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Santa Marta, Colombia

COLOMBIA

     We arrived to the marina in Santa Marta, Colombia after a brutal 26-hours of travel.  Our bags were strapped to the smallest taxi ever and

There is one piece of twine holding all our bags for the 4-hour taxi ride

we had traveled four hours in this Romancing the Stone-esque car (the one that Danny Davito hid in when they were looking for the stone).  The kids poured themselves out of the taxi, having been woken up every hour or so as the taxi pulled into a random-open-all-night gas station to put a couple pesos worth of propane in his car.  Every time he filled up, we all had to pile out of the car.  It is now four-o’clock in the morning and we are beyond exhausted.  We get all of the bags out of the car and traipse down to our boat.  She looks beautiful, the kids run around yelling, happy to be back, exhaustion apparently forgotten in the light of old, familiar toys.  It is already hot, Brad tries out the air-conditioning, since we are still attached to the dock and can use electricity, it works, wonderful.  We all finally decide that old toys will be just as cool after a few hours of sleep.

Coffee at Juan Valdez on the main square

After a couple hours of sleep, we get up, unpack, and see our boat in the sunlight; it is nearly black with dirt.  Caked on, sooty, literally….black.  Too exhausted to even deal with that, I concentrate on the inside.  It seems less intimidating.  After a couple of hours of Pinesol, she’s smelling like a Colorado Pine tree Forest….perfect (the less charred part).  We decide to take a nap and I look for my book…..Where is my book?  Uh-oh.  I left it in the taxi from Cartagena….including the kids’ favorite snuggly toys, Brad’s snoopy from childhood that has now become Turtle’s favorite snuggly toy, my wallet, my favorite skirt that the wallet was in, and probably ten more things I am forgetting.  The full magnitude hits us and we start frantically calling the credit card company.  No new purchases but now what do we do for money?  We don’t know if we can stay past another 48 hours so we can’t have them

Fun in the city

send another one.  Brad has a different card but it keeps declining because: we “didn’t tell them we were traveling.”  After Brad explained that we had been traveling for a year and he told them that then, at which point the worker said he’s only been working for three months, great.  Can you make a memo please?  He said it should be working in 2 minutes.  Meanwhile

Ella performing in front of the machine gun toting guards. Glad she’s good because they won’t be throwing rotten tomatoes if she’s not.

we are standing in a packed grocery store with 785,000 pesos worth of food (meat, ice cream, other various really-painful-to-you-foods-if they-spoil) surrounding us and people wondering who the obvious foreigner-freaks are that are holding up the line.  They put us in the “other line” and Brad tries again with the card after the designated “2-minutes” (it has really been about 15) it declines again.  We return to the telephone salesman and ask to use the phone again.  This time Brad is

not so pleasant as he pleads our case.  A new customer service representative doesn’t know why it won’t work and explains that “99% of the credit card purchases in Santa Marta, Colombia are fraudulent” Great….Did I only have one card in my wallet or was the other one in there too and now we have $??,??? charged on our accounts….I start panicking.  Brad gets the ok to try the card again, it works.

 

We go home, put the food away and await our “agent” to see if we can stay in Colombia for longer than a few more hours.  I talk to the

our Cowgirl turning 7

home school program that was supposed to send Ella her curriculum in Colorado but there was a mix-up at the main warehouse and we didn’t get it, then they said they could send it to Colombia, but turns out they don’t think they can after all…..great.  Ella just got a continuance on her summer for another four months.  We wash the outside of the boat, put everything out and get ready to sail.  We hear from our agent (after Brad sat in Customs for four hours) that we can stay for another three months if we would like.  Good.  That out of the way we turn to properly provisioning the boat, slowly.  After we leave

Fresh fruits

Colombia, we will be in the beautiful San Blas Islands of Panama.  Brad has been talking about them since I met him so I am excited to see them.  The only downside is we have to have all of our food and drink on board; Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, desserts and drinks for two plus months.  Provisioning is difficult as Chase and Ella sometimes eat a lot…..sometimes not so much, and what do you get that you will want to eat for snacks, dessert etc. two months from now??  The problem is daunting but we are now taking it slowly and buying a little bit each day.  Ella is tired of going to the store every day but it is a necessary evil.

We can also relax and enjoy being in Santa Marta again.  It is a bustling little metropolis; the marina has many more cruisers in it compared to when we left.  We have met a lot of other people stocking up before moving on to San Blas.  When we were here in May, we had met

Hazards of walking include open manhole covers leading to the sewers below

another cruiser family on a catamaran, Freda and Jean-Noel.  They had two girls slightly older than Ella and Turtle.  We had a great time with them in a short amount of time; I find that I miss them a lot.  We have met another French boat with two little girls, 1.5 and 4 years old.  The kids ran endlessly up and down the dock, until after dark, Chase was “tagged” into the dark water.  With Ella screaming: “Mommy, Daddy!  Chase went into the water!!! Chase went into the water!!!  Brad was over the side, completely clothed including sunglasses, and propped him back up onto the dock.  He was not happy and that was the end of freeze tag with an “I get to be the tagger next, mommy.”  Salt water was dripping off of him everywhere.  The kids played a couple more days until it was time for their boat to move on to Cartagena.

