Author: Kimberly and Scott

Danger In Paradise

Vivarillos Honduras Lobster Traps on Beach Sailboat

Following are our journal entries from the time we spent in the magical Vivarillos and Cayo Becerro off the coast of Honduras. We stopped at these isolated reefs on our passage from the Quita Sueno Banks off of Nicaragua to Guanaja, Honduras. Grab your drink and kick back to enjoy.

 

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

 

Still underway. Originally, we said that we were going to sail slow and heave-to if necessary because we were sailing almost directly downwind and are at the mercy of the wind going light. During the night, Scott started the motor and then had reservations the entire time that it was running. We caught up to and passed Sunbow – the boat that passed us in the dark when we were rounding the Media Luna bank. We decided we could make it in the daylight, so we motored on.

 

We had a dozen dolphins come and swim along with us for over an hour. There was even a small baby cruising with its mama. Scott reached down and touched one of them. We got into Vivarillos and anchored at 4pm. What a strange place this is. We are completely alone here. The jury is still out on whether it is safe here.

Vivarillos Honduras Beach Wooden Lobster Pots

Swam up to the shore where there are hundreds of wooden lobster pots stacked up like giant bricks and also hundreds of leathery shark remains rotting on the beach. The stench is overwhelming. There were some large nurse sharks and hammerheads amongst others. 40 million sharks are killed every year for their fins alone - National Geographic April 2007. Frigates are flying high and terns are screeching everywhere. I think we are going to just crash hard tonight.

Shark Carcasses Vivarillos Killed Fins Nurse Shark Killed Vivarillos Honduras Hammerhead Nurse Bull Tiger sharks killed for fins Honduras Hammerhead shark killed for fin Vivarillos Honduras

Frigates Fly Overhead Vivarillos Honduras

Thursday, May 20th

 

Nausicaa was found. There has been a boat watch for the last three days for our friend Alberto who is seventy years old and single handing. Apparently, he left Linton with five other boats and hadn't been in contact with anyone for a few days. We heard this morning that he made it in to Providencia and he was very seasick. His autopilot broke and he had to hand steer the entire way. No wonder he was sick, it was really rough out there still.

 

With that mystery solved, we put the dink in the water and I put Scott up the mast for pictures. Went up to the island and found some really cool looking shark vertebrae to make a necklace with. I think I need to bleach them first to get rid of the nasty smell.

 

Scott's Up The Mast Again For Photos

Vivarillos Honduras Sailboat Mast Pic Old Ice House

The wind is picking back up and this spot is getting a little bit rolly. We were listening to the 5:45pm Northwest Caribbean check-ins on the SSB and the boats heading this way aren't even using the VHF because they are afraid of people listening and coming to attack them. Funny thing is, I put the boat in stealth mode – turned off all navigation lights- near the Media Luna Banks because I saw fishing boats and got nervous in the wee hours. Something happened there and now everyone is afraid.

 

Just before sunset, we sat and watched the fish in a feeding frenzy. Bonita, mackerel and jacks fly out of the water in large arcs while the birds swoop down for their own piece of the action. The frigates glide in so close to us that their wings sound like a kite about to crash next to you. They are so majestic looking. They seem as though they can fly forever without flapping their wings.

Sunset In The Middle of Ocean Vivarillos Honduras

 

Friday, May 21st

Went snorkeling out at scruffy corner of the reef. The water looked much clearer today, but I think 3pm Honduran time was too late for a snorkel since it is really 4pm EST – FEEDING TIME. The water was fairly clear, but still had a bit of a hazy creep factor to it.

 

Incredible coral glades of every shape, type, color and size -- elk-horn, stag-horn. Dozens of yellow damsels, a chain eel, and tons of curious fish swimming right up to our masks. I felt like I couldn't shoot them and I didn't. Kim had the hee-bee-gee-bees. Me too.

 

Kim: Just after I saw 12 huge permits coming towards us, Scott bumped my leg – I thought he did it to make sure that I saw them, but he missed them. He was staring down at the strange porgie changing colors down on the sandy bottom that I had been looking at earlier. We swam a little further and I told him, “I wish it were a little clearer – it sure has a bit of creep factor.” He replied with, “Just try to keep a look-out.” Not one minute later, we both spot the huge sand tiger shark sitting right on the surface before us. I scrambled to get Scott's manliness between me and the shark.

sandtiger-fb Dubai Aquarium

 

Scott: The shark was almost standing still, not zooming by like the typical reef shark. His back was like a mountain. His face was wide. He slowly turned to look at us. Kim grabbed me and tried to hide behind me. Gee, thanks dear. That was just what I was going to do. We slowly paddled backwards while watching his gaping mouth full of gnarly teeth and large beady eyes. I was swearing through my snorkel. We slowly made our way back to the dinghy, which seemed to be a mile away, and thankfully, we didn't see the shark again.

 

Sunday May 23rd

 

Sitting up in bed at 3:30am wondering, should I be collecting? It has been raining for more than 24 hours and it is now a torrential downpour. Funneling and pouring, scrubbing and shivering, we greeted the big drops like gold coins from the heavens. The oily water running off of my forehead stung my eyes as it ran in my face. We are now completely refilled: 150 gallons! Now we can stay here forever!

 

Scott ready to explore Vivarillos

Kim: It was time to get some fish. Right when I jumped in there was a nice sized hogfish. Scott didn't want to kill him, but I made him. That way, we could just relax and snorkel without worrying about sharks and bloodied water. It was an instant 4 meals, but there were dozens of giant hogfish, snappers and porgies. Watched giants come to the cleaning station only a few feet in front of us. The hogfish crunch on golf ball sized shells they pick off the bottom around the edges of the reef.

Hogfish Shot Vivarillos Honduras

 

I was getting cold so I went back to get the dink while Scott swam on. Three folks in a dink showed up from the boats that had just arrived. It was Jack and Nicole from Kittyhawk and Derek off of Celtic Dancer. We floated and chatted for a long stretch and then agreed to get together for dinner.

 

At dinner, we learned where all of the fear stems from in these parts. Jack, who is Honduran, told us stories about Media Luna Reef that I was glad we didn't know beforehand, although we had talked about stopping there. This past October a boat was boarded by a bunch of guys with machine guns and the boat was stripped while they were passing the reef underway. Also, a Chilean family was attacked here years ago. The Dad killed, son shot, but lived, Mom raped. Ugh. I hate hearing these stories. So it makes me a little nervous to be sitting here still. The theory is that the thugs wait in Media Luna to move the drugs, but they don't come here – less than 50 miles away. Media Luna is Nicaragua, and we are in Honduran waters. That's what we've been told anyways.

