bananas Foster!
Now it was a new morning and we awoke to a breakfast served on a porch manufactured from the Guanacaste trees that are native to that area of Costa Rica of our secluded hut; fresh squeezed juices and some of the best coffee I have ever enjoyed had us prepared to meet the man who I had been conversing with for 2 months about this fishing trip, Captain Rick Bergstresser of Rhino Charger fishing charters. Rick soon picked us up in front of our abode and we were off into the unknown adventure to be had. We met our Mate for the day, Victor, and the diesels were sounded off, warmed up, and the with the smell of rigged Ballyhoo invading the air we watched Victor take control of his station and begin to check lines while setting the reel drags in preparation or deploying our baits.
Within minutes the Captain had spotted a Whale cruising the Tamarindo Beach and after we were blessed with a couple of amazing breaches, we settled in for the ride to the fishing grounds. With upmost excitement Holly hit me on the shoulder and exclaimed “LOOK!” as a school of a hundred or more Porpoises made their way jumping from wave to wave! Suddenly the 34’ Island Hopper designed fishing machine was slowed and lines were set in hopes of a Tuna or Mahi that may have been running with the Porpoises. Quick action on the fishing front like we had hoped for was not on the agenda for our mid-July day, but with fishing anyone who has partaken in the: hobby, sport, lifestyle…the Angler knows it is a true labor of patience. Holly and I settled into the enjoyment of where we were and the fact that we were there together and loving the fact we were living life; when the reel began to scream and within seconds Holly was in the fighting chair hooked into a massive Pacific Sailfish. Line continued to peel off the reel as the Captain skillfully worked the boat into the perfect position for her to successfully bring the behemoth boat-side. This was where the testament to Victor’s fervor came into play and he did not disappoint! With his help we were able to not only bring Holly’s first Sailfish boatside but Victor made it possible to capture one of the most cherished photos we have to this day!
II Holly, Capt. Chris, and Victor with Holly’s first Sailfish!!
This day was already one of the best days of our lives, and as we sat there on the boat remembering the fight of the fish, laughing and preparing our story to illustrate the battle and the conquering of this awesome catch, Holly and I enjoyed a fresh cut chilled watermelon with the Captain and Mate. The Imperial beers went down smooth in the hot Costa Rican sun as we were really starting to realize just how special this day was, how could it get any better?! “DOUBLE!!!” that’s right! 2 reels had the drag screaming and line peeling off, Holly was back in the chair, throwing watermelon over the side as pure excitement overtook her. I was handed the other rod and as I got into the stand-up fighting position my line went slack, this day the Wife was going to show the Husband how fish catching was done! Holly got into her rhythm and really put on a show of true professional angling skills! This battle went on a bit longer as this fish seemed to really want to give Holly the fight she was looking for! 30 minutes passed and then an hour, some action shots were photographed, and before we knew it, Victor had us in a perfect photo opportunity once again!
III Victor, Holly, and Capt. Chris with Holly’s 2nd Sailfish
We simply could not believe how fortunate we had been: to find each other, to be blessed with the ability that we were able to be where we were, to be living out a dream to be boating the beautiful creatures!!! As we brought the lines in and put up the tackle to make our way back to the shore we were graced once again by more of the playful Porpoises making their way from swell to swell; we discussed the fact of how could this Honeymoon get any more perfect –which we were soon to discover—as this was our second day of two weeks in this literally unbelievable country that we had found ourselves enamored with!
The next flight landed on the island of Raiatea, where we were able to stock up on groceries before catching the ferry boat. While waiting on the ferry, we had time to rest and fill our appetite with freshly baked bread at a local bakery. Just the smell of the warm croissants alone made my mouth water.
Looking like pack mules, we trudged to the government dock for the scheduled boat that would take us across the water to the island of Tahaa. Here we spent the next two days napping in our travel hammocks at the edge of a private wooden dock. The view from there was more than I expected. One day after lunch, I sat lost in my thoughts, staring down at the reef only a few inches below the water. I watched a clownfish swim back and forth, in and out of the anemone. They share a special relationship with helping each other live their best life. As little Nemo was dancing with the current, I was caught off guard when the reef adjusted it’self beside of him. However, it wasn’t a reef at all. It was a small octopus who had been there camouflaged the whole time. Before long, it was time to let my aquatic friends go back to their secret life of hide and seek.