We have turned our efforts to exploring the city, finding markets and cold beers in little corner bars, museums and beaches.  The water is really polluted here so our little water babies have been land monkeys for the time being, they are definitely ready to return to the sea.  We talked with the Bartlett’s yesterday and made the final plans, as much as we could guess, for Evan and his wife, Olivia to meet us in Panama.  Looking forward to some good times with them and perhaps a new credit card)  Brad and Ella have just left to buy a paddle from a local fisherman, and Chase and I are “chillaxn” (Chase’s word, not mine) together finding new apps to fill the iPad for the long months ahead without internet.  We are looking forward to the quietness of the islands and the adventure of the next couple of months…. Enjoy the cold weather wherever you are…….it is HOT here!!

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In June, I was lucky enough to float the Yampa River with some friends.  It was my first time doing this section and I had a blast.  As we set off I knew that the High Park Fire had begun and probably closed our business for the 5 days I was floating.  If you are going to be stressed out about business, this place was as good a place as any to relax and enjoy our world.    The reality has hit about the fire and we have daily challenges from mudslides, debris flows, black water, floods and more fun stuff.  Life goes on.

 

 

 

Enjoy the photos.

Brad

High Park fire - Josh Randall

The High Park Fire burns the Narrows canyon of the Cache La Poudre River. 300 foot flames race up the steep hillside. Check out the hundred foot tree in the flames. Photograph by Josh Randall

On June 9th a bolt of lightning started the High Park Fire near Fort Collins Colorado.  Within 24 hours the fire had grown to 10,000 acres.  The fire would rage on for three weeks covering 87,284 acres and briefly held the distinction for the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history.  257 homes were lost, but more four times that remain.  The fire spread over the Cache La Poudre canyon causing Mountain Whitewater Descents to be closed the entire duration.

We are now the proud owners of two federally designated disaster areas; one for the drought and one for the fires (two here – the Hewlitt Gulch fire in May and the High Park in June).  Not the distinctions we were looking for.  Most of the employees were out of work, but we did find some temporary work for some of them.

Helping with the cause
Josh Randall rows wildland firefighters across the Cache La Poudre River – Melissa Matsunaka, photographer

Several were able to help fight the fire by shuttling firefighters across the river.

I went rafting yesterday and the canyon is spectacular.  Pockets of cottonwood stands glow green against hills of blackened pines.  Homes surrounded by fire stand majestically erect

showing the work of those 2000 firefighters.  Hillsides of completely burnt trees sit next to untouched ones.  Patches of green stand in the patches of black.  Patches of black stand in the patches of green.  The way fire moves through a canyon can be seen at every bend in the river.  Mycanyon is still a beautiful, sparkling jewel of Colorado rivers.  Still the only “Wild and Scenic” river in Colorado.  Still the best!

Bryan Holman rowing past the ongoing destruction – photograph by Josh Randall

Cass Erickson guides her guests down the Cache La Poudre River

After the fire – rafting the Cache La Poudre River
photo by Micah O’Gan

We are gearing up to leave Colombia (we hope, as we haven’t officially checked in yet and it’s been 2 weeks of bureaucratic hell).  Here is our video from the Montserrat, Martinique, Dominica, Guadaloupe, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Bonaire, Curacau & Colombia.  Hope you enjoy.


 

Change of plans

Santa Marta, Colombia

Boats fill our lives and carry our dreams

We have made it to South America under sail of more that 3250 miles.  It seems so far and yet not so much too.  That distance is

like driving across the USA.  But, so much has happened.  20 Countries, countless officials, a million worries, 34 friends sailing with us, at least 60 friends joining us for a beer in our home – Rivers2Seas.  We have lived aboard for 10 months now.  Much of it seems like a dream, a great long dream with a couple scary parts thrown in to keep it real.  Adventure is out there.

We have already accomplished so much.  Cruising is difficult.  Hard.   It’s like travelling back in time where everything takes more

They love it all, even in the rain

time.  Washing dishes, clothes, cooking, getting cooking fuel, showering and taking a dump are all more difficult.  Grocery shopping is an all day affair, usually with a two-mile walk on either end with heavy sacks on the way home in blistering heat.  Most of the people out cruising are couples or single men.  They often express amazement that we are doing all this with two young kids (or foolishness for making it so hard on ourselves).  Having to do all this with them in tow, certainly increases the workload.  It’s hard enough to watch after yourself, but to do it while being focused on a youngster increases everything.  Lindsey has done more than the Lion’s share of managing the kids.  I get to do more of the fun stuff like reading books, playing pirate or conducting art class with them.