Abandoned Lobster Pots Vivarillos

May 24th

 

We had a tired late morning. Kim didn't want to go back over to Jaws-ville, so we went out in front of the boat to snorkel in the shallows behind the reef. We found a small channel through the reef to the depths on the outside, so we slithered through and paddled out past the break zone. The bottom was covered with swaying purple sea fans and lonely orange elkhorns stood like ornamental shrubbery. The schools of fish ebbed back and forth with the passing swell. We swam out further until the bottom dropped away out of sight. Laser beams of sunlight flicked all around like disco lights into the abyss all around us. What was out here? Was there something lurking? With thoughts of the big shark we encountered, we decided to swim back in through the cut in the break.

 

The swell had grown a little bit and carefully plotting our course towards where we thought the cut should be, our chins and chests glided just inches above the thick rippling sheets of fire coral lining the channel. It was hair raising. Waves were breaking on either side of the ten foot wide two foot deep channel. “Hope we timed this right” was all I could think of as we coasted through to safety.

Surf over fire coral

Enough of swimming in the shark zone. Once again, at Kim's request, we hung a right and swam through the shallow 3 foot deep sandy coral gardens behind the reef. The maze of stony purple pagodas, was chock full of rainbow sea life. Awesome! We inspected some red and purple pencil urchins closely in our hands. Little beaks poking out of red snouts. Wiggly blue tendrils with tiny suction cups searching for a hold.

Kim Diving For Fish

Found one coral pagoda loaded so thick with clusters of fish that eyes and scales dominated our vision. They were all clustered around a single purple relic of an elkhorn as if it were an umbrella to shade them from the sun. Snappers, white grunts, blue and black tangs, giant blue parrots, rainbow parrots. They all came right up to our face in big clusters of googly eyed curiosity. I picked up an urchin and held it out in a little plastic cone that had washed back from the wreck at the front of the reef. The snappers were the first curious ones. They were all googling at me with their dark eye bands flashing on and off. White grunts flared their dorsal spikes like stylish mohawks. Suddenly, my trance was broken as something glided into my peripheral vision. I was staring into a cute little tawny nurse sharks wavering gill flaps. He was only about 4 feet long, but only inches from my face mask, he looked like a monster! I had a near heart attack as he poked his nose down at the thorny treat in my hand!

Shallow Reef Full of Life

Scotts baby nurse shark friend

So Many Little Creatures In This One Spot

 

Back at the boat listened again to the oil spill news on the SSB. It is hard not to. Every morning we hear the fishermen up in Gulf talking on the Side Band about what is coming their way. Something horrible. That is for sure. It makes us ill with grief to listen to it, but we can't turn away. In a world hell-bent on self-annihilation, veiled under the selfish guise of optimism and talk of a “healthy economy.” Always speaking of providence for future generations. Generations who will be starved by their parents limitless squandering of natural resources and the ignorance of the true necessities of a healthy planet. It is hard to turn away. So we listen.

 

For some ungodly reason, we listened to Rush Limbaugh chortle on. According to Rush, the “non-disaster” is a “hoax being perpetrated by a bunch of environmentalist extremist wackos” who are really nothing more than “displaced Communists trying to create panic and chaos and live off of it.” “There is no evidence of a disaster.” “Another example of leftist malpractice.” “The Whitehouse is keeping people away from the coast because there just isn't any oil there.” “There is no evidence of a disaster.” – Apparently, he is doing the washing.

 

It makes me sad to think that lots of Americans are actually listening to this, but I can imagine that by now, most people are simply tired of hearing about this horrible mess they've gotten themselves into. The link between healthy economy and healthy planet seems to be only advertising cliché because already America is again trying to forget its horrible condition. Stoned and in a TV trance.

Alone In Paradise Listening To The SSB Oil Spill Mess

Double Rainbow Magic Vivarillos

I sat drinking a coffee on the deck and thought about Lee and Wendy on Worldwide Traveler. I was really wondering where they were at. We had last seen them in the Rio Chagres in Panama back on April 27th – the day after my birthday. Some squall lines were rolling in and a gorgeous rainbow tumbled downward until it seemed to be lighting up the reef before us. Twenty minutes later, I spied a catamaran heading our way from the east. No way. “Get the binocs!” I yelled to Kim. It was Worldwide Traveler!

 

After they had anchored up nearby, we swam over to say hello. The sun was setting as we exchanged our stories. Behind us, the sky filled with the most incredible hues of orange and red that I have ever seen. Another rainbow formed to the east as we exchanged our stories since we had last seen each other. It was like pure magic in the sky. We heard about some more jungle adventures and we told them about what we had seen on the reef. As we talked, both Kim and I struggled with wild thoughts about trying to make it back to the boat for the camera. The sunset was so unreal, but the occasion trumped the need for a picture.

 

Later that night, I was back up on the deck looking around. There is nothing like being anchored on shallow sand flats with a full moon. The water glows like a swimming pool. I think we will stay here for a while longer.

Moonrise Vivarillos

In the morning, Lee and Wendy pulled anchor for points west. They were picking up guests in Roatan in a few days. We were sad to see them go, but we looked forward to trading great stories with them in the future.

 

May 27th, 2010

 

We were relieved to see Nausicaa pull in and anchor. We had been getting a little bit worried about how Alberto was doing all by himself out there. Yesterday, Kim had even called up a big Coast Guard AWAK plane that we spied with the binocs flying in broad circles. She asked them if they could keep an eye out. We speculated that they were out there looking for the escaped drug lord who was supposedly due to be extradited to the US from Jamaica and was still at large somewhere in the area. They said they would call us back if they saw him. We never did hear back from them, but we were happy that they at least acknowledged us.

 

The last time Kim called up an AWAK that gave us two fly-bys in Nicaragua, we didn't get such a friendly response. We would like to think that since our boat is US Coast Guard registered, that we are in the club, but the last time we called hoping to get a little bit of weather info since we were all alone out on the Quita Sueno Bank, they only would reply, “Just pretend that you never saw us here.” Gee, thanks guys. I would have felt better if they just ignored us and didn't answer. More American tax dollars hard at work.

 

Kim Chilling On The Beach

We motored over to where Alberto had anchored in the deep. He looked dead tired. The end of the trip had been glassy calm for him, but since his autopilot was broken, he had to hand steer the whole way by himself. Additionally, his hydraulic system had some sort of leak so he had to turn the wheel completely around several times in either direction before it would grab on the rudder. “You don't want to buy this boat?” He asked us. “Maybe I can help you fix it,” I said.  As we spoke, we watched shark fins cutting through the surface nearby. Yikes!

