Leaving the States

Leaving the States

Monday, March 30, 2015

I've Got Cabin Fever!!

  If you are anything like me, you grew up with a mother who would simply not tollerate a "I'm bored..." or "there's nothing to do.." to be uttered without a short lecture about the sin of boredom followed up quickly by a listing of ALL the fun things you could find yourself occupied by: the dishes, the laundry, window washing, dusting, and (our house's frequently heard phrase) "just go outside and get the stink blown off you!" So i suppose the idea of boredom has long since been iradicated from my conscious thought...at least the admition of boredom. I have always found something to do.

We have begun our journey back up Florida to Ft. Lauderdale once more. This half of the trip is far less exciting and in fact has been kind of depressing. The Weather is colder, the water is too choppy to be swam in, there aren't many new sights or discoveries to be made, and i find myself lack a great deal of needed motivation to continue working out while stuck onboard. This 53ft. boat seems to be getting smaller and smaller all the time and does not readily offer up obvious distractions. However, I am very thankful for our small crew's unqiue chemistry for even though we are not alway excited we are never work eachother's nerves.We laugh often, have plenty of time now for deep important conversations and seem to soak in the shared company more now that we see the end that is coming quickly. But the boredom does come knocking at times.

Remaining set on making the most of each moment on this journey i have found several things to keep me occupied. And dear old mum would be proud to know that much of it happens to be: laundry, dusting, dishes, etc.. - How ironic life has proven to be - At the present my cure is updating this regretibly neglected blog and since i have not had much in the way of adventure to report i have chosen to list some of the day-to-day of the Arctic Tern.

We are VERY fond of reading on this vessel and i would have to say it is the single thing that is most found around here. Between the three of us we have read certainly every novel and nearly every published work onboard. I myself have moved onto reading charts and guide books for countries we never even had on our itinerary. But i have loved it!! The Hobbit, Enchantment, The Time Machine, A Little Princess, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, The Picture of Dorian Grey, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Cold Water, Wild At Heart,Washed and Waiting... I'd have to report that i have done more reading this last three months than probably the last three years. But my favorite has been scripture. I know, how holy of me. Really though, i don't think that i could survive any length of a voyage without it. And reading he Bible at the breakfast table has lent way to good conversation aswell... i am glad.

The second most popular thing onboard: Eating. (Mmmm maybe this ties for first) I have learned SO much about boatlife and the cooking that goes with and have loved EVERY meal that we've come up with even on the days where ingredients are bizzare and sparce. -- If anyone ever wants tips on how to sail Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Corn Free.. Just ask me. I have loads of invented recipes and tips -- BUT, It is no secret that I have been trying to get back into shape and i frequently write and talk about my workouts, runs, health... Well let me just say, Do you have any idea how hard it is to maintain good eating habbits on this boat?! Ken and tina are both very athletic people (which is a plus for me) but they come by it naturally and have the metabolisms of a hummingbird (which is problematic for me) Ken....eats. He eats a lot and at odd hours. While Tina and i make one of our gorgeously delicious creations Captain will ofter snakc on something, after dinner we all play a game or two (Our favorites are Banana Grams, Set, Five Crowns...)and while we play there is always snacking and after the 'after-dinner snack' there is reading acompanied by some kind of snackish dessert. You get the picture. Torture for someone like me who fights to stick to a meal plan...But not impossibleafter all.

The rest of my time seems to be taken up by, practicing knots, listening to podcasts with Tina (we are obsessed), drawing random pictures (i think i am improving..?), writing (as much as i can find inspiration for), studying sail theory, designing clothes (can't escape it), cleaning, watching clouds, spending time with my Lord, missing my Church and family, and working out. That last one...has taken some creativity. below deck there isn't even enough space to do a decent push-up unless you are half in the kitchen half in the door, the only "equiptment" i have to use are some ankle weights i brought, some scuba diving weight belts, a resistance band, half a foam roller and whatever space ondeck i can utilize....it's been fun!! A challange but that's always more entertaining.

So as we are now all stuck inside for the 3rd day in a row, weeks now without a decently real shower, constantly covered with salt water and salt air, no selection of produce and 2 months since i got to have an egg, a boat that never stops rocking back and forth and creeking loudly with the wind

... i have to ask myself, is this a life i could be content to lead? If this comes with the teritory of a "pirate's life" is it worth it?