My jobs are the smelly, dirty jobs of engine maintenance and repair, sewer management, electrical engineering and power, water production, and on good days wind transference into propulsion.  So far, we have been able to keep costs down by being able to fix every issue onboard by ourselves.  In the Bahamas, John aboard Bikini helped many times in either turning wrenches or more often with advice.  Other than that is has been me with my library of fix-it manuals, product informational manuals and the internet teaching me how to find and fix the problems.  Finding the problems is usually the hard part.  But then, rusted on bolts and the wrong or no spares are difficult too.  One of my favorite fixes onboard is still the dinghy throttle where I had to manufacture a part and make a round peg fit and not slip in a square hole.  Accomplishment comes in many forms.

While this is difficult, the rewards are enormous.  Memories like sailing across the Mona Passage, catching lobster for dinner, reeling in a Mahi Mahi, numerous waterfalls, breaching humpback whales, swimming with turtles, SUPing around islands, meeting locals and hanging out with other cruisers especially Bikini has made all the hassles and difficulties worthwhile.  This adventure is difficult, but FUN.

landfall in South America

Sadly our journey is changing.  We chose to do this trip while continuing our rafting business back in Colorado.  Working from the boat has been a little bit of a struggle at times, but overall has worked beautifully.  Technology has made all this possible.  I can work on advertisements here and send them to people like nothing has changed.  I can send documents to insurers and government agencies with the same speed and accuracy as if I was in Fort Collins.  Email especially has kept me in constant contact with my business ventures.  Our costs have been kept low by always trying to do fix things ourselves instead of calling an expert.  It’s rare that we spend money on a mooring or a marina.  The anchor is usually free and often more secure than anything else.

What hasn’t gone well are the things we have no control over.  The weather last year with a 300% snowpack gave us a less than average rafting season.  This years’ 23% snowpack looks to be the worst season ever.  How I have wished for an average snowpack.  But, average is only the sums of lows and highs.  Our renters trashing our house with a puppy mill and $26,000 in damages depleted our budget instead of adding needed revenue.  That’s life.  Things change.  So must we.  We were already financially overextended and hoping for some good revenue from Mountain Whitewater Descents.  We don’t want to sell our rafting business or our land home, so that leaves Rivers2Seas.  Don’t want to sell her either.  With no money in the bank account something must give.  Our dream to sail around the world is the most prudent answer.

I’m glad that we didn’t know all the bad financial woes that would happen.  We never would have cast the dock lines.  We never would have purchased the boat in the first place.  Our accomplishment and fun and adventure and teachings would never have happened.  I’m glad we didn’t know.

We must look at reality of our financial situation and change our path.  Heading back to Colorado to salvage our rafting season while living in our pop-up camper on the property makes sense.  We will return to Rivers2Seas in early August and then make our way up the Eastern Caribbean and back to Florida.  Sadly, we will have to sell our home and move back to Colorado next year.  A two-year adventure with our kids is still something to be proud of certainly.

This is the second time I have tried to circumnavigate our earth.  I failed the first time when I ran out of will and resources after 2400 miles by canoe, 10,000 by bike and 2500 by sail.  My $3000 took me halfway.  A year of effort but the goal still unattained. This effort has been bigger and will last two years but only about 6000 miles by sail.  My progress at circumnavigation seems to be getting worse.  Failure sure.  But the only true failure is that of someone who never tries.  I try.  I pour my heart into it and what happens happens.  We have spent well over $3000 on this journey.  Yet, it is still worth it.  Our successes so far greatly outweigh any failure.

 

“What constitute the pleasures of the traveler are obstacles, fatigue or even danger. What charm can there be in a journey when one is always sure to arrive and find his horses ready, a downy bed, an excellent supper and all the comfort one enjoys at home? One of the great misfortunes of modern life is the absence of the unexpected, the lack of adventure. Everything is so well regulated, so well fitted into its place and ticketed, that chance is no longer possible; another century of improvements, and everybody will be able to foresee from the very day of his birth all that will happen to him up to the day of his death.”

Monsieur Theophile Gautier, 1840.

 

Ella Modesitt

By Ella Modesitt

In Bonaire, I went SCUBA diving with my dad.  It was fun.  We went under two boats – the dinghy and

I’m a Mermaid!

Rivers2Seas.  I saw so many fish, there must have been 100 of them.  I liked it because we could be under the water together.  My dad and I shared the same tank.  I felt totally like a mermaid.  I moved my legs like a mermaid too.

We saw a parade.  There were people with really pretty dresses.  One little girl gave me and my brother a piece of candy.  They were dancing in their fancy dresses.  The music was really loud so that everyone could hear.  I think a little too loud.

I liked the colorful buildings

We sailed to Curacao.  Daddy went to customs all day long.  I played with a little French girl on our boat.  We played hide and seek with Chase.  I did not understand a single word she said.  She didn’t want to go home.  Chase and I played on the best park yet.  It wasn’t broken or torn or rusted.  Chase and I got ice cream.  We went to customs and looked at all the houses.  They were all sorts of colors.