 

As he climbed down into the lazarette to monkey with the autopilot again, he explained that the word lazarette means leper colony in Italian. We tinkered for a little bit, but he didn't really want to mess around any more with his broken system until he could get some professional help. Oh well. Hopefully, the fresh bread Kim baked him got his spirits up a bit. At least he only had one more segment ~100 miles to go before he got to some kind of civilization. Well, the Settlement in Guanaja anyways. He was badly in need of a rest.

 

After bidding Alberto fare well, we pulled anchor and headed out to another nearby reef by Cayo Becerro. The shallow reef looked like an aquarium below us as we motored along. Below the glassy surface, I watched a sea turtle coast along with us.  TO BE CONTINUED... .. .           

Vivarillos Navigating The Reefs

** UPDATE: 100 million sharks are being killed every year – National Geographic June 2016. Most sharks are caught only to have their fins cut off and thrown back still alive, to sink to the bottom for a slow horrible death.**

Shark Fins Drying

Photograph by Antony Dickson, AFP/Getty Images

It is sad to see the shark populations plummeting. As much as I don't enjoy having them sneak up on us, they are majestic creatures that have our respect. Hopefully it isn't too late to turn this devastation around.

Shark Awareness

Escape From Panama

rocketship

After spending two years in Panama and Colombia we thought it was time to move on. We had met some wonderful people along the way and the water exploration was phenomenal, but we were ready for a change. We finally decided that we would head north up to Guatemala for the hurricane season. We have been in Hurricane free territory for almost 3 years so we hadn't paid much attention to the weather. Now we were heading back out and would have to tuck in before August into the Rio Dulce. Our route took us from the San Blas islands up to the Quita Sueno bank 100 miles off Nicaragua to the Bancos Vivarillos of Honduras and then the Bay Islands of Honduras. Following are some of our journal entries from our trip. Enjoy.

thegoodlife

 

May 8th Left Chichime en route to Nicaraguan Banks

Our last day in San Blas was idyllic. We talked to fruit and veggie guy – Geraldo – for the last time. Gave him our remaining balance of Panama phone cards.

myfavoriteveggieguy

geraldosveggieexpress

A cute little 7 year old girl named Rachelina paddled out in an adult sized ulu, which was pretty impressive even without the strong winds she was paddling in. She was going boat to boat selling little molas that she had made herself. Seven years old!

cutestlittlelady

 

rachelina

A few backpacker boats arrived fresh in the San Blas and sipped beers on the deck watching the sunset as we put our sails up and pulled anchor. The sky was gorgeous. We were a little bit sad to be finally leaving. Heading out, we were a little nervous as well. We had a long 3 day beat ahead of us and the winds we started out with were pretty much straight on the nose. We hadn't topped up the fuel, so we were really counting on sailing almost the entire trip beyond Quita Sueno and Vivarillos, all the way to Guanaja. A foul wind had us sailing back towards Portobelo from were we had just come. An hour into our trip and we were rolling in the jib and motoring at only three knots almost dead into the wind to try and get clear of the reefs. Fortunately, a couple of hours later the wind turned more favorable after we got a little ways off shore.

 

Did the math. It looks like we have used on average about 150 gallons of diesel a year. That is fuel used for motivation as well as for supplying power when the sun and wind are down. Gasoline usage for the dinghy is quite a bit less than we ever purchased to mow the lawn or snow blow the driveway. Glad to be sailing again.

sunset

10:45pm Kim crashed out a little before 10pm and I am sitting here feeling nervous in the dark wet cockpit. The boat is healed over pretty hard and pounding through the waves. The port rail is nearly buried in the surf. It is DARK. Lots of Butterflies. We haven't done a long trip like this for quite a while. I've tried a little bit of reading and now this writing, but it is hard to stay focused as I am feeling really edgy about crossing paths with Panama Canal traffic. Occasionally hanging off of the back of the cockpit to adjust the wind vane does nothing to calm my stomach. Whenever I get up for that task, the little spot of light cast by my headlamp makes me dizzy when its focus is run in random stumbling directions as the boat pitches me about like a bobble-head. With the lights out, you can barely make out the dark horizon. The water rushing along the lee beam is glowing with bio-luminescence like a bright neon tube showing the outline of the hull. Each big wave we bash through sends tumbling sheets of glowing blue creatures thirty feet off of the bow. It does have a magical look, but it is hardly comforting at this early hour. 285 miles to go. Just saw a few flashes of lightning from behind. Can barely see a star in the sky. Hopefully, the storms are going to roll up the coast behind us because I really don't want to crawl back up on deck and take down more sail. Especially if it is going to start raining.

 

I am feeling like a dodgy sixth grader leaning back in his chair, only it is the whole house that is leaning. When I get up and kneel on the windward side of the cockpit to have a look-out for traffic, my knees want to slide off of the edge of the seat. I wrap my hands around the winch like I am going to do a pull-up.

 

11:17pm BAMM!!! It is that noise when a steep wave has smacked into our windward side and is about to drench me. “Everything alright?!” Kim yells from below. I guess my swearing woke her up. “What is going on?!” She yells up. The wind has suddenly ramped up and is blowing like a bellows into the growing fireworks display gathering behind us. “Nothing … .. . everything is fine!” Then: BAMM!!! I'm soaked by another deluge. Since she is up and I am already soaking, I decide to make a trip up on the deck. I didn't tie the reefed mainsail enough and it is now hemorrhaging out in a big flapping red hernia. We are already screaming along at 6+ knots and the wind is still rapidly climbing. Got third reef tied in. Still hauling ass. Before I could make it back to the cockpit, the bow submarined and I had 4 inches of water flowing around my ass as I clung to the deck. Mmmm. Salt water bath. Love sailing. Got the jib rolled in to just a scrap. Still making 5 to 6 knots, but much more comfy, aside from the wet ass. Thankfully we got that taken care of because we now had two freighters on the horizon. The night watch on “Apogee” was kind enough to reply to my suggestion on channel 16 that we might be on a collision course. He saw us about 6 miles out on his radar. Thanks Marty. It is nice knowing we aren't completely invisible down here. Glad he replied because otherwise we would have been changing course.

 

2:40am 268 miles to go. Getting a little tired. Bioluminesense looks like a tumbling cloud of blue fireflies. We left San Blas with a firefly living in our boat. I think I just saw him fly out our hatch and off to a salty death.

