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Sunday, August 28, 2016

The Lizards make another trip around the sun

I see a white sail
Skipping cross a blue bay
And I say Someday I will
I see a young man
strumming a green guitar
and I say Someday I will

I don’t have a plan
It's not that kind of thing
I'm not Martin Luther King
It's just sometimes I know
That's the way I'm suppose to go

"Someday I Will" Jimmy Buffett, Matt Betton

Something happened earlier this month, we started our third year of "Living the Dream"!  It was a Monday, just like any other day here in the Caribbean.  I moderated the morning cruisers net here in Carriacou, checked the latest tropical weather as it is the heart of "H" season, and it had been blowing like stink all weekend.  We ran our two engines the previous day due to squalls and high winds and at one point put them both in gear to take stress off our anchor chain in 40 knot winds and they made a terrible grinding noise so shut them down; we'll deal with that tomorrow.  A fellow cruiser who is far more experienced then we are said it sounded like bad engine mounts; great how many boat units is that? (1 boat unit = $1,000.00USD) On top of all of that, Jo was recovering from what we are pretty sure was Zika. (Jo is fully recovered but I seem to have it as I write this - kind of inevitable)  Yup, we're livin' da dream!  One of those Facebook share your memories things popped up from 14 years ago; really Facebook has been around that long?  It was a picture of Jo and me in Abaco where the dream live on a boat began.  Fourteen years, wow, that’s a long time ago and we just started year three of actually living aboard.  Of course the dream was always tempered with realities of family, job, and money but it was always present from that point on.  I remembered once at a memorial service for a friend, an acquaintance brought up, in the kind of small talk you engage in these sorts of things,  that he had heard about our dream and thought that was so exciting.  Jo said to me "I guess we had better go through with it now".  Not that we weren’t going to but there were those exerting pressure on us to stay on land, keep working, be there for the family, you know, that kind of stuff. I'm sure they were earnest in their concern and only wanted what they thought was the best for us but…  So as you know, it's well documented, we did it.  We sold most of our stuff; home, cars, possessions, etc. and we bought a boat; oh shit, we bought a boat, abandoned our responsibilities, and sailed off the edge of the earth.  Well made it to the Caribbean at least.

Dreams come with expectations and expectations come with realities.  Not to put too much of a fine point on it but we were clueless when we began this dream; maybe we still are.  I put together a logical plan of approach to it however.  We would charter some boats, I would take some sailing classes and get certain certifications. We would read blogs, books, magazines, whatever we could find.  Yup we would be prepared!  I follow a lot of different groups that have to do with sailing on Facebook and I enjoy reading the post that start "we have this dream…." , yup been there.  They are usually followed with a series of questions that can't really be answered because dreams have variables.  Jo is a member of Women Who Sail.  A very earnest group dedicated to supporting each other without male pontification!  She occasionally shares some posts with me and some have practical questions about the dream, like "what kind of toilet paper can I use, I mean I have my favorite".   Now this is not meant to be demeaning to the question asker, in fact, it shows more in-depth analysis of the dream than men seem to do.   We tend to be a "we'll figure it out once we are there" sort of group in general.  For the most part those who respond to both kinds of groups are supportive and offer advice from their point of view, leaving the original poster, the one with the new dream, to decipher and decide what opinions they want to hold on to, or more importantly what they want to share with their partner.  Then there are those who post, "I have this dream but my partner thinks I am nuts",  I'm not even going there.  We are lucky, we both share the dream, which is a good thing for the simple fact that if we didn't, we wouldn't still be out here, or out here together.  The thing is, no one can create or live your dream for you and be ready, dreams, like boats, are fickle.  