On the passage to Santa Marta, Colombia in the night there was lots and lots and lots of lightning.  We all had to go down into one room so if the mast was hit by lightning we wouldn’t be killed or injured.  We put on wetsuits that were really hot and read some books.  Chase was throwing up.  There was lots of rain.  I did not see any cats and dogs.   I didn’t really sleep – it was too hard.

We were close to land but before we got there lightning came again.  We read some more of my Mermaid book.

Rivers2Seas is now tied up at a dock in Santa Marta Colombia.  I have sailed a super duper long way.  I have been to 21 countries so far.  My favorite country was Bonaire or maybe Saba or…all of them.

It’s 12:15 A.M.  My arms are wrapped around the boom holding on tight like I’m wrestling an alligator.  I’m scared, but loving it too.  Wind tries to rip me off with the help of the bouncing seas.  Cold rain pelts my bare back stinging as it hits.  It’s so cold and hard and big it feels like hail.  I’m screaming to Lindsey at the top of my lungs, who is only nine feet away but can’t hear me well, to tighten the mainsheet.  It takes about ten seconds and then I’m really swinging back and forth on the boom.

12 hours earlier - enjoying the large following seas

12 hours earlier – enjoying the large following seas

A minute and a half earlier, I was sound asleep in my room snuggled up to Lindsey.  Damian calls down to get me; the wind is acting strange he says.  When I look at the helm, the wind has clocked around and is now directly behind us.  An accidental jibe, where the boom gets wind from the other side and slams to the opposite side of the boat, is now a distinct possibility.  I turn Rivers2Seas 20 degrees to port.  I yell to Damian to pull in the jib while I loosen it.  As we manage that, Lindsey is on scene donning her PFD.

Engines are started and Lindsey turns the boat around so that we can go into the wind to drop the mainsail.  With the large following seas it’s a bit tricky to time when to turn and miss a wave hitting us broadside.  The complete darkness makes it almost impossible.  I have my harness buckled to my PFD and am making my way to the mast, clipping and unclipping my two straps to the jacklines surrounding the boat.  The key is to always have one clipped in.  With the jib pulled out to the side, I must clip and unclip eight times before I’m to the mast.  By the time I get there, Lindsey has us into the wind, which is now up to 36.2 knots.  Lindsey is focused on the boat displays and steering.  Damian is trying to focus on me; he can’t see me.  All he can see is my headlamp dimly through the rain.  Luckily, he doesn’t see it go overboard.

buying some fruits in Curacao

buying some fruits in Curacao

Quickly pulling the main halyard off the brake and lowering it quickly, the mainsail plummets.  There is no nice flaking of the sail tonight.  Get it down, fast is all I can think.  Once down I try to get it into the sailbag but can’t because the sailties holding the reef in essentially get rid of the sailbag.  I try to pull the sail in doing a crappy flake job when the boom slides quickly towards me.  The sail is being pulled up by the wind.  I jump aboard and hold on.  That’s when I started yelling to Lindsey to pull in the mainsheet, which would steady the boom.

She couldn’t see me or see what I was doing.  She’s nine feet away and the rain is so thick we can scarcely see each other.  Wind is truly howling around us. Alarms about the wind speed are going off and she is trying to maintain direction.  Normally, we loosen the mainsheet just before dousing the main to help it slide down with the wind.  She had no idea that I had already taken it down – certainly an all-time speed record on my part.  So when she told Damian to loosen the mainsheet, that’s what we normally would have done.  This wasn’t normal.  That’s why I’m flying around on the boom being rocked crazily back and forth.  My screams to “tighten, TIGHTEN!!!” were finally understood and the boom stabilized.  I wrapped a line around the sail, called it good and made my way back to the cockpit.

Curacao waterfront

Curacao waterfront

We turned the boat around again to go with the seas and wind under motor.    Radar showed that this wasn’t that big of a storm only about six miles across, so it should be over soon.  It’s wasn’t.  Rivers2Seas was screaming along at 9-10 knots with the engines on 2000rpm (about 2/3 power).  Even without sails a sailboat can move in high winds.  We were following the storm and staying with it.  Turning the boat around to go into the waves and let the storm get in front of us didn’t work either.  No matter what we did the storm stayed directly above us.  We resumed coarse again and watched the lightning show.

sometimes you sleep anywhere

sometimes you sleep anywhere

Most of the lightning is off in the distance, but some is within a mile.  Lindsey and the kids head down into the hulls for safety.  She was worried about the situation and decided to put the kids’ wetsuits on.  I suppose there were some good wave crashes and we caught some big surfs on the waves.  We even recorded a 12.5 knot surf down one of the big ones.  So I suppose her being worried and proactive was a good thing.  A good friend of ours Eric has a saying, “if you’re not scared now, you’re not paying attention.”  I am paying attention.  The kids wanted to read the Little Mermaid, which starts out with a boat being hit by lightning and blown to smithereens.  Somehow they liked it.

Putting the handheld GPS and VHF radio in the oven is the last precautionary measure I can do.  The theory is that the oven can act like a Faraday cage when lightning strikes and protect the instruments inside.  Every other electrical object with a computer chip will be destroyed.  I hope we don’t test the theory.