 

Much later: Less than 50 miles to go. Took a nice shower and climbed into our cozy little den in the back. Had a persistently reoccurring dream that we were passing too close to the reef on arrival. Not surprising as we are now hurtling through the darkness towards the Bank of Lost Dreams. Up again at 11pm for another trip up to the mast. The cool salt spray is blasting me, but I don't really mind anymore. Third reef back in. No longer hurtling along at warp speed, but the nasty smell of my clothes could use a full gale. They are wretched. Back in the cockpit, I am now enjoying a nice view of the Southern Cross and Sagittarius. The stars are bright. A nice little kite and a tea kettle. Oh joy.

rearberth

Looking forward for traffic, my heart again sinks as we again seem to be headed into another black hole. Sure enough. No longer have I looked up and recognized the dread in my future, than the wind has cranked up and leaned us over again hard pressed. We have passed through enough of these angry little squalls now on this trip that my stomach muscles are finally starting to relax a little due to familiarity. First the lee rail dips in. Then the leeches of the sails start to howl something sinister right along with the rig. I now look forward to watching the little glowing blue creek that will trickle along the lee deck. Matching streams of glowing blue neon trail along in our wake. All alone and staring off into the darkness, the flashing neon and howling rig make me feel like Dave in the movie “2001” when he is screaming through space towards the surface of the obelisk. I would really love to suddenly find myself standing in some Victorian marble room with good food and clean sheets. And a nice shower to rinse off this horrid sea funk. Yes. I need some sleep.

 

1:17am Still a dark haze shrouding the stars. We passed through the last black hole at midnight. Although the screeching and howling has died off, I imagine it is still blowing pretty hard because our 20,000 pound house is still pounding through eight foot waves at 5 knots with only a scrap of sail up. Our rendezvous with the reef is set for about 9:30am. We have now been sailing these same wicked conditions for about 54 hours. About 85% of the trip double or triple reefed. We sure didn't have a problem conserving fuel on this leg.

 

cloudsinthemiddleofnowhere

At about 9:30AM we got to the bottom of the reef nice and early. Thought we had it made. A few big breakers passed by as we came up on the banks and then the waves rapidly diminished in height. Unfortunately, not in power density. There also seems to be a wicked current dragging us away from ever getting a moments rest. We only had to make it ten miles to windward to tuck in behind the reef, but with the tight four foot waves smacking the hull relentlessly, we just couldn't seem to get there. It was horrible. We took down the jib twice thinking that we could just motor straight in, but both times we were brought to our knees cursing. First, a set of waves would bash us to a halt and then the current would actually turn us backwards. F*&k!!!! As we slowly progressed at only a couple of knots max, we could feel powerful streams of current turn the boat from side to side. It was difficult to keep up with the wheel.

 

We were so wet and tired. Not just wet, salty. Finally, in the last few miles, the bottom came up some more and we started to make some progress. We were now weaving in to the backside of the bank which was a maze of corral ridges coming up from about thirty feet. On the horizon, I spotted a couple of small pangas zooming along on a parallel course, barely visible to the naked eye. Kim struck us with a rash of wicked paranoia. “Maybe we should keep going,” she said. It was contagious. What to do? We thought we were all alone in the no-mans land of Nicaragua and now it turned out that we weren't all alone. Kim searched franticly for the rubber bullets that we have for the flare gun. They aren't much of a threat against the Bad Boy toys, but the report they make is enough to make someone think we are armed. Yes, gun lovers, at this sailing destination, we would have again liked to have something a little more threatening.

After a lengthy, cursing debate of nothingness, fear and loathing, we decided to press on. The little fishing boats were staying way off. We could see the mother ship, maybe a sixty footer, anchored a couple of miles off. It looked like they were busy fishing. What kind of energy could they have left to rob us? The rubber bullets were nowhere to be found.

thisisafirst

A few miles up through the maze of turquoise, purple and orange waters, we found a fairly sheltered place to anchor behind a large wreck. Dove in to check the anchor and the water was gorgeous. Crystal clear. Reefs and fish all around. A few little reef sharks scooted about here and there. A cute little turtle eyed me up. Big healthy coral. Schools of barracudas. Beautiful water. Still, the paranoia continued into the night. We locked ourselves in and had the big scary knife ready. For what, I don't know. The waves were a bit sloshy as the reef in front of us didn't clear the surface, but we were feeling snuggly in our back berth.

quitosuenobankparadise

5/12/2010 Second day at Quita Sueno Bank. Got up a few times in the night looking around again. Paranoid. Determined that Quita Sueno doesn't in fact mean Lost Dream, but to Lose Sleep! Ah-hah. Of course, the name given to the bank because it has a heavy current that has managed to suck dozens of boats onto its windward edge in the heavy current that it generates. We are truly alone here, aside from the fishermen we spotted. The 26 miles of reefy bank are dark and empty at night. It is like anchoring in the middle of the ocean. There aren't even any passing boats to be seen. Smart captains pass well clear of here.

anchoredmiddleofocean

1:30AM Got up late to take a whiz. The waves sounded like slabs of stone collapsing out in front of us on the reef. The reef doesn't have the white noise rush of a freeway. Along with the thunderous crashing, there is an easily perceptible hollow sound of a vacuum cleaner endlessly running. Bright flashes of bioluminescence flash from the depths. It is other-worldly. Standing on the bow, the waves gliding by below me give a feeling of motion. It's like I'm hanging ten on a giant surfboard at the edge of the universe. The wind must be gusting to 30 knots right now and it is blowing the sleep crust from my eyes. The Milky Way stretches overhead as bright as I have ever seen it. It's swinging around us like a cosmic jump-rope in slow motion. To my left, the Big Dipper swings down toward the surface to scoop up the big pool of Black Bullshit up in the Gulf. (DEEP HORIZON SPILL 2010) How can people be such pigs in such a beautiful world? We're shitting in our own aquarium.

magicalsky

5/13/2010 Tough getting up this morning. Stayed up late reading an article about Peak Oil in National Geographic. Listened to weather and news on the SSB radio. They still haven't capped the Deep Water Horizon well in the Gulf. Watched the fishermen with the binocs. They seem to be diving for conch. Conch season should be closed, but we are ninety miles off of Nicaragua, so who knows. Seeing them working so hard, diving non-stop all day, it is hard to be too suspicious of them. Went for a snorkel away from the boat along winding rows and columns of coral. It looks nearly untouched. I hate to write of it publicly for fear that it might bring ruin, but the normal herd hoarding the fringes of the Caribbean would never come here. The herd is always on its way to the next big grassy pasture where a pot-luck dinner awaits them.

birdtakesrefuge_quitosuenonicaragua

Schools of giant snappers and saucer-eyed porgies. My favorite. The most fish we have ever seen. Schools of curious barracuda follow us every time we dive. Looking back at the boat is enough to get your head spinning. There is absolutely no land in any direction. We are in the middle of nowhere. Even in forty feet of water, the sandy bottom looks like it is only twenty feet deep. Sunbeams are refracted like thousands of sapphire laser beams flitting about on the bottom. Every time that I dive down to scope out another paranoid porgy, I am surprised to find out that it is much bigger than originally suspected. Saw the little sea turtle again. Looking up at our boat from the bottom, it looks like a kite flying on the end of string. A good sized coney right under the boat tempted me one more time to get the spear gun. The sharks and barracuda had been making me nervous. Maybe in the afternoon.