The same ferry picked us up for the return trip to Raiatea. This time we spoilt ourselves to a small resort bungalow for several nights. It was heaven having air conditioning and lounging around a swimming pool. From the west coast of Raiatea, you can see Mt Otemann. A 2,385′ (727 meter) dormant volcano on the island of Bora Bora in the distance.
On to the island of Huahine. There we were met at the airport by our host. She first drove us to markets where we stocked up on supplies such as vegetables, fresh fish, and beverages. Next, we loaded everything into a small skiff that would deliver us to a private motu where we would be left alone as the only two people on an island for the next four days.
It was pure bliss. If you ever need to unplug and get away to decompress, I highly recommend doing it in the South Pacific on a little private island without any electricity or phones. We cooked on an open fire, skinny-dipped, and star gazed during the nights, all protected by a reef that encircled the island. On the outside of the reef, there be sea monsters! On the inside of the reef was peaceful and safe… or so I thought. On our last day, we decided on one last swim in the lagoon. With our snorkel and mask, we explored the shallows. As time was running out, we turned to the beach and floated, taking our time and squeezing every last minute. As I was about to stand up, I looked over and saw a Black Tip shark on patrol. I had no idea how long he had been swimming with us, but it seemed that I was more curious about him than he was of me.
Back to Tahiti for our final night in French Polynesia. Papeete seemed like a megacity after being out on the smaller islands for the last two weeks. Cars were zipping around us, buildings were taller than two stories, and the smells were more industrial. We found a bar near the hotel with live music playing outside. That beer mug was the coldest thing in the city. I enjoyed it and daydreamed of one day sailing back to the very spot I was sitting.
Two weeks is not enough time in Hawaii. I needed more time to explore the land, culture, and surf. What I did find in that short amount of time was a moment, or maybe even a glimpse of love.
We met up in Los Angeles after being apart for a month. The timing was perfect, and we celebrated my birthday in Hollywood. Twenty-four hours later, we were on an airplane flying to Honolulu, Hawaii.
Looking down over the island and seeing Waikiki from the aeroplane window was a sight. Diamond Head stood out the most as it dominated the skyline. Shortly after landing and clearing the airport, we discovered what everyone had told us about the prices on the island. Wow, I thought as a priced an Uber to get to the hotel. But still, I felt as if a was winning. I mean there I was, in Hawaii with my French girlfriend to enjoy all that life had to offer for the next two weeks, and the icing on the cake was that the Marriott on the beach in Waikiki was happy to take points for the entire stay. Winning!
We eagerly checked into our room, changed, and ran down to the beach. In all of my travels, I had never felt sand like the type of sand on that beach. I could run my hands through it, but it wouldn’t stick to me. It was the first of many things in Hawaii to baffle me.
Steps were collected over and over those first few days. We got hip to the local bus system and explored even further outside of our circle. For two days, I rented a motorcycle. We explored the North Shore, The Polynesian Cultural Center, went to a luau, and the Dole Plantation. Mountains and waterfalls were hiked, just when I thought the landscape couldn’t get any more dramatic, it would, over and over again.
One night on our date night, we picked the restaurant, Orchid. I can not speak highly enough of our experience. Mostly I believe it was due to our waiter being perfect with everything he did. It looked to me as if it was more than just a job to him. His subtle ways were like an artist. That wasn’t the only food experience of the trip. Everywhere we ate seemed terrific. From Food Trucks to fancy restaurants, I had no criticism to give.
Maybe everything was perfect on island, or perhaps I was too busy catching feelings. I’ve been blinded by science, but never blinded from love in the same way. We laughed, held hands, and stole kisses often. It was unscripted and raw.