I have been wearing only shorts and the cold rain has me shivering uncontrollably.  Rain blasts at my eyes that now have clear sunglasses on to protect them.  But my skin must be blue.  Luckily, every once in a while a wave splashes over the rail and douses me with the 86-degree seawater; it feels like a hot tub.  I head to our cabin for warm clothes and finally get to wear my Denver Broncos wool cap.  How far south have we gone?

Sunset on the water

Watching dolphins

relaxation on the passage

The storm stays with us for two hours slowly deteriorating.  Damian has gone to bed.  Lindsey and the kids are “sleeping” in our cabin.  Neither liked the lightning.  Chase didn’t like the stuffy cabin and was throwing up in a bowl.  So, nobody was all that comfortable.  My shift ends at 5AM, I wake Damian, then collapse onto the sofa.

Worm

It’s one of the many times we are thankful to have Damian here.  Passages are difficult.  Sailing with kids is difficult.  Doing both together can tax a couple.  Having him here has taken off some of the load.  The kids love “Worm” too.  Chase especially likes throwing him overboard.  They tell him innumerable stories of life with great enthusiasm.  He has also become chief dishwasher, which has helped too.  Pitching in with everything and enthusiastically – he’s a great team member aboard Rivers2Seas.  We should have him back when it’s vacation time in easy islands.  One of these days I wouldn’t mind having a mechanic onboard.  My brain and knuckles could use a rest.

Somehow, the starter on the port engine has now failed.  Frustrating!  Tests and curses have confirmed that it’s bad.  My book on how to fix everything from Niger Calder saves the day when he says that I can “push start” the engine using the propeller.  Put it in neutral, turn the key, then slam the throttle forward.  Rev, reeevv.  The engine hums to life.  I have always been impressed with Lindsey for push starting a school bus for me once.  Now, I can boast about push starting a boat.  “You have to kick real hard…maybe wear some fins to push the 15 tons.”

We make it into Santa Marta Colombia with a fast passage of 2 nights and 3 days.  The kids never asked once “are we there yet” during either of our latest passages that totaled over 130 hours of sailing time.  We have our little sailors.  I’m proud of them.

 

 

St. Lucia to Bonaire

Right now I am exhausted.  Bone tired.  I haven’t done much during this passage from St. Lucia to Bonaire.  Not much except worry.  The sailing is great, easy even.  A large following sea gives us a nice push in the exact direction we want to go.  The wind is directly behind us pushing on the jib and genaker giving us an average of over 6 knots towards our goal that was originally 450 miles away.  We now have about 150 to go after sailing for the last 48 hours.  Yep, the sailing is going great.

The crew is doing well.  Our newest member, Worm (or Gunner or Damian depending on which ski patrol you know him from), has been a real asset.  Lindsey Worm and I take 3-hour watches, which gives us six hours off.  Well, it could.  An hour before my shift started last night Worm woke me up about a ship that was close and not moving.  We couldn’t tell if it was a tanker or two separate fishing ships.  An hour after it was first sighted, all of a sudden it took off fast and did a semicircle around the boat at 12 miles perfectly.  I wouldn’t know this if I couldn’t track him on radar.   It is a weird track, but he’s probably just fishing.  Later, after my shift was over Lindsey woke me from a deep sleep to say another ship was coming right at us.  It was coming fast, but the worry made it seem to take forever.  It was just another fishing boat.  All sleep had to be abandoned for the day.  Time to wrestle with the kids and read books together.Leaving our home in St. Lucia

Why am I so worried?  Pirates.  Not the ones my kids are pretending to be right now.  I can handle the foam swords just fine, even when I get that full smack across the face.  It’s the AK-47 wielding pirates that would board, kill me, rape my wife and sell my kids that has me worried.  I would gladly take the killing if the other two wouldn’t happen.  But really, I’d rather none of this to take place.

The Venezuelan coast has become so notorious that our insurance company won’t allow us to travel to the country.  Too bad, when I was there to bicycle south to Chile in 1994 it was a fantastic country with some really friendly and giving people.  Drug runners now control the coasts and hijackings and murders are a real possibility.  The AIS (automatic information system) is turned off.  We don’t want the pirates to see a 41-foot by 24-foot private sailing vessel out here, unprotected and easy picking.  There is certainly no need to give them a road map to where we are.  Our navigation lights are still on at night, so if they get close, they could find us.  This is why I worry.

I worry at watch.  I worry while I’m “sleeping”.  I worry constantly.  I don’t talk about it to anyone.  Why would I?  If they aren’t worried, then I should let them enjoy this really nice passage.  And anyway, the captain is always the first to be tossed overboard.