...that is the question.
I believe it is. :)

The Local Animals

Hello again my dear friends and family! As some of you know, I have reached the land of cell phone reception and wifi connections (a.k.a. Florida) But I am going to back track for a second to write one last blog entry about my lovely Tortugas. The only thing left that i really thought worthy of an entry is the surrounding wild life that i came in contact with there. I have already dicussed the copious amounts of birds on the island but personally i was far more interested in what could be found bellow, In the water.

I may have mentioned that we got to go snorkeling a bunch, there unfortunately are not many large healthy reefs left in most shore lines around the gulf anymore due to storms, polution, and other issues but we did still get to find several smaller corral heads and plenty of gorgeous little (and not so little) fishies. My favorite were the schools of parrot fish which a almost iridecent teal with bits of bright pink and purples and golds I am also quite fond of the angel fish who's thin large round bodies are a shiny white. Of course i wont name all of the fish that i observed but i'll assure you they were many and lovely. However, the fish to make the most frequent appearances were not so colorful and much much larger in size.

There were two GIANT 100lb to 200lb groupers that made the anchoring field their home as well as several 4ft-5ft barracuda. They like the shade that the underbellies of the larger sailboats provides and -unfortunately- have grown very acustomed to being fed meal scraps by touring sailors. This would be all fine and dandy except for the fact that the wole time we were there our "showers" consisted of jumping off the boat into the clear water then lather up with Joy(the only soap that actually lathers up in saltwater fyi), then jump back in and finally rinse off with the fresh water hose on deck. Now, i dont want to be mistaken, i have no problem with swimming around gigantic, freaky lookin fish BUT because these -otherwise harmless- fish have been more or less trained to associate fleshy lookin things in their water with dinner they were inclinded to attack your little toesies or ankels. The paek ranger gave one account of a woman dangling her legs off the back of her boat at the end of the hot day when a large barracuda litterally bit her achilles OFF!!!! Yeah so, there's that. o.O  So, as you can imagine I gave them a wide birth and would pretend to not be somewhat freaked out when climbing up our starboard ladder and back onboard praying i could make it to the top with both ankles HAha.

I was under the impression that we would get to see at least SOME sharks on this trip (in case you were not aware, i really like sharks and have always wanted to swim around with them!!) but unfortunately during this season they are pretty much all over near the bahamas. I was crushed. However Tina (never one to take anything lying down) still was constantly on the look out and would make us slow down frenquently on any dinghy ride just to make sure we would be able to catch a look if one was arounf. One day she and i went out just to troll around the water  search of Nurse sharks but we had no luck in the shark department. --However we did see two spectacularly adorable sea turtles! I had NO idea how fast those things swim but holy cow they can zoom. -- I was just about to give up hope after days of this disappointment and missing out on the two quick glimpses that Ken and Tina had gotten...that is, until our 5th day. We had heard that earlier in the day a neighboring boat had seen a pretty large nurse shark around the far side of the island so we took that as a good sign. (Side note: No one understood why we would WANT to see sharks or go looking for them for that matter but poo poo i say. Sharks are cool!) We decided that after getting washed and cleaned up after the afternoon run we would go over to the island's far side and test our luck with look out. After i had gotten cleaned and dried off i was patiently waiting for Tina to get out of the water. -She never leaves the ladder but splashes around  while holding on...big baby ;) haha-- I was sitting port side, keeping an eye on the bigger of the two grouper when suddenly THERE IT WAS! at first just a huge dark shaddow coming toward the boat and then getting closer i could see very clearly the 7ft Nurse Shark fast approaching. "Tina, Tina!!" I shouted across to her on the starboad side, jumping to my feet and all around frantically looking around for my phone or any camera and, in the moment, having no idea what to do. "A shark! It's a shark!" I gleefully reported. I could see it keeping its course to go under us. I didn't want to miss out an the long awaited chance to see this beautiful animal close up, so without thinking i ran across, through the cockpit to the oposite side of the boat and with a leapfrom the railing, right over Tina (who was making of surprisingly quick ascent up the ladder), i dove down -nearly on top of the shark. I opened my eyes and tried to see under the salt water but could only make out the fogged outline of the large figure right next to me swim away. So thrilled by the rush of adrenaline i had forgotten about the 200lb grouper guarding the bottom of our boat. With a dread -that would have been more appropriately placed toward the SHARK-i now spun around in search of this fish. Sure enough it was making its way towards me with a gaping mouth, big enough to fit my whole leg inside of. "Aggaaaaagggaagaa.!!" i blubbed from beneath the water. I surfaced and swimming wildly and with all the efficiency of a frightened giraffe on rollerskates i made my way to the ladder and jumped my feet up the last rung just in time to evade what could have been merely an encounter of curiousity but what i had convinced myself was the hungry approach of a man eating grouper.      ---> After analyzing these event i really have to laugh at myself and question my own sanity.