 

birdseyeview

colombianfishermen

At about 2pm, one of the skiffs came nearby so we waved them over. They were up here from Cartagena. They asked if we were hungry. After dumping more and more lobster, conch and crab legs on us, we tried to reimburse them with a couple of old rash guards and some Presidente beers. It felt grossly inadequate, but everyone kept smiling. “It is just you out here?” they asked. What could we tell them, but the truth. Apparently, everybody else is busy paying off thirty-year mortgages. Maybe it should be called the Lost Dream Bank.

freeseafoodfromfishermen

 

Got stuffed on lobster. While we were eating, a couple of big dolphins showed up right at the side of the boat nuzzling each other and then just floated there five feet away staring at us. I kicked myself for not just jumping in the water with them. They looked surreal gliding around in the crystal clear sapphire next to the boat. Went for a 5:30pm snorkel. Saw a little reef shark. Watched yellow and blue arrow-tailed ballyhoo flitting about in the sunbeams dancing on the darkening surface. Giant barracuda showed up. Decided it was time to shower off.

sundowners

5/14/2010 Our 4 Year Anniversary Since we Splashed.

Swam with the dolphins. The same pair that we saw yesterday came straight up to the bow. They twirled and peered at me from down below the boat. Poked in a couple of crevices in the reef and swam along on their way.

 

Ate some pickled garlic with cream cheese on fresh bread. All home-made by Kim. Even the cheese!

 

Went on another snorkel excursion. Followed a reef shark up to the bank. The water color changes from icy sapphire to bright tourmaline. Every variation of liquid blue magnificence. It is thick with life.

allaloneinparadise

Listened to more drivel on radio about trying to shut down the BP leak. First globs of crude hit the shore. Controversial use of dispersant. It is like they are trying to keep the problem below the surface, but in doing so, it seems to me, that they are sticking a big shot of poison right into the main vein of the Gulf Stream. Endless talk about who is to blame. How about the consumer already?

 

Overheard a couple of Louisiana fishermen chatting on the SSB about having seen the blast firsthand. It is already sounding pretty desperate up there. They are screwed. How will the Talking Heads smooth this one over?

crystalclearwater

May 15th

Fishermen are gone now. On their way to Serrano Bank. We are now truly alone. It appears that we have 26 miles of wreck-littered reef to ourselves. And again, we have that nervous feeling. We are all alone. Not even the fishermen now. Never would have figured on being upset about that.

 

This mornings NPR news said estimates are like an Exxon Valdez spill every four days. Oh well. We get the Fox News - “Fair and Balanced,” as well on the Armed Forces Network. I'm sure they will paint us all a much rosier picture.

 

Went for another snorkel up to the shallows. Every day I keep saying to myself, “God! This place is gorgeous!” Every day, there is more to see. To swim through the neon sapphire, turquoise and cobalt water is spectacular. Today, when we first got to the shallows, we were greeted by two giant barracudas who proceeded to follow us. Kim pushed me in front of her like a tasty meal. She said she was hiding behind my manliness. They just wouldn't go away. One had inky black splotches pulsing along his belly. Were they curious? Territorial? Not sure, but very creepy. I would scare them back, but then they would quickly turn and come in closer. At one point, one bent over and took a nip at the other as they were screaming towards us. When we got into the coral gardens they finally left us.

 

The shallow coral is outstanding here. Giant snappers in a big school by one head. They scoot around like little dogs. They have the eyes and teeth to match. Around another head we came face to face upon two monster tarpon. That will get your heart going. After doing our best to follow them, we decided to take a breather and drift back through the maze toward the boat. First thing, we drifted right up to a hawk-bill turtle that was hovering at a cleaning station. The current carried us right to his side. We were about three feet away – face to face with him. He continued chewing on something for another minute and then with a look of shock it dropped from his mouth as he decided to take off in a flash. He darted away faster than a hawk, despite being the size of an SUV wheel.

 

A little further on, we drifted by a section of shallow reef dominated by thick schools of tangs, margates, and a whole rainbow assortment of others. Just as we arrived, the fish were all darting away. The strange thing was that these hundreds of fish were all swimming towards us. It was creepy. What was coming? Then, there they were. Our two barracuda friends. The splotchy one was now entirely colored jet black. His huge jaws snapping open and closed, swimming towards us with his teeth on display. Thankfully, they kept swimming on by this time. Behind them, a thick school of jacks converged on us darting in all directions. Below them, a half dozen stingrays bounced along the bottom in formation like a fleet of vacuum cleaners.

 

As we approached the boat back in the deep water, we were joined by a half dozen curious ocean trigger fish. They alternately morphed white and then black and every shade of gray in between while googling at us with their curious eyes and flipping the little spike up and down on the top of their head like Uncle Martin. Dreamy.

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Recyclers of Dreams

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Kim and I have combed through a lot of wreckage in our time. We've found wrecks washed up on beaches and discovered them tangled in jungle vines. We've found them torn open and soaking on tropical reefs. We're never anything, but completely amazed at the amount of heartache that's left washed up on the shore.

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It's an emotional event encountering someone's abandoned dream laid out on the rocks like a mutilated fairy tale. You're immediately washed over by the horror of how the owners must have suffered. Just as fantastical are the emotions that follow as you're left pondering what amounts to a pile of boat loot, forgotten and bleaching in the sun. Sparkling stainless, heavy bronze and graceful cuts of mahogany lay splayed out in the sand – waiting for your needful purchase.

 

When you mess up, or the shit hits the fan, or when you've had enough and all you can do is walk away, a trail of pain and treasure lingers in your wake. There is a lot of it out there. I remember reading on a boat building forum once that if a person was patient enough, they could collect enough equipment from castaway parts to outfit an entire boat. It's probably not the most efficient way to go about building a boat, and according to the tired old lore, Neptune doesn't approve. On a more practical level, however, it's hard to turn away from free loot. So far, despite all that we've piled aboard, the Kraken hasn't paid us a visit.