 

As I was checking out of St. Lucia the immigration officer questioned me about Ella.  “She’s crew?” she asked dubiously.  “Well, yes she is,” I replied.  I had almost written that she was more than crew and actually first mate.  That would have caused some trouble so I’m glad I just put crew.  She is actually crew, with responsibilities.  She helps run this ship.  “Yes maam, she’s six and does a great job aboard Rivers2Seas.”  When the woman next looked at Chase’s passport with “crew” marked, she just looked up at me with these eyes of disbelief.  I was ready to list his responsibilities like the anchor light, navigation lights, steaming light, repairman’s assistant and monitor of the fishing lines.  She didn’t ask.  Bummer.  I wanted to impress her with what a 4-year-old can do if given the opportunity.  It seems most kids these days have absolutely no responsibilities.  Ours do and it has made them far better people.

We had some people aboard who left the transom shower on all night.  It has one main on/off handle and another one

on top the mast again

on the showerhead to use so that water is conserved while moving the head around.  The head doesn’t really shut off.  Well, I told these adults about it and explained how to use it and they left it on.  We lost 70 gallons of water.  Some of the water went into the hull, but most just overboard.  I had to use the wet vac in all three bilges down the port hull to get it all out.  I was very nice when I mentioned that it was really important to turn things off.  The reply is what will stay with me forever.  “If it’s that important to you Brad, then maybe you should have checked it yourself.”  My 4-year-old can handle it, but not these 40-year-olds.  I just replied that I agreed.  Mistakes happen. Some people are sailors, some aren’t.  Are Chase and Ella crew on Rivers2Seas – you bet?  Certainly better behaved and more fun than people who on paper appear that they could be sailors.

The spare halyard just broke and sent the genakker flying into the sea.  The three adults managed to wrestle it back onboard without much issue.  I always wondered what would happen if one of the halyards broke.  Now I know.  I’m just glad it happened in light winds and during the day after my coffee.  The hard part will be winding a spare line through the mast when we hit port.

We make the 470-mile passage (a little more than the direct path from tacking) in 77 ½ hours.  Not bad, considering the wind was directly behind us, which is a poor point of sail and only at 15 knots.  A Mahi Mahi made for a nice fresh dinner en route.  A school of 400-pound tuna got us excited, but we didn’t catch any.  Watching the hundreds of fish leap out of the water covering a several hundred-yard space was truly amazing.

Rivers2Seas above with dinghy and fish below

Bonaire is described on all their literature as a diving paradise.  It is.  After tying up to a mooring ball, because you can’t anchor and damage reefs that way, we do a dive right off the back of Rivers2Seas.  Down 40 feet to the bottom and the reef cliff then plunges down to 114 feet.  I know the depth because I just had to go to see the bottom.  Two dives a day for two tanks adds up pretty fast, so we opted to get a package fill of our tanks – 21 fills for $107US.  Compared to the $100 per dive price, we have congratulated ourselves on the nice gear we purchased.  Nice, as in it works.  Most of it is falling apart, but the essential components work if just a little leaky.

SCUBA diving brings us to another world.  Every creature is simply weird.  Hundreds of fish from tiny yellow angelfish no bigger than the end of my pinky to large 6-foot tarpon patrol the water.  Odd shaped fish like flutes and puffer fish and boxfish swarm all around the tube coral.  Sharp-tongued eels slither around the bottom poking their heads into holes looking for food.  Shrimp and other spider looking guys run around the coral heads.  It’s simply amazing to witness.

The MAN – Turtle at his best

The kids have been having fun snorkeling but wanted to try the

A SCUBA diving family!

SCUBA.  Ella is now hooked and asks to go every day.  Thankfully, I can appease her and take her diving for a few minutes after my dive.  Hey, if I have to go diving to make my kids happy, that is what I will do.  Chase enjoys it too but would rather do cannonballs off the boat.

We arrived in Bonaire during the Queen’s day celebration and saw a brightly colored if super short parade.  The kids loved the dancing and colorful costumes.  The town has a slow pace and clean atmosphere.  The Dutch islands are the best taken care of in the Caribbean.  We will return to dive here and to Saba for sure.

Heaven?

The weather forecast for the difficult run to Cartagena, Columbia is looking really good.  Low winds mean small seas in this notorious spot.  Tomorrow we will leave for Curacao and then head off to the South American mainland the next day.  Woo Hoo.

It’s difficult doing all this writing and sailing and living, so we haven’t written anything on these great islands.  Not sure if anyone cares anyway.

But here are some photos.Blood trees on Dominica river trip

Giving some paddles to some local St. Vincent boysSwinging!!!These days won't last forever.the family

 

Guadaloupe

Guadaloupe

by Lindsey Modesitt

We arrived in Deshaises (pronounced Day-Hay) right before sunset after a rollicking ride.  After touring around the anchorage we settled on the back side in a secluded little spot.  After dropping the anchor, the kids ran up to the front trampoline to play “Jake and the Neverland Pirates” it is a kid show from a perfect end to the dayback home about some kids that live on a boat, and fight bad pirates, usually specifically, Captain Hook.  While having our sundowner wine, the kids enjoyed swinging gently from the anchor (as opposed to bucking wildly on the seas).