I am also proud to report that i am on a first name basis with a wild, salt water crocodile. That's right, there is a big ol' croc living in the moat of the Fort. He was blown in by a hurricane years ago and nearly scared the crud out of me on my walk around the wall. He's pretty chill though...name's Carlos ;)

Finally, there were three other pretty awesome animals i had the pleasure of meeting last week. Holly, Jeremy, and Joe. These three came around at such an oportune moment for me. I was having a hard time the previous few days getting bummed about he idea of sailing not being all that i thought it was. I love this boat and my crewmates so much but there isn't much of the reespirited, scallawag, life grabing, pirate nature in them. Honestly, i think they are much better than all that and are the type of people i am glad to be learning from but it is hard to keep my dream alive sometimes when looking at all the practical...and the costs...and the set backs. Until i met these 3 sailors. No older than 27, Holly owns her own sail boat and is just living to make it to the next place...wherever that may be, and jeremy has tagged along recently. Joe, 30 years old, got out of the coast guard, bought his own boat and decided to sail around the world. They didn't really have any money when they jumped in, they just...did it. "There will be a million people telling you that you can't but you know....you know there's no way you couldn't." Holly told me one night they invited me over to drink rum and eat a delicious grouper that she had stabbed in the face a couple hours earlier (She hadn't gotten her hook on the rod yet and thought this 30lb grouper was perfect for dinner...so..."stab, grab, and stick it in the cooler" Jeremy retold). They all had their own random skills that they've picked up along the way but the main thing that set them up for success on the water: Just deciding to do it.

I wont ever forget all these awesome animals but those 3 pirates will always be my favorite. I have had my dream and passion sufficiently rekindled because of them. Time to move forward and just do it!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Running Through The Clouds

I have come to find that the best(and perhaps the only) way one can live this scalawag, swashbuckler's sailing life is to wake up every morning completely ready for any circumstance and with a willingness to jump on whatever adventure may arise!! Don't let the fleeting unimportant things like, perhaps, expectations, drowsiness, uncertainty, inexperience, your hair or makeup (ladies...i'm lookin at you here... stop caring so much about what you LOOK like and dont ever let it get in the way of what you could FEEL like) and other impedements that hinder you from welcoming the new day and giving your all to make it the best one it can be!

 After spending my nights camped out up on deck under the glow of thickly consentrated stars -making up constelations I have never before learned- I would wake with the beginings of dawn as the dim, purplish red horizon began to rise. No sooner than my eyes were open, Ken would already be at the stern , dressed complete with his professional-photography grade camera hung around his neck, and preparing the dinghy to skip over to the Fort for some epic sunrise pics. "Want to go over?" He would ask me in his matter of fact manner (never one to waste an extra word or two) but with a glint of a true excitement that i saw for the first time during our journey on our first morning isolated in the Tortugas. 'This is it!' I thought to myself. This is where his personal version of our shared "Sailing Dream" sprang from; To catch the hidden beauties that nature has to offer. I felt glad to get that glimpse and knowing that opportunity only knocks onces (and  every second counts with a sunise, i jumped up to grab my running shoes and ball cap and within moments we were on the island.

I could spend every morning that way if it were possible. Run a couple killometers around Fort Jefferson as the cotton candy sky threatened the approach of the new day, racing around the last corner of the fort wall just in time to see that bright ball break over the horizon and for an instant pierce everything with it's most brilliant hue. I didn't have every morning timed so precisely, of course, but on those lucky days when i did....i could hear angels singing God's praises.

We found out that the moat wall circling the the fort was exactly 1k and made daily practice of running or walking our respective quotas. For my ankles sake i also took to walking around the parade ground area inide the fort or exlpore its bastionsand tunnels. (Side note: This would be a dream airsoft/paintball field!! There were many times when roaming through by myself i would see it in my mind and think, "WESLEY!! Shoooot him!!")