Time has passed, and love faded, but I will always cherish the moments with her in Hawaii. We went on a few other international trips around the world before we went our separate ways, but I will always look back and smile. Maybe the spirits in the volcanos warmed my heart ever so slightly. The hottest of fires burn out the quickest.
Our Friend Gina is this weeks Guest Writer. She writes about her escape from the normal 9-5 life, and how she has become happy as a modern day nomad.
“TRAVEL IS FATAL TO PREJUDICE, BIGOTRY, AND NARROW MINDEDNESS, AND MANY OF OUR PEOPLE NEED IT SORELY ON THESE ACCOUNTS.” ~ MARK TWAIN
I began my solo travel adventures in September 2016. If you meet a lot of solo, nomadic travelers, there is usually a story behind what motivates or inspires this traveler. We are seekers, searchers, hopeless romantics, Vagabond’s; tramping our way across the globe is not only what we do, but it is a way of life. It’s a conscious choice. Seeking a way to spend our days free from the daily norm or what today’s society or even our own family and friends dictate as a “normal way of life.” Real, deep, true happiness is the primary motivator.
I only ever wanted to be happy; blissfully happy, from the core of my soul, to my skin, JUST HAPPY!
The only way my story is unique compared to yours, is that I took the leap! “Everything you want, is on the other side of fear!” I read this somewhere once and it stuck! It resonates within me and became my mantra.
At the end of 2014, after suffering for over a decade from a debilitating back injury, I was facing a series of spinal surgeries. Not the way anyone would choose to “ring in a New Year,” but it was my reality and also my chance to research and plan for my “great escape” while I was healing. My research and learning became a respite and something to occupy my time and my mind in between various physical therapy, pool therapy, a very intensive pain management program, and countless other medical appointments. It was also a preview of possibility. Was this life of unending travel around the globe possible?
I could no longer envision my days spent in a corporate cubicle life. How much longer would I have the physical capabilities to travel? A voice in my head asked me over and over, “What do you want your life to look like?”
In September of 2016, after being released from my arduous regime of therapies, I took my first solo trip, a road trip starting from Eastern Washington, traveling as far east as Ohio, south to Tennessee, across Kansas and Oklahoma to Colorado and down to Utah, Nevada and up the California Coast back to Eastern Washington. With my National Park Pass in hand, my route was planned by National Park destinations. I researched car camping hacks on the internet and Pinterest, packed up my Toyota Rav 4 and away I went.
My goal by the end of this trip, using November 15, 2016 as a return trip date, was to REALLY choose to A: Go back to corporate cubicle life or B: Sell everything and use the money that I would spend on daily living (car, rent, insurance, utility bills, etc. ) to fund my travel. My lease was ending on November 30, 2016. That would be the perfect time to free myself to travel or extend my lease and go back to work.
I have always been extremely independent, love to be challenged and not really afraid to put myself out there. I march to the beat of my own drum and have a bit of “Gypsy” mixed in with “explorer” so maybe this has always been my destiny. I’m the square peg and it’s ok with me if I don’t fit into “the round hole!” My path and choices in life lead me to having never been married or to having children. (I always get asked these 2 questions so figured you might also!)
My road trip was a gift! It reinforced that solo travel wasn’t lonely, it was exhilarating! Any challenge I came upon, was temporary and I was able to solve it, rise above it and most importantly learn from and empower myself!
After 3 months on the road camping, crossing 20 states, visiting 12 National Parks, and driving several thousand miles, my choice was clear. I wanted to travel, full time, unencumbered by “stuff” and possessions. Free to live my best life on my terms for as long as my physical health would allow.
I returned mid-November as planned, sent my letter of resignation, gave up my apartment, sold all of my furniture and large possessions and packed a few boxes and put them in storage. (This would prove to be a “test” in case I needed to return and start “over” I’d have some staple items to do this. In 2019, I emptied the storage unit and sold the last bits.)
I flew to Florida and for the next year, lived in Airbnb’s in some of those beautiful Florida cities and near those beaches that I’d dreamed of during those miserable, grey Northwest winter days while I recovered. All the while, reading and researching how I could take my travels globally.