Guadaloupe is a fascinating country.  Steeped in history, it is now a French country (and has been mostly….throughout history) and they do everything French.  All the way down to the perfect, I mean PERFECT, du Pain (bread).  Brad and I have been reading Caribbean by James Michener and he has a lot to say about this island in the shape of a butterfly.  To start, the island really is in the shape of a butterfly, dissected in the middle by a river that is so narrow, according to Michener, you could jump across it (or motor sail your sailboat up according to recent guidebooks).  The western wing is called Basse Terre and the eastern is called Grand Terre which is interesting as “Basse Terre” means small island and this part of the island is anything but.  With big towering volcanic mountains, this is the bigger of the two sides (and newer volcanically) as opposed to “Grand Terre” meaning big island and it is more of a salt and sand flat, beautiful, but older and therefore more run down by centuries of nearly constant trade winds.

The economy is based entirely upon French society with everything being imported from or exported to, France.  The people of France still buy sugar made from sugar cane, at a higher price than other easily made sugars, just to ensure a thriving economy of this and other French islands in the Caribbean.  Not to mention the funding that comes from France.  It is an interesting thing to witness as almost every single island in the Caribbean has a thriving history of sugar production (thus Rum and molasses production but more importantly RUM!) but these French islands are the only ones to still use the sugar from these islands as their main source of the white powder goodness.

the familyThe language is entirely French with very little “bleeding” of other languages.  My high-school French got a workout to say the least.  After lots of gesturing and apologizing we generally got our point across with one minor mishap with the taxi driver from the Botanical Gardens taking us way out of our way (and his) all because I couldn’t get him to stop the car at our anchorage, instead we travelled to the popular (and packed) beach.  After much gesturing and apologizing again (and perhaps a few goats offered to his grandmother while I walk around in France) we turned around and after yelling arretez-vous s’il vous plais!!  I think he understood I was not trying to arrest him but wanted him to stop the car.  Thankfully he was very easy-going and full of laughter so we said our good-byes.

We saw another kid boat “Twilight Rodeo” that we had met in St. Kitt’s.  Their kids are 6 (boy) and 8 (girl).  All of the kids got along incredibly well and the parents got some much needed adult time.  Then  the next day we thought it was time for some beach time with other kids so together with Twilight Rodeo, we went to find a beach.  We found one that was empty and spent the afternoon SUPing, eating, drinking and just plain relaxing.  The kids loved it and we loved it.  It was time for us to continue on down the western coast sohome we up-anchor (after a SUP/snorkel) early the next morning and caught a breath of wind for a sparkly sail to Pigeon Island and the Cousteau National Marine Park.  Before we had left Deshaises Brad had happened by another American cruising couple that were selling their boat, Brad inquired about their scuba equipment, and we found ourselves the proud new owners of some scuba gear complete with BCD’s, tanks, weights, and computers, for a song.  Just in time too as we were headed to Cousteaus’s marine park which is said to be one of his favorite places on earth.  With Twilight Rodeo behind us, we anchored and set out across the sound for the snorkel area with the kids.  It was like jumping into an aquarium.  After a little prodding (and a borrowed floaty from Twilight Rodeo) Chase and I set off at a pace a bit slower than Brad and Ella but the two families had a great time and we all crawled back into the dingy.  After dropping the kids back at the boat, we had an enlightened moment and thought we would all swap kids and have a “date dive.” So that is exactly what we did.  Elizabeth and David watched our kids while we took off with our new scuba gear (although mine was malfunctioning a little so I borrowed Elizabeth’s BCD) and Brad and I headed to depths I haven’t seen since diving in Thailand 9 years ago.  It was brilliant.  We came up with ear-to-ear grins.  Twilight Rodeo had some problems with one scuba tank not filled so we took the kids back to our boat so they could play together in the depths too.  They loved it, we loved it, the kids loved it.  We set a date to do it again the next day before taking off to the city of Basse Terre (on the southwestern coast of Guadaloupe).