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Back here in the so called First World, there are no shortage of wrecks either. When you come upon one, however, you can't just grab your tools and tear into it. Usually, a long trail of invisible pain is bobbing in its wake. There are insurance adjusters busy dragging their feet toward mediation. Sometimes local townships are busy calculating environmental infractions. Occasionally the police are lurking – ready to hand anyone involved a ticket. The pickings are slim.

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We haven't been camping out on any remote reefs for longer than I care to admit, and yet the latest renovations we've taken on with our dream boat have driven an insatiable need for more boat treasure. New boat gear is expensive, and a lot of times it's not even as good as the old stuff. Fortunately, despite the slim pickings, bargain solutions do exist.

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Last year when we began the demolition and reconstruction of our boats interior - mainly to include an indoor shower and heat - we were determined to find a way to make it affordable. An affordable source of marine plywood, it turns out, does not exist. Well, not in our budget anyways. Thankfully, it was with perfect timing that a 36 foot Nonsuch sailboat arrived at our local resale shop fresh off the rocks from the St. Augustine Inlet. Steve, the owner of the shop, gave us an offer we couldn't refuse on all of the teak finished bulkheads. The only catch was that we had to cut them out ourselves, so I brought some tools over and tore into it, just like if we had discovered the thing laying on a beach in some exotic locale.

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Lately, the folks at Monkey's Fist have been hard at work salvaging boats destroyed by Hurricane Matthew. In case you haven't heard, the owner and some of his help have suffered a wicked boating ordeal of their own. There was a gasoline explosion on one of their own boats and it took three other boats with it. Steve and  Randy were severely burned in the accident and as of this writing are both awaiting surgery in the burn center.

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If you'd like to help, we've created a Gofundme campaign for Randy, who is our neighbor in our marina and you can contribute HERE. This is the busiest season for boating in Florida and Steve will certainly be faced with some serious challenges even after he recovers. If you would like to support Steve's business, Monkey's Fist sells new and used boating equipment online HERE.

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It was nice to see that a lot of folks have come forward to help out where they can. Thanks for your support.

Scott & Kim

Hurricane Matthew- Caught With Our Pants Down Part 2

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Log - 10/5 Wednesday

     We're anchored on the north shore of the river in about ten feet. It feels so nice to be anchored, even though a killer hurricane is headed our way. It's been two years since we've been off that f#@%ing pier. Forgetting about the reality of our situation, swinging around on the hook feels as wonderful and free as always. Not exactly thrilled, however, to be notching up Hurricane Number 6 in the log.

 

     We got started an hour before the alarm went off at five.  Our first realization of the day: no navigation software loaded on the computer.  We reloaded our operating system since we last had to navigate.

 

     Kim spent an hour downloading and installing OpenCPN and updated NOAA charts and that got us feeling a little better. Still, we needed to get off the pier by noon and the clock was ticking. The wind was about to turn, threatening to put us in the bad position of being held against the pier.


     Despite all our efforts to get our shit together, the boat got more and more disorganized as things flew out of cabinets and cubby-holes. Organization is still at the end of our long list. Much of our needed gear was buried beneath projects or worse, buried in our storage unit where it has been tucked away for the last two years.

 

     Looking around, it just became apparent what we forgot to pull out of the stacks. As we flip through the forecasts and do our best to visualize the worst case situation, my mind paints me a picture. Our boat heaves over on its beam in the pounding surf of a dreaded lee shore. Seal the dorades! We need to seal the dorades!

    

     We have the ability to clamp down our aluminum boat as tight as a submarine – if we had our dorade seals. Damn-damn-damn-damn-damn! I curse to myself. I had them in my hand. They're in our trailer. It's probably of no consequence, however, considering that the rear Plexiglas hatch that goes over the big square hole where the air-conditioner and foam box are taped is still sitting in our storage unit. I looked right at it. The image is burned in my mind. Damn. If I could just hit rewind.

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- - - * * * - - -

     We pulled our trailer and Jeep off the pier and left them in the shipyard before we cast our lines. They were more secure from the wind and surge there, but it certainly didn't give us warm fuzzy feelings to think about how easy it would be for someone to break in and rifle through all our gear. Oh well. A minor consideration in the face of the storm.

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     As we hustled back out to the boat, we were greeted by a lot of blank looks. What were we doing, people wanted to know. One of our friends called over pointing at a bollard and asked, “which one of you is the best at tying knots?” We stopped to help him out with his dock lines. “Should I stay here or go to a shelter?” He asked us. Shortly after, another friend went into a dissertation about what we - - him and us - - should be doing for self preservation. We gave him our best advice and told him what we were doing, but it was getting late. Decisions needed to be made yesterday. We wished him well and tried to keep moving. The clock was ticking.

 

 

 

Log – 10/7 2AM Engineless? for the storm?

     Just got cleaned up. So freaking tired. Between trying to film all of this and keep this boat floating, things have gone a bit unhinged. We've been moving nonstop since before the sun came up this morning. Who are we documenting our life for? I just put all our hard drives in the Pelican Box.

 

     We pulled anchor – without a windlass - first thing and edged our way in closer to shore with the lead-line. This was stressful because according to our chart we should have been on the bottom. Thankfully, the river level seems to be sufficiently up. We wanted to beat the heavy rains, so we focused on getting our solar panels down next. Halyards up. It was afternoon by the time we assembled our second anchor and rowed it out. Our intention was to back down on it really hard with the engine, but when we got to that step, we noticed that the engine wasn't spitting any cooling water out of the exhaust.

 

     It was late in the day before we got started at taking the engine apart. It felt like we probably could have started the work earlier, but first we needed to get everything else straightened and stowed. The chore felt fruitless at first, considering all our spare pump impellers are in storage, but we did manage to pull a lose blade out of the pump exit. The rest of the blades were chewed up pretty bad, but not the worse we've seen. We didn't have a fresh paper gasket on board either, so Kim scrubbed the pump down with lots of rubbing alcohol we found in the medicine kit and she massaged a thick coat of RTV on the outside of the case while I scrubbed the grease and rust out of my barnacle cuts. Crossing our fingers it's going to work! I hate that pump.

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Log(sporadic) – 10/7 WE'RE IN IT. It's here.

 

     Raining hard. Got our “bucket work” done. Howling f#@%ing banshees!!! Put out more snubber and secured secondary snubber and chafe gear.