Two huge discoveries would prove to be the tipping point. I came across a book called, “How to Travel the World on $50 a Day”, a book by Matt Kepnes (@nomadicmatt) and a website for Work for Stay called workaway.info. Workaway helps you locate a host, ANY WHERE IN THE WORLD that, in exchange for 25 hours of work per week, will feed and house you and provide a cultural exchange! WHAT??? How does everyone in the WORLD not know about this?
Reading Matt Kepnes’ book was a huge “Ahhh-HA” moment that gave me the confidence to know that I could travel globally inexpensively and smartly. The work for stay, with Workaway.info, would help me to extend my dollar and provide what has been a cultural awakening, priceless new friendships and global networking connections that have opened even more travel opportunities! Through Workaway I have worked at a family run B&B at the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland, tutored English in Poland (3 times in the last 2 years and I’m headed back for the 3rd year April 2020!) and worked at a non-profit for 3 months in Cape Town, South Africa that provides job training for adults with disabilities, like Down’s Syndrome. I’ve also had the most amazing experience doing Workaway right here in the US, supporting hikers on the Appalachian Trail at a Hostel and Welcome Center.
My most valuable takeaway is that PEOPLE in any country, in any city, town or village throughout this big, beautiful, amazing, diverse world we live in are fundamentally THE SAME!
When you are a guest in their country, city, town or village, they want to share and show you the very best they have to offer. Be it food, music, history or iconic landmarks, people are proud to share or to teach you about their way of life and their culture. They also want to learn from you, to share ideas and stories. Myths are dispelled, friendships forged.
Yes, there is always good and bad EVERYWHERE in ANY PLACE, even in your own backyard, but people around the world are basically true and good, free from agendas. If you look for and expect good, treat all people with mutual respect, dignity and kindness, have a genuine thirst for learning and experiencing new things, your cup runneth over my friends, in the most profound and life changing way!
What draws me to travel and keeps me thirsty? THE PEOPLE! I have had the opportunity pleasure and honor to meet and learn from the most amazing and diverse people from over 33 countries and counting!
I no longer collect things or stuff! I am a collector of memories, friendships and experiences! I am the sum of my experiences and my sum wouldn’t be as great, had it not been for the people I have met along the way.
What are you waiting for? What do you want your life to look like?
Be adventurous, always safe!
**A special thank you, to my friend Captain Gary, for inviting me to write this blog post. ~ We go way back to our days as young Airmen, serving together as squadron mates in the US Navy. He has inspired me to live my life with passion and perseverance, on my terms! I hope you are inspired by Aquatramp to live your life the way it looks to YOU!
The Resolution To Travel
New year, new destinations, new experiences, a new outlook on life
When I lived in London a few years ago, a friend and I decided to visit Edinburgh to enjoy their New Year’s Eve festival, Hogmanay. We had so much fun watching the bagpipers and torch procession, the fireworks display over the castle on the hill, and taking part in the Loony Dook – yes we were some of those crazy people that went for a dip in the freezing waters of the Firth of Fouth in fancy dress!
Starting the year in another country sparked an idea. The whole reason I had moved to London was to travel. Maybe my new years’ resolution could be to visit one country a month for the entire year.
And so began my obsession. I started daydreaming about which countries I could explore. Schemed ways I could save money by walking everywhere and eating really basic student foods. I got creative with my ideas of convincing my boss to let me take leave.
This was one resolution I was going to see through. And I did. I went to a new country every single month for an entire year.