Basse Terre is also the name of the capitol of Guadaloupe as well (not just that side of the archipelago).  We anchored there (after SEVERAL annoying attemps at anchoring) and got ready to check out of the country and say goodbye to Twilight Rodeo as they were picking up some family and exploring the island for a couple more weeks.  Before checking out, we had heard that there were some spectacular waterfalls that “you must not miss” called Chutes de Carbet.  Always ones to see and do anything that has to do with rivers, we happily set off on this adventure.  We wanted to get a little more of the culture and people of the island so instead of renting a car, we chose to jump on the local bus (and with lots of gesturing and apologizing) we found the one that was definitely going there so we hopped on and high-fived at what great travelers we were.  The bus dumped us on at the junction of two roads and the bus driver pointed to the sign that said “Chutes De Carbet” that way……We started up the road and after about 20 meters there was a little tiny side-of-the-road eatery.  Brad suggested we eat there and I protested as it was only 10:15, the waterfall is right there (we were told it was a 20 minute walk to them) and we will be back in time after working up an appetite.  After realizing that our snack situation was a little dismal, we decided we could eat before and after.  We sat down for the most amazing chicken sandwich I’ve had since we’ve been travelling.  It was incredible.  We gobbled it up, asked the Madam about how far to the waterfall and if there were taxis going often just in case we got tired of the walk.  We were assured there were definitely taxis.  Just stand there and one will be by.  After standing for about 20 minutes in the stifling sun (no wind since we are inland), I walked back down to the restaurant as it was in the middle of a banana plantation, and inquired about buying a stalk of bananas.  She laughed and told me I could have as many as I wanted.  I pointed to Chase and said he eats a lot!  She shrugged and pulled about 30 from behind the counter….free.  I said great, we will be back to get them after our walk.  She sun umbrella - islands stylesmiled and said no problem (I think as this whole thing was in French).  I went back to my spot and waited for some taxis.  Another sweltering 20 minutes and a man came by in a beat-up Toyota-type truck (French version whatever that is) and we climbed in back (including the kids!! Sorry mom;) and rode for what felt like forever.  We got to a little village where the man kept apologizing and saying he was going a different way from the waterfall at that point and couldn’t take us any farther.  We thanked him for his generosity and thought that they MUST be just around the corner.  Brad and I have always found, throughout all of our travels, that people exaggerate and most places that “there is no way you can walk there” is right around the corner and we barely, if at all, break a sweat getting to whatever place it is.  That includes being with the kids.  We set off up the road.  After 30 seconds of walking a women came to a screeching halt in front of us and implored us to stop and turn around.  “It is very far, no way can you make it, with kids too!! No Way Turn around GO BACK!!”  We smiled graciously, and knowingly, and continued on our path.  What insued was the biggest slog fest, parents-apologizing-and-promising-kids-whatever-they-want painful, cry-provoking (of both kids and adults).  Several cars went flying past us (no taxis mind you) most were full of people and therefore could not take a pooped family of four.  We kept going, and going and going.  It was brutal (and straight up).  Chase and Ella were near mutiny and if we weren’t being their mules, they probably would have caught whatever car was going the other way but since they were riding on our shoulders, they couldn’t flag anyone down.   5.5 km later we got to the top of a hill and a couple with an old landcruiser came up over the top and saw Chase laying across the road in determined protest.  They stopped and said our car is a mess in the back, no room.  We said we didn’t care and climbed in.  They asked where we had come from and we told them where we had left the bus.  With looks flying between the two of them, they got really quiet.  After another half of a mile, they turned around a round-a-bout and said there you go.. WHA????? Here is the entrance to the START of the walk to the waterfall…..I looked at Brad with a “let’s catch the first car leaving NOW!!) and he said we made it this far…we are seeing the waterfall.  Chase and Ella seemed doomed to their fate and with nary a complaint, they followed us down the trail to the falls.  It was very Rocky Mountain National Park-esque with lots of signs and perfectly built stairs until we arrived at the falls.  They were beautiful.  We took one more look and headed back down.

 

As we left the ranger station (the round-about where the other car let us go) we walked about .5 km and found a little vendor.  We asked about taxis back down and as her laughter bellowed down the lonely pavement behind us, we begin our 6 km walk (at approaching dusk) back down the mountain.  With kids on our shoulders we flung our thumbs in the air.  The first car couldn’t get by us fast enough, we had seen them walking to the falls (the ranger walk to the falls) and they weren’t very happy with us then so we were pretty sure they weren’t stopping.  The next car slowed down as they passed us and looked at both kids on the shoulders, mom and dad shot, I didn’t even turn around to check if they would stop.  They passed me and around the corner was Brad with an almost asleep Chase on his shoulders and they slowed to a stop on this 40 degree road.  They got out of the car and offered a ride, we poured ourselves into the car and Chase fell asleep on my lap before Giselle closed the door.   We met Cristor and Giselle (I think that was their names, I apologize if I remember wrong but I wanted to crawl into the back and fall asleep too).  They asked where we were going and I said the bus stop at the end.  Through Cristors amazing English and my tentative grasp on French we had a brilliant conversation with them.  The kids were snoring as were told them our tale and again, looks were exchanged in the front seat.  As we neared the main road (where the bus stop was, although we came out at a different spot so I couldn’t get my loot of bananas) I started, tiredly, to get up and wake up a drooling Chase.  Cristor looked at us and said you must put on your seatbelt for this part….WHA???  He explained that they were staying in Basse Terre (the last day of vacation before heading back to France) so they could take us all the way to the boat.  Brilliant, I wanted to cry, but I held it together and the fantastic conversation continued until we crawled out (poured ourselves out really) right in front of our dinghy and with several “Merci, Beaucoup” (thank you very much!!) and a Bonne Journe (good journey)…we said goodbye and they will forever remain in our hearts as the angels that rescued us from certain death.  If you two are reading this…Thank you again.  We arrived just before five on Rivers2Seas and toasted to good people, you don’t even know, that change your life.  The next morning, we pulled anchor and headed toward Les Isles Des Saintes (All Saintes Island).

on the way to All Saints island