Now, The moment MOST worth mentioning here is the one that let me check something off of my 'Goals List' you might recal me making a few months ago. The box to check: Experience something you've never experienced before..
The wind died down a day or two after we had sailed in to the islands and left the water indredibly still for the rest of our time there. Well, one day we got up early to dinghy 3 miles the Loggerhead key to go snorkel. <--More on that later
Coming back it looked as if we were flying along on a sheet of glass. Being so still, the sea made a perfect mirror and as i looked out to the horizon my breath caught in my chest. I couldn't find it. The sky seemlessly matched up with the ocean and you could not tell where one began and the other end. I didn't know if anything could feel as trippy and spectacular as that moment... That is, until later that day during my afternoon run around the moat i had THE moment.
Blue skies and fluffy white clouds over my head were perfectly reflected by the water both inside and outside of the low moat wall that only occupied about 4.5feet width. I am not lying when i say, i nearly tripped into the water as i double guess my step thinking i was running through the clouds.

I will never be able to capture that moment in words so i will stop trying and leave it at this: How great is our God!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Dry Turtles

Just to warn you, I'm about to get a bit nerdy here. Let's talk about a little grouping of just a few small islands out in the middle of nowhere. The Dry Tortugas. What is the significance- you may ask? Well apart from the fact that  this is now the farthest spot i will have sailed to in my life, this spot is more importantly, and quite surprisingly, very significant in maritime history.

Discovered in 1513 by Ponce de Leone, these islands were found to have 2 safe harbor, deep water anchorages (wich is a BIG deal for mariners, especially  in the Gulf here where there are notoriously sketchy storms and no other land to seek refuge for miles and miles) as well as TONS of sea turtles inhabiting the beaches. So he chose to mark them down on his new charts as Las Tortugas (translation- The Turtles). Now,  He didn't name them this because he thought turtles were cute and he had just gotten bored of coming up with clever names for islands. Rather, knowing that the Tortugas are located right in the hook of the current now called the Gulf Stream, so any one coming/going north or east would be passing right by and most likely needing to anchor for a bit and what do crews on long journeys need? Food. Sea turtles can be kept alive for up to a month rolled on their back on a deck is you just splash some salt water on their tummies a couple time a day....and Turtle is delicious! SO, marking down a location as "THE TURTLES" then would have been like marking "Whole Foods" on a hiking map in Boulder, CO.
Later the charts were switched to read "Dry Tortugas" to indicate that, alothough this is a safe anchorage and has food, there is no fresh water available!!

Well once the U.S. aquired these islands we knew their nautical significance in gaining control of nvigation to the Gulf of Mexico but also realized their specific importance in both protecting our Mississippi River trade way and our National Deffense. The decision was made to capitalize on this strategic advantage by fortifying the Tortugas in 1846. Thus began the construction of our nation's largest Fort ever built......in the middle of the ocean....on a tiny island...  Kind of crazy but Oh so very cool!!! Fort Jefferson!

I could go on and on about all of the outstand fact i have learned about this amazing Fort -and now National Park but i wont. If you are curious, never hesitate to reach out reader! Ask anything you'd like. Or, of course, you can research yourself Haha. However i WILL take a second to mention a couple of fun facts for you.

It took about 16million bricks along with tons upon tons of granite and concrete for construction.
The fort had the fire power to train minimum of 125 cannons (the Fort contained  at any location 360degrees around each firing at least once per min and firing up to 130lb. rounds as far as 3 miles with the force to still smash trough metal plated war ships.
Once the Civil war started and Slavery abolished the fort was used as a Union military prison for captured deserters.
Was the prison the Dr. Samuel Mudd (convicted of complicity in the assasination of president Lincoln for setting the broken leg of John Wilks Booth) who was eventally pardoned for assisted with getting the island's ocupants through several boughts of Yellow Fever.
Finaly, it was simply the most impenitrable Fort ever designed!

Having been abandoned by the military in 1874 the islands and the surrounding shoal are a National Park and protected wildlife refuge for a couple of species of birds who nest souly on Garden Key (the island with the fort on it). Side note: There are HUNDREDS of birds on the island and the NEVER stop singing.... I'll et you decide whether or not that would be an appealing circumstance to live with.

Well thats all for me right now. I've got a couple of fins and a snorkel and some coral heads calling my name!!