I went to festivals and events across Europe – I paid respects to the Australian and New Zealand troops by attending the dawn service in Gallipoli on Anzac Day. I took part in La Tomatina throwing rotten tomatoes at locals in Spain. I hung out with German friends at Oktoberfest in Munich to celebrate a drink I don’t even like. I rode a camel through the Egyptian desert with a backdrop of pyramids. I jumped off a felucca to swim in the Nile (gross!) and island-hopped through the Greek Islands on a sailboat (bliss). I partied on a pirate ship in Croatia. I danced to English rock songs with a group of Aussie’s at an Irish pub in Sweden to celebrate St Patrick’s Day (random!). I drank absinthe in Prague and ate hash brownies in Amsterdam (sorry mum). I posed with princesses in Disneyland Paris, explored real fairytale castles in Germany, and dared enter Dracula’s castle in Romania. I sang the soundtrack to the Sound of Music at the top of my lungs in the hills of Salzburg (badly). I listened to a Scandinavian woman sing a karaoke version of ‘My Heart Will Go On’ to me because it’s the only song she knew in English (also quite bad). I walked on a frozen lake in Sweden and wandered the quaint streets of f*cking Bruges. I went husky sledding in Finland and crossed the arctic circle to meet Santa. I sipped real champagne in Champagne and slept in an ice hotel in Romania!
All this in just one year, while still working full time in London (shout out to strategically chosen annual leave days and a few sick days here and there). On a strict budget, of course, but I did it. I made my resolution a reality and had the absolute best time doing it. I had seen and experienced so many incredible things. It sparked something within me – it was almost as though I had been wandering around in a dream, and then travel woke me up. Of course, this had me hooked. The bug had bitten and the only antidote: keep travelling. So I made the same resolution the following year and slowly made my way through Europe. City by city.
If you’re looking for a resolution that is a little different from the standard get fit, quit smoking, save money resolutions – travel travel travel! I can’t recommend it enough. Book that plane ticket. Go on that cruise. Be at that festival. Make it happen.
And my resolution for 2020…
I’m striving for that clearer 20/20 vision, really defining who I am and what I want.
And right now, what I want is to be on a sailboat, meeting awesome people, seeing beautiful places, and making new friends.
Speaking of new things, we have a shiny new website up and running. Stick around, take a look, and let us know what you think!
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 loud thump came from the space I had just occupied on the island trail. Before I knew what was happening I heard an army of Coconut crabs running across the tropical floor to feast on the coconut pulled to earth by gravity.
Tahiti, Bora Bora
My travel buddy landed in Tahiti 45 minutes before I did. We would be staying in French Polynesia for just over two weeks and visiting five different islands.
As I walked from the flight line into the Faa’a International Airport in Papeete, Tahiti, I heard music from a band playing local music. I watched dancers swaying in what I, as an American, thought of as hula dancing. The line to customs and immigration curved back and forth through the night time tropic humidity. It seemed forever, and my anticipation to see my partner was making me excited. Here I was, in French Polynesia, I could not believe I had been able to arrive in one of my dream locations. My travel partner at the time was my then French girlfriend, with her first language being French, it made for more accessible communication with the locals. We had pre-planned our destinations and bought our local island-hop flights from Air Tahiti in advance. On day two, we flew to Bora Bora.
Bora freaking Bora!!! The pearl of the Pacific. I was warned to skip this island because travelers told me it was too touristy. But on the contrary, it was terrific. The season was between “tourist seasons.”
The Mai Tai Hotel was what I expected. The property was right out of a travel magazine; two restaurants, two bars, bungalows on stilts out on the water, and rooms on the mountain with a view. The temperature was perfect, and it felt like we had the dream destination to ourselves. We ate, snorkeled, drank Mai Tai’s, and played topless on the beach. Note to self, always pack dark sunglasses to reduce the chance of blatantly getting caught looking at other naked beachgoers. One night we made the opportunity to make reservations at the Bora Bora Yacht Club for dinner. We were seated at an outside table on the dock, and our timing was perfect. The sun was slowly setting as we had a few pre-dinner drinks and admired the catamarans on anchor.
The next night we ate at the famous Bloody Mary’s. The choices of freshly caught fish are as big as the list of famous people who have enjoyed dinner there at some point. I did not leave disappointed. The time in Bora Bora set the mood for the rest of the adventure. After a few days, it was time to hop over to the next island on our list.