 

     Kim panicked. Thought the anchor line parted and made me go out in the rain. Anchor was fine, but since I was there, I considered tying a line around the vibrating furler. Seemed OCD, so I came back in.

 

     Ten minutes later, the bare furler pole was gyrating wildly. Went back out to tie some lines on it. Next time, I'm going to wrap a tight spiral of small line around it from top to bottom to break up the vortexes. I've never heard of anyone doing that, but the spiral I've wound around the mast for pumping is working wonders. So glad we decided to leave that up.

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Log - 10/8 Saturday – The Wee Hours – The Eye Passes

    

     Just got up. It's 12:30AM. I begged Kim to take watch at 11PM. I just couldn't stay awake anymore. I also begged her to pay attention, even though she didn't really need any more begging. We were both bent on coming through this last stretch unscathed. We've seen too much shit go wrong too many times in too many storms to start getting too proud. The wind readings were hitting the seventies as the eye passed closest. Thankfully, the eye has passed north. We keep waiting.

     We've been telling each other that we're on the final stretch over and over since about 7PM. We've taken turns laying on the floor promising the cat the same. Now it's Saturday and hundreds of promises have been broken. Allie is seriously pissed. She won't even look at me.

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     As I visualize our position in the storm, my brain feeds me visions of that giant swirling red eye on the surface of Jupiter. Now we have the same thing on Earth. We've watched its birth in flaming reds, oranges and yellows on our glowing “smart” phone over and over. The fucker will swirl on for all eternity. I'm so damn tired, but this storm will just keep spinning and spinning and spinning and spinning. Next week, next month, next year. We'll just be anchored here – bouncing and thrashing in its merciless red arms.

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     I can't help thinking about the catamaran that disappeared behind us. We watched helplessly as he made a call on the radio to inform our friends downwind of him that his anchors had just busted free. We listened in on the VHF as he declared in a state of exhaustion that he was, “ready to give this boat away.” Hours earlier he had been motoring up on his anchors to take strain off the lines and managed to wrap one of them around his propeller leaving him hung up sideways to the steadily building storm force winds.

 

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     Our friend wished him luck. Kim and I stood squeezed side by side on the companionway ladder with our heads poked out into the darkness and howling rain. We watched his mast-top anchor light steadily shrink down toward the horizon as he dragged past the rest of the boats, and out towards the center of the Shands Bridge.

 

     We grit our teeth. The bridge – straight downwind of us – is too short for our boat to clear. It was like watching a dream tumble into the abyss. We hoped our anchors would keep holding.

 

 

 

Log - 2AM Saturday

 

     The thrashing has died off significantly. There are still strong gusts, but the steady winds have lightened, the swell wrapping around the point has eased considerably. Thank God, because before that we only had the broken promise of an approaching calm while congregations of shrieking banshees laid us over this way and that.

 

     The last procession of white wraiths screaming across the surface of the water has also ended. The rain has let up and the clouds are lit from below with a wonderful orange sodium glow. It's feeling good, but now both of us are wide awake. Downing that cup of 18-hour soaked cold brew coffee that was still sitting on the engine at midnight probably didn't help.

 

     A surreal series of neon aqua explosions have been lighting up the sky just beyond the trees. Nearby transformers exploding? It's reminiscent of when we were anchored in a creek for hurricane Irene and it flooded seventeen feet and breeched the damn. The explosions are silhouetting the trees. To us, the consequences are distant and imaginary. We want MORE EXPLOSIONS!!!

 

     Again, Kim and I take turns hanging on the companionway ladder, mesmerized by the spectacle. Between the zooming orange clouds and the struggle on the surface, my mind doesn't want to shut down.

- - - * * * - - -

    

     Finally I had no choice. I laid back, my hand still clinging to the trigger of my Zoom H4n recorder. Aimed skyward at the howling banshees, I fell back into unconsciousness. The howling persisted.

 

- - - * * * - - -

 

Saturday Morning

 

     In the last two years, it's hard to think of a time where we've felt this wonderful. The other boats have all pulled anchor. The skies are blue. The water is glassy smooth and a cool breeze is blowing through the hatches.

 

     We're all alone swinging on the hook. Once again, at home in our own little Bay of Tranquility.

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Hurricane Matthew — Caught With Our Pants Down! Part 1

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     I was strolling down the pier when I ran into my friend Brian.  “Did you see what the hurricane is doing?!” I asked. I was hoping to get a reaction, but the vibe I got was more like: “are you guys really freaking out again?” According to the forecast, we weren't in the path. My clowning failed.  
     He calmly asked me, “are you guys doing anything to prepare?”   
Of course we weren't. Neither of us were too worried. We were both glad that the forecast cone clearly showed the storm heading way offshore.
     “Those people in Haiti are getting screwed. Again.”
     “Yeah. Jesus.”   

     The general feeling around here at this time of year is that it's a Safe Haven. People come to the St. John's specifically for that reason. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream tend to carry Caribbean storms way offshore by the time they make it this far north. “Nothing has hit here since Dora in 1964,” we all like to parrot.     

     I returned to the boat mumbling to myself. Jesus. Haiti. Haven't they had enough?  When I got there I asked Kim, “have you checked out Sailing Uma's stuff lately?”  “Yikes,” she said. She hadn't, but the thought of them gave us both the chills.

     It was a little over a month ago that we had been carrying on about them. We really love watching their videos. We were pretty sure that their latest destination was Haiti.

     Dan and Kika have done an outstanding job fixing up their old boat Uma. They jumped right in to some serious boat projects and are trying out new technology that most of us are still afraid of even considering. They've outfitted Uma with an electric engine, heavy-duty solar system and are even experimenting with their own concept in bottom paint. But WHY, Kim and I wanted to know, why were they in such a hurry to head south right into the teeth of peak hurricane season? It wasn't something we would consider doing. Then again, Kika is Haitian. Maybe she knew something we didn't. Regardless, we really like them and we were seriously worried about their well being.

     Kim pulled up their facebook page and we reeled back in horror at what we saw. Dan had just posted his and Uma's location. He was all alone and bobbing around right at Ground Zero on the west end of Haiti. It was to be his first experience anchoring in a hurricane and it was a whopper.

     We parked it on the settee and assumed a hunched-over FB-stance. Based on Matthew's trajectory, it looked like he had picked a decent spot, but it looked like he might be faced with a lot of fetch if he was in Easterlies at the beginning of the storm. From that point on we were glued to the screen.