The dream is powerful in this one!  There is a French boat anchored near us here in our hurricane "time-out" box south of 12⁰ 40.00' North, or as we call it, Tyrell Bay, Carriacou W.I.  It's a very small boat, looks to be very basic.  There is a couple, maybe late 20's with a small child.  The boat is solid and the male spends his day working on the boat while the woman and child often go ashore.  They seem perfectly content with their dream and appear to have all they need.  There are others here with very large boats well appointed with generators, water makers, lots of room, and some even have air conditioning.  Oh that would be us, although we seldom run the AC when at anchor.  Same dream, well maybe, at least the living on a boat thing, the freedom thing.  We met an Italian sailor in St. Martin who was on an even smaller boat than the French boat.  Truthfully, I don't even know how it was still afloat but it had gotten him across the Atlantic ocean and now he needed to go back.  He had no GPS, a compass of dubious accuracy and no way to obtain an accurate weather report.  That's how we met him, he rowed over to see if we spoke Spanish or Italian (his two languages) of course we did not, but through his little English and hand signals we told him what we had heard on the morning net, then one morning, he was gone, sailed off in that very little boat across that very big ocean.  Did he make it?  Don't know, but I hope so.  Was that what his dream was when he first stepped on that little boat? We met another couple, we dubbed them "the kids" the year before in St. Martin, who had walked away from jobs in St. Thomas and figured they had enough money to buy a boat and sail for two years before they headed back to the "real world."  Last we heard they had taken jobs in St. Johns U.S.V.I, short of their two year plan.  Did that invalidate their dream somehow, or did realities alter the dream?  Don't know, but they are young and more flexible than us old farts.  We are boat friends with a couple most recently from Alaska.  He was a pilot in the Navy back in Vietnam, part of Air America and was part of St. Thomas back before there were massive charter companies and credit card captains.   Fascinating people with a very deep back-story.  Do they have a specific "dream" that brought them here, or are they more like a line in a Jimmy Buffett song:                              
                 Some of them go for the sailing
                 Brought by the lure of the sea
Trying to find what is ailing
living in the land of the free
Some of them are running from lovers
Leaving no forward address
Some of them are running tons of ganja
Some are running from the IRS.

Don't know, maybe.  There are many more boat and island friends we have met.  Each fascinating in their own way, each with their own reality, story, and dream.  Some have swallowed the hook and moved back to land, some are look at doing just that, at least part-time.  Some have found their one particular island, dropped the hook and haven't moved since.  Some have struck out across the big blue and are prowling the islands of the South Pacific or the western Caribbean.  They come and go from anchorages each following their own dreams and with the exception of making prudent judgments regarding weather are free to so.  Do they find what it is they are looking for?  Who says they have to be looking for anything. 

"To Dream the Impossible Dream"  See I know other songs than Buffett's.  You must be wondering what's our back story, what are we running from?  Well sorry to disappoint, no great mystery, no bodies left in the desert; although there were times.  No, we just decided to follow that dream, our dream.  To not only live the life Jimmy Buffet sings about but to, well I'm not sure;  that's the thing with dreams, you don't always remember all the details once you wake up.  Has this dream, our dream, been fulfilled?  Well in a way yes.  We did sell-it-all, buy a boat and sail away.  In another way no.  My dreams of crossing oceans and exploring the South Seas has been tempered with the realities of and commitments back home and what 30 days at sea might mean.   Does that mean that dream is dead?  I hope not, it just needs time.   Jo's dreams, well you have to ask her.  So here we are, year three of this "dream".  Will we make it to year four?  I have no way of knowing, but I think so. Is it perfect, does it meet expectations?  Well I am reminded of a story…  A fly fisherman died and went to what he thought was heaven.  On the first day there he was standing in a beautiful trout stream just enough breeze at his back, gently casting dry flies to rising trout and with each cast a hook-up.  After a while another fisherman wandered by.  He had been there a long time and told the same story.  Every day idyllic conditions, rising fish, hook-up after hook-up.  The new arrival exclaimed "wow this really is heaven".   The old timer paused, looked at the newbie and said, "what makes you think this is heaven"?  You see, I think our dream was just an outline, something to motivate us. In some ways it is better than I imagined, in some ways worse; like being a parent.  If it had met all the expectations, it might have been easier in some respects but what might we have missed and what satisfaction was gained from overcoming and dealing with the challenges.   As for the grinding noise in our transmissions that we thought might lead to an expensive repair:  turns out it was hard growth, barnacles, etc. that had made their way into the rubber bearing (cutlass bearing) which the prop (propeller) shaft goes through and which, along with the dripless bearing, keeps the sea water on the outside of the boat. A little heat applied and some tense moments while it ground its way out and we are back in business.  No boat units expended; at least for now!  Cause, well we sat in one place too long!  

Another boat just entered the anchorage and set to our starboard.  A French boat, there are a lot of French boats here.  They were somewhere else last night and for whatever reason they are here now.  That’s just how it goes, like the tide, boats  come and go, dreams live or die. For now our dream lives on.  Different than 14 years ago when it was conceived, or three years ago when it was born.  In many ways different than we had expected and when it gets too much we look to the West at sunset and the original Lighting Designer reminds us of how lucky we are. 

OneLove from your Lizards on Ice

Monday, May 30, 2016

Stranger Danger?