The flight to Maupiti seemed quick compared to the long trip from LA. Maupiti is the furthest island out in the French Society Islands. The daily flight to the island makes for a pleasant welcome. The landing strip located literally beside the ferry dock was where we were going to meet our boat.
Our quarters for the next few nights were at Le Kuriri, a small Eco-friendly property of four bungalows on the motu of Tiapa’a. Here we relaxed by taking walks on the beach and napping in hammocks. The owners and staff prepared the meals, which were served to guests in a common area, thatched-roof style. The owners joined us for dinner each night. Breakfast was even more casual and served in an elevated lookout with a view of the ocean to envy even the birds perched high in the trees. Everything about this motu was breathtaking, but one thing will always stand out.
One day after breakfast, the owner wanted to take us on a boat ride. We agreed and went to grab our gear. Once in the boat and motoring to a location between the motu and the main island, he stopped and told us of the Manta Rays that seasonally frequent this area. My girlfriend translated his conversation because his English was at the same level as my French. Sadly he said that it was the end of the season, and we probably would not see any manta’s. None the less we were eager to get in and see what was down there. Moments after we were in the water, I hear him making a commotion from the boat and pointing just ahead of us, grabbing a breath I submerged to see the most majestic creature that I’ve ever seen. If her wingspan were less then 12 feet, I’d be surprised. I’m not sure if the manta was a she, but I’m calling it “she” for simplicity. For those moments dancing with a partner who was obviously aware that I’m a lousy dancer was one of the Top 10 things, I’ve ever done. The manta gracefully allowed me those moments before disappearing into the vast Pacific Ocean to catch up with her friends. Those moments are why I travel.
In Part 2, I’ll write about the other islands I visited were the vanilla grow, the pearls develope, and a shark who got a little too friendly.
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!
The bus sighed as the transmission geared into neutral and the brakes set. Fellow travelers waited their turn before standing, grabbing overhead bags, and waddled to the door. Each one of us left the bus and immediately started stretching as we waited for the driver to unload the luggage.
I had been sailing on a relatively small sailing yacht for the last five weeks. The guys on the boat, for the most part, had become a functioning unit. To rest in the middle of the ocean, you must hand over your safety to a stranger. Trust builds. Respect earns respect.
Welcome to Lisbon. I was alone in a new country, and desperately in need of a haircut. A Tuk Tuk took me to my hotel, The Lisbon Heritage. Once I was in my chamber, I noticed the nothingness. The silence of the void of my crew was deafening. I needed a walk. Armed with sunglasses, a map of the city, and a few Portuguese words jotted down on a folded piece of notebook paper, I headed off to the main square. The city was active. My head was on a swivel looking at the architecture. Noticeably anyone could tell that a massive party involved the entire city and not been long past. Portugal had won the FIFA World Cup less than 24 hours prior. The country was hungover.
A few hours were spent combing the main square and waterfront before returning to the hotel to prepare for dinner. Lisbon is known the world over for the quality of fish served in restaurants. The decision on where to dine took time, and the reservations made. Sacramento do Chiado is a respectable restaurant that is now in what was once the palace stables in the 18th-century — hidden up a stone street and a block away from most eyes. When I say up a street, I mean up a street. The city is vertical, not far from the water.
Once I was seated inside, the room seemed to breathe. Large red curtains draped the walls. An open-air staircase was the artery delivering the dishes from the “cozinha” to the tables, upstairs. Eating solo is not uncomfortable for me. Lots of time, the experience allows me to enjoy the presentation of the meal, the flavors, and the atmosphere.
The meal ordered in three courses arrived separately after I slowly enjoyed bread and wine.
The first plate was Goat Cheese lightly breaded, and Strawberry Jam.
The Main plate was Tuna with local wine.
Followed by Pears seared in vino.
Stop right there. At this point, I must say that this meal was absolutely worth the 10 minutes walk in the wrong direction before realizing I needed to turn around to retrace my steps.
With a full belly, I returned to the hotel and collapsed on what seemed to be the most generous bed(s) ever for the night. The next day I would grab a cab to the airport for another flight to a new country.