     Comments steadily streamed in. Remarkably, Dan was interfacing regularly with an Internet crowd of supporters wishing him well and offering advice. A few doom-sayers chimed in, but Dan clearly maintained cool as he checked off all the boxes on what is every sailors most dreaded list.

     We lost serious sleep worrying about Dan, Kika and their cute little boat. We even set an alarm for the middle of the night just to check in. In the meantime, new developments were unfolding. It was with red eyes and sleepy brains, overjoyed that Dan and Uma had made it through, that we intercepted some Monday morning bad news.

     “Have you seen what Matthew's doin'?!” our friend Tom asked. “It's headed straight for us!!!”

     Once again, we found ourselves staring into our palm and reeling in horror.

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Totally Exposed!

 

     In case you don't know us, Kim and I have been traveling and working on our boat for eleven years now. And I do mean working on the boat. It was in a seriously rough state when we bought it. It was largely unfinished beyond the most basic campy necessities. That, and heavily damaged from a tropical storm.

     Having spent the last decade plus daydreaming along the way about what we've always wanted our boat to be, we've finally hunkered down and set out to finish the project. The whole she-bang. Currently, it's more of a construction zone than a voyaging vessel.

     Despite our condition, we quickly decided there was no way in hell we were going to ride out Matthew at the pier. Projections were calling for seven feet of flooding on the St. John's River due to storm surge and tributary flooding. According to the projected path of the storm, the marina would be on the lee shore facing a considerable fetch. The wind forecast when we pulled off was hovering around one-hundred mph.

      It wasn't without a few butterflies that we slipped the lines on Wednesday. We wouldn't have a cook stove for soup and hot coffee – it was disconnected. There was no head, no shower, and very minimal functional wiring. We had to hook up the steering before we could even get started.

     Immediately after pulling off the pier, we came to a standstill with our ass to the broken pilings on an abandoned pier. There were too many barnacles on the prop. We quickly bailed out our brand new anchor and chain that I had just hooked up and jumped into the black water to get cut up. Shortly after, the refrigerator conked out. Next, the sea-water cooling jambed. That was right before we could dig in our second anchor.

     Since tying up to this pier we've put in a solid year and a half of skinned knuckles and steady heartache. Now, tucked away in our own little cove, contemplating our destiny, there was nothing more to do than shrug our shoulders and give a chuckle as we watched them upgrade Matthew to a category 4 and swing in even closer. We were wishing like hell that just like Dan, we too had a 105 pound Mantus.

     Kudos to you Dan. Nice work!

 

 

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Some Assembly Required

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     Eleven years ago Kim and I were swept over by a bold vision. We were tired and bored to death with trying to hustle some kind of existence out of the padded walls of a “cubicle,” so we decided to sell all our belongings, fix up an old sailboat and travel to exotic locations. Flooded with visionary feelings, we walked away from our jobs and dumped our 30 year mortgage. Our families were concerned, our peers puzzled. We were unstoppable.
      It never occurred to us at the time that perhaps the idea was a bit cliché and maybe a little naïve. If I could travel back in time and visit myself in that stuffy office building, I'd ask myself a few questions: Do you have any idea what all this big dreaming might lead to? Can you really picture yourself coming back to this cubicle after your five years are up? Do you remember all the cynical things you said about that question that every employer wants an answer to? Where do you see yourself in five years?
     Who can really say what is going to happen in five years – or eleven, for that matter. No one can, and yet we all certainly have big ideas that move our lives in a certain direction.

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Somewhere in Paradise

     It is 7:00am and we are both still laying in bed listening to the waves crashing on the reef in front of us. We have been out exploring with our snorkels, spearing fish and combing the beaches for treasures for five days now at this beautiful anchorage and on top of the usual boat chores, it has been a lot of exercise. Our bodies are both incredibly sore, but they feel good laying here in the V-berth. I can feel new muscle growing. It feels good. It is evidence that we have been doing more than just the cliché idea of cruising in the Caribbean, which is laying around sun tanning and drinking. Even when we are not out exploring in the dinghy, we find ourselves pretty occupied here in the boat. The anchorage that we have found is very tranquil despite the 15 to 20 knot trade winds blowing outside. It is the perfect place to catch up on some boat maintenance as well. The oil and transmission fluids need changing. Some pump seals need tightening and lubing. I am certain that some other task is hiding from me under the engine cabinet lid as well.

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     Kim fills in a lot of the extra time by baking us bread and cooking up all kinds of incredible dishes that she never would have tried back at home. Strangely enough, it’s not that she has more time for cooking. More likely, she just has much more energy for doing that sort of thing. That, and we don’t have available to us the countless thousands of processed food products on the store shelves. In the most developed village nearby, we can buy only the very basics, but it is worth it because we do seem to be anchored in paradise. The boat is situated behind a reef which just barely pokes out through the surface. To our left is a perfect little sandy island covered with palm trees and flowering shrubs. The depth at the white sand beach immediately drops off to about 30 feet deep as it enters the waters edge. This produces the stunning effect of the island being surrounded by a glowing tourqouise-blue neon tube when the sun is high. Similarly, neon colors flow off of the back of the island behind us along the extended reef jutting out along that end. There is a slight break in the reef about 30 feet wide and almost directly behind us where the water is a nice cobalt. That is where we came in. The reef continues around behind our right rear quarter until it joins the island on our right.

 

     Looking back from our boats cockpit across the rainbow hued reef in the foreground, is the sharply silhouetted skyline of Panama’s Cordillera Range. There are usually great puffy cumulus clouds swelling with Caribbean moisture high above their peaks.sugardup-reef sugardup-entrance sugardup-anchorage

     On our right, a small cupped bay faces us. It is also lined with an underwater neon tube. This one is lime green or about 5 feet deep. The edge of the bay is lined with thick mangroves where the snappers are hanging out. The warm waters along their shores are choked with clouds of small bait fish which explode into big openings when a barracuda tail comes sweeping through. Back behind the mangroves are towering nispero and mango trees whose canopies are full of hawks and tweeting birdies in the morning. Our morning alarm clocks.

     Along the front edge of the island, the water becomes very shallow, about 1 foot deep, and covered with turtle grass. The turtle grass ‘lawn’ bridges the gap between the two islands in front of us. It stands about 300 feet wide stretching from the big breaking reef out in front all the way back to about fifty feet in front of where we dropped our anchor in 20 feet of water in some thick sand. Any big ocean swell that somehow manages to make it over the reef, has to make it across this huge lawn of shallow turtle grass. We are sitting pretty.sugardup-atanchor sugardup_starfish sugardup_sunset

     I always wonder how it is we find these places. Even more, I wonder how it is that we get sick of them.