One of the greatest things about traveling are the constant new experiences you have and people you meet.  When we started cruising we were not antisocial rather very reserved.  New and unfamiliar situations were to be avoided at all costs.  Hey we were WASP's.  The problem with that is you miss out on a lot. Little by little we learned to escape our comfort zone and jump into new situations and cultures.  Things that would seem sketchy or potentially dangerous back in our past lives became new adventures.  Wandering around areas where we aren't sure where we are going or even speak the language are done more comfortably now. This is not to say we go blindly into every situation or country. There are several places where cruisers have recently been attacked a couple fatally.  We trust our instincts and if it doesn't feel right we leave. There is also a wide net of information regarding safety and security at we pay close attention to and bypass some lovely spots because of safety concerns.  We have never felt a need to be armed beyond my cutlass and we seldom are at shore late at night and we lock the boat and our dinghy.  In dealing with strangers we have lost the "stranger danger" mentality and instead look forward to who we might meet.   We have learned that being the first to say good morning (or appropriate time of day) always brings a warm response.  An attempt to order or communicate in the native language will bring smiles and appreciation, well except for the French Coast Guard.  Listening and not talking or complaining sits you apart from most Americans as well.  We have met some unique and wonderful people both on and off the water.  We always wave at a passing boat, be it dinghy or mega yacht, we even wave to powerboats, it's the Texas thing to do.  We have made some fast and great friends out on the water, but it's the ones on land who take you by surprise. 

This past weekend we took the ferry from the Isla de Culebra where we are anchored to the big island of Puerto Rico  Culebra is part of Puerto Rico and also referred to as being part of the Spanish Virgin Islands.  Other cruisers had told us how to catch the Pubilico ( bus/ van) to go to Walmart and  West Marine so we had an agenda for our adventure. I need to stop and inform you that the official language of Puerto Rico is Spanish, (which we speak only slightly better than French) not English and yes it's part of the USA, but most Puerto Ricans do speak some English.  We got off the ferry in the town of Fajardo to a mass of people and announcements in a language we do not speak.  After wandering around for a while looking for signs of the Pubilico we asked a cab driver if they would take us to Walmart (we had been warned most don't know West Marine).  They said no they were not available and told us to wait on the corner for the bus it will be by, eventually, we are on Puerto Rican time.  A little while later a guy in a brown van came by and asked if we needed a ride. I asked him if this was a bus, he said yes and would be back to get us.  After 30 minutes of waiting for him we figured this was not going to happen.  While waiting however we met a guy from the Bronx in NYC who's son was also getting no where on line trying to but ferry tickets so they could all go to the beach.  He and Jo talked about grandchildren I think while I looked for our mystery bus driver.  I later joined the conservation and trough the course of it I discovered he is a professor at Fordham University and he found out about my past academic career.  Like most people we meet from the upper 48 he was fascinated that we lived on a sailboat, just the two of us.  He had mentioned he went to Western Illinois University and was amazed I knew where that was.  We had a pleasant conversation while we waited for the Pubilico and he and his family for ferry tickets.  I don't know if when ever got on the ferry to go to the beach or not as we decided to walk up towards a busy street in search of a bus.  As we walked along it was not an area that inspired security but no one seemed threatening.  We passed a bar with several Puerto Rican men out front drinking beer.  Hey it's 5'clock somewhere right! We went on to a corner and looked lost as we waited.  One of the old men came up to us and asked us if we needed help in English much better an my nonexistent Spanish.  We explained what we were trying to do and he said he would help us get a bus.  Sure enough there was one down the street (we would never recognized it as such) and he waved it down.  He told the driver where we wanted to go but the driver wasn't going that way or was off duty or something that meant he wasn't going to be our ride.  While this was going on, a woman with two small children stopped in the street and asked if we needed a taxi. I said yes thinking she would call us one not that she would be the taxi but what the heck. At this point the old man who had been helping us went up to her and told her not to take advantage of us.  She shuffled her kids around, the baby started crying, we climbed in and off we went after we thanked our helper.  She spoke excellent English at a rate that equaled Jo's sister (very fast).  It was only when she spoke to her daughter in Spanish that the rate went into turbo drive.  She wove back and forth through back streets talking about her country, children's school, family business, etc. we had no idea where we were but had faith we would get where we were going.  Indeed, we got to Walmart and got suggestions on where to eat lunch and when we need to leave to get back to the ferry in time.  She gave us her card and said to call if we needed a ride.  I asked her how much for the ride and she said $10 or $5; I gave her $20 and agreed that would cover our ride back too and asked her to pick us up at 13:30 at Walmart. More than the Pubilico would have been but well worth it.  Oh yes I forgot to mention the family business, well besides owning several tow trucks they also worked as a collection agency and repossess cars. She was out tracking down delinquent cars to be repossessed when she stopped to be our taxi driver.   Yes, Janet Evanovich fans, we had met the Puerto Rican Stephanie Plum!

So be open to new experiences. Sometimes it's not stranger danger, sometimes it's stranger fascinating. 

One Love-One Blood from your Lizards on Ice.